MANILA, Philippines — Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Martin Andanar said Thursday’s protests by critics of President Rodrigo Duterte led by left-wing activists that started and ended without police suppression were a proof that the chief executive wasn’t veering towards tyrannical rule.
“Ang malayang pamamahayag, malayang tinig ng bayan natin ay talagang maririnig mo kahit saang sulok ng Pilipinas. At ito po ay taliwas sa sinasabi…na meron nang pagkitil o meron tayong tyrannical administration,” he said in a radio interview Friday.
[The freedom of speech, the free voice of the people were really heard in every part of the Philippines. And this is contradictory to statements…that there is already suppression or we have a tyrannical administration.]
“Hindi po totoo ‘yon dahil nakita n’yo naman doon mismo sa Luneta, ang grupo ng oposisyon, grupo ng kaliwa na nag-protesta, hindi naman sila pinagbawalan. At kitang-kita naman they were able to protest successfully,” he added.
[That is not true because you have seen in Luneta that opposition and leftist groups were not barred from staging demonstrations. And it was clear that they were able to protest successfully.]
Andanar commended the Philippine National Police, Department of Health, and Department of Social Welfare and Development for being on alert during the demonstrations, marking the 45th anniversary of martial law, which was dubbed by Duterte as national day of protest.
Multiple rallies were held in different parts of the country on Thursday that denounced Duterte’s bloody war against illegal drugs and warned the people of an “emerging dictatorship” under the current administration.
Duterte supporters also turned to the streets and staged counter-rallies and threw their support behind the administration’s programs and plans, especially the campaign against illegal drugs and moves towards federalism.
According to Andanar, democracy is very much alive under the Duterte administration as the President’s critics can fully exercise their right to peaceful assembly.
“Tayo po talaga in high spirits kasi buhay na buhay po ang demokrasya sa ating bansa [We are in high spirits because demoracy is very much alive in the country] ,” he said
Andanar further said there was neither a discussion nor a plan for Duterte to follow the footsteps of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
“Wala sa bokabularyo ng ating Pangulo ang pagbabalik ng isang martial law na mala-Ferdinand Marcos [It was never in the vocabulary of our President to bring back the version of martial law implemented by Ferdinand Marcos],” he said.
While protesters called Duterte “dictator” and “fascist” during Thursday’s rallies, Andanar said that on the contrary, the chief executive is a very democratic leader.
“Hinahayaan niya lahat ng mga miyembro na suriin at balangkasin ang lahat ng pinag-usapan. Never pong naging diktador ang ating pangulo sa Cabinet meetings [He lets Cabinet members review and plan all the discussions. The President was never a dictator during Cabinet meetings],” he said.
“Kita natin ngayon na malakas na ang ating rule of law, malakas na ang ating estado [We can see that the rule of law and the state have been strengthened],” he said.