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Thousands rally vs human rights abuses

By: Reuters, Jaimie Rose R. Aberia

Left-wing activists and political opponents of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte held rallies yesterday to warn against what they see as the emergence of a dictatorship under the no-nonsense but hugely popular leader.

Politicians, indigenous people, church leaders, businessmen, and leftists marched, staged rallies and attended masses to denounce Duterte, accusing him of abuses and authoritarianism similar to that of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

The events were to mark the 45th anniversary of the declaration of martial law under Marcos, which lasted nine years and is remembered by many Filipinos as brutal and oppressive.

The Movement Against Tyranny (MAT), which was formed on August 28 in the wake of public outrage over the killing of Kian delos Santos and other minors, spearheaded the protest rally at Luneta Park.

“Let this be a warning to Pres. Duterte: we will not be intimidated or cowed into silence and inaction. Tapos na po ang panahon ng pananahimik. Gising na ang buong bayan at handang ipaglaban ang karapatang pantao at hustisya,” MAT convenor Raoul Manuel, who is representing the youth, said.

Organizers said the rally was opened to people of “all colors, all beliefs, and all ages who want a stop to the extrajudicial killings and other acts of tyranny of the Duterte regime.”

As of 4:30 p.m., organizers placed the crowd estimate at 4,200.

Vice President Leni Robredo appeared at a mass at the University of the Philippines, traditionally a hotbed of political activism, and was due to appear at a rally of the opposition Liberal Party she leads.

However, many millions are drawn to Duterte’s down-to-earth style, his decisiveness and his imperfections, and see him as a champion of ordinary Filipinos and the country’s best hope for the long overdue change that presidents from the political elite failed to bring.

Duterte declared Thursday a holiday for government workers and schools to give them a chance to protest against him.

Several thousand demonstrators took the opportunity to gather separately to show their support for him.