President Duterte is trying very hard to spin the September 21 protest in Luneta, by trying to feed whatever divisions already exist, if not by sowing fear in a gathering that government expects will be massive.
One can only take this well. After all, it reveals an acknowledgment of the very valid demand to #StopTheKillings and to say no to tyranny and the return of dictatorship. At the very least, it’s an acknowledgment of how government is being affected by the growing public outcry against the killings. It also reveals that Duterte just does not know how to handle this courageous collective that is taking a stand against the current culture of violence which his government has encouraged.
The best part: when Duterte tries to handle it, he does so by threatening us with a Martial Law declaration and the use of force against citizens. What does that do but prove us all correct about this culture of violence, Presidential rhetoric included?
It was on September 14 when Duterte started discrediting the September 21 rally by thinking-out-loud about declaring a holiday, selling the possibility of violence at the protest as primary reason for the said declaration.
Takedown 1: The protest’s organizer, the Movement Against Tyranny (MAT) has enough non-Left convenors to prove that it is not a Left movement, i.e.: Sen. Rene Saguisag, actor Audie Gemora, CMFR’s Vergel Santos, performer Mae Paner, UP Chancellor Michael Tan, and myself, among others. There are also a majority of individual citizen signatories in the petition itself.
Now why would any protest carry with it the possibility of violence? In fact we have historically proven that we, the people, can hold long, sustained, peaceful protests, where citizens air grievances and take a stand against injustice, with nary a hint of violence. We have proven time and again that we can come together, unite, towards a common goal. Obviously, this is what’s getting Duterte’s goat.
By the following evening, he was changing his tune: the protest is not just about the Left, but also about the “dilaw” — even as it’s unclear at this point who those people are.
Ang problema ni ganito. Hindi ko malaman dito, wala pa kaming analysis eh. Kung sumasakay ang dilaw sa Left o ang Left ang sumasakay sa dilaw. <…> Pero magsama-sama na kayo. Wala akong — ang gusto ko magsama kayo lahat na may hinanakit sa akin. Lahat ng namatay sa extrajudicial killing, ‘yung pamilya ninyo. Huwag lang kayong gumawa ng mga bagay-bagay na hindi sang-ayon sa batas.
And of course the rhetoric of violence continues: this time threatening that he will use force against us if we break the law.
Go ahead. Be my guest. Parang bisita ko kayo and that will be true for other major cities in the Philippines. But do not break the law. I will not hesitate to use force. Even if it would mean my downfall as President of this country. Tandaan ninyo ‘yan.
Takedown #2: But why would we be breaking any law? You’ve always said we don’t need permits to actually hold protests, just like in Davao. You’ve already said that police will only deal with traffic, and military will stay in their barracks. Your followers insist that you are the best thing that’s every happened to democracy: because look! You’re even thinking of declaring September 21 a holiday just so people can protest against you!
In fact, declaring that day a holiday is a way of ensuring that less students will be joining the protest — because they won’t be in school, and their parents might not allow them to go the protest without their school organizations and their brave school teachers and administrations who are standing up against these killings.
There is also no democracy or freedom in a country where a President lives off threatening protesting citizens with violence and the full force of the law. Neither is there peace and order in a society with a President whose primary response to any kind of resistance against his policies is to threaten us with Martial Law.
By today, what we heard is the NDRRMC inviting the public to join in the nationwide earthquake drill on September 21. That means police and military out on the streets conducting the drill. Now what was that the President said about police just directing traffic, and military in the barracks?
In the meantime, pro-Duterte websites and avowed Duterte propagandists, appointed government officials included, are echoing all that the President has said about these rallies: it’s Left, it’s Dilaw, it’s okay, it’s not okay, it’s going to be violent, the police will have nothing to do with whatever violence, the President will do what is right.
In reality, all this spinning just removes the attention from the growing number of citizens who are in fact, not Left and not Dilawan, some might not even care much for politics, but whose voices are becoming part of the collective that’s registering its anger against the killings and this current state of violence.
Good thing we can see right through the spin. Just like we can see the advantages to having a President who in fact creates the conditions for a growing public anger, in the process encouraging dissent and pushing us to protest.
Just today he said again: the killings will continue with the war on drugs.
And the protest will not end either against these killings.