Thousands rally in the Philippines to warn of Duterte ‘dictatorship’

An activist shouts slogans during a protest against Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in Manila on September 21, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 21 September 2017
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Thousands rally in the Philippines to warn of Duterte ‘dictatorship’

MANILA: Left-wing activists and political opponents of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte held rallies on Thursday to warn against what they see as the emergence of a dictatorship under the no-nonsense but hugely popular leader.
Politicians, indigenous people, church leaders, businessmen, and leftists marched, staged rallies and attended masses to denounce Duterte, accusing him of abuses and authoritarianism similar to that of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
The events were to mark the 45th anniversary of the declaration of martial law under Marcos, which lasted nine years and is remembered by many Filipinos as brutal and oppressive.
Vice President Leni Robredo appeared at a mass at the University of the Philippines, traditionally a hotbed of political activism, and was due to appear at a rally of the opposition Liberal Party she leads.
Robredo, who was not Duterte’s running mate, said Filipinos born after the Marcos era should not be complacent and should recognize signs of “rising tyranny”.
“If we do not remember the past, we are condemned to repeat it,” she said in a statement. “Sadly those who are deceived do not even know that they are walking a doomed path.”
Marcos declared martial law in 1972, a year ahead of elections in which he was ineligible to run, and held power for 14 years until his removal in a bloodless, army-backed “people’s power” uprising.
He abolished democratic institutions and was accused of killing, torturing and “disappearing” thousands of opponents.
Duterte has expressed admiration for Marcos several times and his fiercest critics are alarmed by the former mayor’s autocratic rhetoric and his disdain for those who oppose him.
However, many millions are drawn to Duterte’s down-to-earth style, his decisiveness and his imperfections, and see him as a champion of ordinary Filipinos and the country’s best hope for the long overdue change that presidents from the political elite failed to bring.
Duterte declared Thursday a holiday for government workers and schools to give them a chance to protest against him. Several thousand demonstrators took the opportunity to gather separately to show their support for him.
The anti-Duterte demonstrators were not rallying in the same place or around a single issue. Some denounced his ferocious war on drugs that has killed thousands of Filipinos, while others railed against what they see as his cozy relationship with the still-powerful Marcos family.
Others complained about his pro-China stance, his threats to impose martial law nationwide and destruction in southern Marawi City by air strikes targeting Islamist militants, using US military bombs and technical support.
“The people have not forgotten and will not allow a repeat of Marcosian rule,” said Renato Reyes, leader of the leftist Bayan (Nation) group.
Reyes decried widespread human rights violations under the government’s “fascist” war on drugs, and for letting the US military involvement in Philippine security issues.
Demonstrators also planned to burn an effigy of Duterte on a throne, modeled on the evil character “Night King” in the popular television series “Game of Thrones”.


10 killed in Nicaragua protests against pension reform plan

Updated 20 min 19 sec ago
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10 killed in Nicaragua protests against pension reform plan

  • Students from Polytechnic University have been holed up on their campus since Thursday evading police.
  • Murillo compared the protesters to "vampires demanding blood to feed their political agenda."
MANAGUA: Violent protests against a proposed change to Nicaragua's pension system have left at least 10 people dead over two days, the government said Friday.
In the biggest protests in President Daniel Ortega's 11 years in office in this poor Central American country, people are angry over the plan because workers and employers would have to chip in more toward the retirement system.
The government is willing to hold a dialogue and Ortega will issue a formal call on Saturday, Vice President Rosario Murillo said, adding: "At least 10 compatriots have died."
Demonstrations rocked the capital Managua and nearby cities for a third day.
The new law, besides increasing employer and employee contributions, would cut the overall pension amount by five percent.
"We are against these reforms, which means we're against this government taking from the pockets of Nicaraguans," said Juan Bautista.
He said riot police brutally attacked demonstrators like him because "the dictator does not like people to protest."
A woman nearby shouted: "The people are tired of this repression!"
Students from Polytechnic University have been holed up on their campus since Thursday evading police. Other students took refuge in nearby buildings or residences.
In Las Colinas, south of the capital, demonstrators raised small barricades and with their hands raised asked the riot police not to target them.
Four independent television outlets were taken off the air after they broadcast the demonstrations on Thursday, and two were still blocked on Friday.
Murillo compared the protesters to "vampires demanding blood to feed their political agenda."
The opposition said more than 20 people were wounded while the writers group Pen Nicaragua said that at least 11 journalists were attacked while covering the demonstrations.
"We call on the Nicaraguan authorities to act to prevent further attacks on demonstrators and on the media," said Liz Throssell, spokeswoman for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights."
She urged the government to let people "exercise their right to freedom of expression and to peaceful assembly and association," and urged protesters to demonstrate "peacefully."
She also said demonstrators were attacked by government supporters in the city of Masaya.
Miguel Mora, director of the private television channel 100% Noticias -- which the government blocked -- accused Ortega of applying the same censorship he imposed in the 1980s during the Sandinista Revolution.
When Ortega returned to power in 2007 he promised to "never censor a media outlet -- and today he is doing just that," Mora told Channel 14.