By Martin Sadongdong
The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Friday deployed about 4,000 police officers to key areas in Metro Manila and other cities where rallies were held to commemorate the 46th anniversary of the declaration of martial law by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos on September 21, 1972.
According to Amnesty International, 3,240 persons were killed, 10,000 were imprisoned while 34,000 others were tortured during the martial law period from 1972 to 1981.
In Metro Manila, National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) Director Guillermo Eleazar noted that the area in front of the Rizal monument in Luneta Park, Manila was heavily guarded as various protest groups were expected to gather for a United People’s Action (UPAC) program at around 4 p.m.
He said civil disturbance management contingents were told to exercise maximum tolerance, respect the human rights of the protesters and adhere to the prescribed rules of engagement contained in the Police Operational Procedures and Batas Pambansa 880 or the Public Assembly Act of 1985.
“[The] Filipinos are one in our advocacy for a democratic country that all are treated fairly and justly. The entire police force of Metro Manila is in sympathy with all those who shall observe this event,” he said.
Meanwhile, progressive groups hit back at the PNP for allegedly peddling lies, saying that the rallies were not led by communist rebels contrary to what the PNP has claimed.
Chief Superintendent Benigno Durana Jr., PNP spokesperson, said the PNP has monitored intelligence reports that the groups that will stage protests in Metro Manila and other cities were led by the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP-NPA-NDFP) “to vainly try to embarrass and undermine” Duterte’s “popular administration.”
He also warned the protesters that “to root for and help government fail or incite others to bring it down are not only violations of the Revised Penal Code but also acts of rebellion against what God has established.”
However, the Movement Against Tyranny (MAT), an alliance of groups and individuals that promotes human rights and calls to resist tyranny, called Durana’s statements as “irresponsible.”
“The Movement Against Tyranny condemns the irresponsible lie being peddled by Supt. Durana, head of the PNP Public Information Office,” said the group in a statement. “In a press briefing, Durana claimed the United People’s Action (UPAC) at the Luneta is led by the CPP and the NPA. That is a big, fat lie,” it added.
The group said they had met with Eleazar and other senior police officers, including the commanders of the Manila Police District, to discuss the UPAC rally and ensure that it would be peaceful and orderly. They said the protest participants include members of religious, women, youth, peasants, teachers and other professionals’ groups; top universities and schools, and united labor alliances.
They also said Durana’s statement “smacks of Duterte regime’s desperation over growing resistance by the people to human rights violations, corruption and treasonous foreign policy.”
“The MAT warns Durana and his ilk from attempts to curtail the people’s rights to freedom of assembly. The people will not be cowed into silence,” the group said.
Bayan Secretary General Renato Reyes also slammed the PNP official’s statement saying the people’s protest was organized by a number of cause-oriented groups other than the CPP-NPA.
“The rally is being organized by a broad formation, the same one that organized the peaceful and successful United People’s SONA last July 23,” Reyes said.
“The rally is not led by the CPP-NPA, which is an absurd claim made by the PNP spokesman,” he added. (Martin A. Sadongdong)