MANILA, Philippines — It still won’t be a holiday but Malacañang has officially declared the suspension of work in the executive branch of government and classes in public schools on Thursday, September 21, the 45th anniversary of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ declaration of martial law.
As President Rodrigo Duterte had earlier promised, Proclamation 319, released Tuesday night, declares Thursday a “National Day of Protest in solidarity with the people’s call against all excesses and shortcomings of the government, and with the people’s desire to uphold the highest standards of integrity, efficiency and accountability in government.”
In the proclamation, Duterte “all protesters to act within the bounds of the law, maintain a peaceful conduct of rallies, marches and demonstrations, be vigilant of possible infiltrators who may instigate violence in an effort to provoke the police and other law enforcement authorities, and avoid causing any undue inconvenience to their fellow citizens.”
He also ordered all police and law enforcement units to “observe maximum tolerance and maintain such distance from these assemblies and mass actions as may be necessary to allow protesters the full exercise of their rights within the bounds of law.”
Memorandum Circular No. 26, issued separately early Wednesday morning by the Office of the Executive Secretary, originally said work would be suspended “in government offices” but presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella subsequently issued a clarification quoting Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea that the suspension of work would “only cover the executive branch of government, including local government units, and public schools at all levels, including state-and LGU- universities and colleges/technical and vocational schools.”
“The other branches of government where the executive branch has no jurisdiction is not covered by the MC,” Abella said.
Private companies and schools can decide whether or not to order work or classes suspended.
“Government employees who will be assigned to report for work on September 21 shall be remunerated through compensatory time-off for hours of work rendered, per Civil Service Commission rules and regulations,” Abella added.
Aside from commemorating the anniversary of Marcos’ declaration of martial law, Thursday’s protests are mainly directed against what activists described as Duterte’s increasingly “fascist” governance, seen in a “war on drugs” estimated to have claimed more than 13,000 lives since last year, martial law in Mindanao and a counterinsurgency campaign that continues to be marred by gross human rights abuses.