MANILA – Movement Against Tyranny, the organizers of Thursday’s anti-dictatorship rally at Luneta Park, are negotiating with the National Parks Development Committee (NPDC) to be allotted the grounds in front of the Quirino Grandstand upon learning that the latter was given instead to the “Lion’s Club”, which will be hosting a feeding program from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. on the same day.
Former Bayan Muna Representative Teddy Casiño told InterAksyon that they had been assigned a “very small portion of Luneta” – in front of the Lapu-Lapu Monument – which could hardly fit the 100,000 protesters they were expecting to attend the rally. Meanwhile, he said, the Lion’s Club would have only 2,000 participants at most.
“So parang, ano ba ‘yan? E sabi ni Duterte, all parks are open, wala nang permit-permit, National Day of Protest. Tapos pagdating dito, ang ibibigay isang maliit na area (So it’s like, what’s happening here? Duterte said all parks are open and no permits are needed, and it’s a national day of protest. And then when we get here, they’re giving us this small area)?” Casiño said.
He continued, “Nagtataka kami, magpapakain ka ng bata, 2 p.m. to 8 p.m., kainitan ng araw, you’re going to feed children? Anyway, baka naman totoo. Pero ang point namin, e ‘di ilagay nila doon sa lugar na malilim, maraming puno, which can fit 2,000 (We’re puzzled as to how you’re going to feed children from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m., with the sun at its hottest. Anyway, it might turn out to be true. But our point is, why don’t they assign them to a place with shade lots of trees, which can fit 2,000).”
The organizers were still hoping for a favorable response from the NPDC. Casiño said that they reserved Luneta Park last week, and had made known their intent to hold the rally as early as August 28, when Movement Against Tyranny was launched.
Asked if they were able to talk to NPDC Executive Director Penelope Belmonte, Casiño replied, “Since last week, hindi nagpapakita ‘yan (she hasn’t been showing up). And she has refused to meet. Pinapasa lang niya sa staff niya. So parang kausap namin ‘yung staff, tapos ite-text. Napaka-unprofessional (She just keeps forwarding the matter to her staff. So it’s like we’re talking to her staff, then they text her. It’s so unprofessional).”
Casiño stressed that the grounds in front of the Quirino Grandstand – where Black Nazarene devotees gather by the thousands every January – was the only reasonable place for them to gather.
“That is the safest, most peaceful place where we can mount that huge a rally. So we’re insisting on that. We hope that the NPDC people will come to their senses and come up with a win-win solution where the Lions Club can have their feeding program, and then the thousands of people who will rally tomorrow will also have their peaceful program. Pwede naman, eh (It can be done),” he said.
InterAksyon is still seeking a statement from the NPDC.