Philippines Prepares for Massive Protests of Marcos’ Martial Law Anniversary

Felipe Villamor
2017.09.20
Cotabato, Philippines
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170920-PH-politics-620.jpg Protesters push back against anti-riot police during a demonstration held on the 100th birthday of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos near the Heroes Cemetery in Manila, Sept. 11, 2017.
AFP

Philippine police were ordered to heightened alert Wednesday over planned massive anti-government street protests to mark the 45th anniversary of dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ declaration of martial law that plunged the country into two decades of political turmoil.

The national police placed all of its nearly 20,000 personnel in Manila “on full alert status” to thwart any possible outbreak of violence on Thursday.

All leaves have been cancelled, with police expected to “be on alert in their respective offices” and be ready for possible deployment in areas where protests were expected, spokeswoman Kimberly Molintas said.

The southern city of Davao, Duterte’s home town, ordered the suspension of all classes in the area over “safety concerns brought by the expected protest actions.”

Duterte appealed on the protesters not to resort to violence.

“Those who want to protest against the government, against the cops, the military, join the protests,” the president said, and even taunted communist insurgents to join.

Clash

A self-described leftist, Duterte offered to resume stalled peace talks with the left when taking office. He later cut negotiations with the rebels, accusing them of bad faith for carrying out attacks that killed several government forces.

Two prominent leftist politicians he appointed to his cabinet were removed from his government.

Earlier Wednesday, nine members of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) were killed and a soldier was wounded in a clash in the mountains of Carrangalan in the far north of the country.

Troops recovered assault rifles and grenade launcher from the slain rebels, but Lt. Col. Isagani Nato said the incident was an isolated case.

“This is not related to what is scheduled to happen tomorrow,” he said, referring to the planned protest. “These were armed men in an isolated area, while those expected to attend tomorrow’s mass protest are civilians.”

Soured relations

The political alliance between the political left and Duterte appears to have been hurt by the president’s alliance with the Marcos family and the continued killings of drug suspects, including of children.

Duterte has allowed a hero’s burial for Marcos and floated the idea of negotiating with the former dictator’s heirs to return part of stolen wealth estimated at about $10 billion without facing any charges.

A popular revolt toppled Marcos’ two-decade rule in 1986 and he and his entire family were chased to Hawaii.

He died there three years later, but his widow, Imelda, and children were later allowed to return to the Philippines. The family was allowed to repatriate his remains that were kept in a refrigerated crypt in the north until Duterte allowed the transfer to Manila’s Heroes Cemetery in November, triggering public outcry.

During last year’s campaign, Duterte promised the family he would allow a hero’s burial for the dictator and received funding from the Marcos family for his presidential run.

Demagoguery

The public has had “enough of Duterte’s demagoguery,” said the group Bayan, a left-leaning organization and former ally to the president.

“Over the past few days, and at the height of Duterte’s ranting, there has been snowballing support for the rally in Luneta (Manila’s main park) coming from various sectors,” it said.

“Students, professionals, workers, church people, national minorities, farmers and artists are expected to show up for the big rally in Manila. It is a broad united front against tyranny and dictatorship,” it said.

The protesters are expected to voice their anger at the continuing killings, the restoration of the Marcos family, the alleged militarization in the countryside and “the steady march toward dictatorship of the Duterte regime.”

“The Duterte regime has bullied and pushed the people too far, too long,” the group said.

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