WHY WE RESIST – National Day of Protest vs President Duterte
Earlier today, The Filipino Scribe joined the thousands of protesters who trooped to the Commission on Human Rights headquarters in Quezon City as part of the so-called “National Day of Protests.”
On the day the country is commemorating the 45th anniversary of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ imposition of martial law, various groups banded together to organize mass rallies nationwide in opposition of what they perceive as President Rodrigo Duterte’s steady march to dictatorship.
At this point, it would be helpful to emphasize two things. Number one, the right of the people to organize mass actions is Constitutionally-guaranteed. Article III, section 4 of the 1987 Constitution states that “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”
In its ruling on Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas vs. Ermita (2006) which invalidated then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s attempt to stifle mass protests through its “calibrated preemptive response” policy, the Supreme Court reiterated that the practice of these rights “enjoys primacy in the realm of constitutional protection.”
Number two, no one among the protesters question the legitimacy of Duterte’s presidency. We all know he was elected by almost 17 million Filipinos, and we acknowledge that he has a mandate to serve as the country’s President until 2022. And for now, no one is seriously calling on Duterte to resign.
Having said that, TFS will now attempt to summarize what the protesters are demanding from the government:
1) A reorientation of the War on Drugs, from being directed against the poor to being focused on big time drug lords and smugglers (e.g. The Davao group)
2) An end to summary executions committed by police forces and vigilantes in connection to the War on Drugs
3) Justice for the families of victims of these summary executions, which has reached 13,000 according to some groups
4) Opposition to the death penalty restoration
5) Opposition to attempts to sanctify the Marcos family
6) Defend the Commission on Human Rights from attempts to impale its operations
7) A more assertive policy as regards our territorial claims against China
Some may point out that the protests is just an exercise in futility given that Duterte still has over four years left in his term and continues to enjoy sky-high approval ratings plus the fact that his allies dominate both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Winning the fight is not the entire point. This is about showing those in power that the people is watching their every move and that they will face resistance if they abuse their power. Better stop dictatorship the moment its early signs rears its ugly head before it’s too late.
Someday, we’ll be able to tell our future sons or daughters that we did not sit idly and did nothing when the country’s freedom was being trampled upon.