MANILA – President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Monday said that he would not declare September 21 a holiday but would instead declare it as a “Day of Protest.”
“September 21 is not a holiday. I have declared it as a “Day of Protest.” Lahat ng gustong mag-protesta laban sa gobyerno, laban sa pulis, sa military o lahat, magbabaan kayo diyan, mag-protesta kami (All those who want to protest against the government, against the police, military or everyone. You all come down and conduct a protest action),” Duterte told reporters during a chance interview after his visit to the wake of a slain policeman in Caloocan City.
The President said classes will be suspended and government offices would be closed on Thursday.
September 21 marks the 45th anniversary of the declaration of martial law by the late President Ferdinand Marcos. Various groups have announced plans to stage massive demonstrations on the said day.
Duterte said everyone is free to join the rallies, including government workers.
“Oo, walang trabaho. Kung gusto ‘yung taga-gobyerno, meron man ‘yang ‘yung mga union diyan (There will be no work. Those working with the government who are members of employees’ unions), the unions created under the — they should participate,” he said.
“Kami ring mga taga-gobyerno, ako mag-protesta rin kasi ang aming sahod maliit. Wala kaming equipment, wala kaming mga allowance. Sabay tayong mag-protesta sa gobyerno natin (We in the government will also protest because our salaries are low, we don’t have equipment and we don’t have allowances. Let us all stage a protest against the government),” Duterte added.
The President said even the New People’s Army (NPA) are free to join the rallies for as long as the demonstrations are peaceful.
“Sabi kasi ng military pati ‘yung rebels nila (According to the military, the Red army is included). Come down here. I will not arrest you. I will not arrest you,” he said.
“I’m asking you: Do not commit crimes. No vandalism, no lahat kasi ang pulis pati ang Army sa barracks lang. Ang makikita ninyo diyan ang traffic lang (The police and Army will just be inside their barracks. What you will see outside are traffic personnel),” Duterte said.
He even invited members of the media who are underpaid or are not even paid to attend the “National Day of Protest.”
Despite the President’s statement, it was still not clear if classes and government work suspension will cover the entire Philippines or will be limited only in Metro Manila where massive rallies are expected.
Malacañang has yet to release an official announcement on the work and classes suspension.