(MANILA, Philippines) — Hundreds of protesters in the Philippine capital marched and staged motorcades Monday against a new anti-terror law and other issues despite police threats of arrests ahead of President Rodrigo Duterte’s annual state of the nation speech.
Four suspected protesters in a passenger jeep were taken into police custody in suburban Quezon city, but hundreds gathered at the nearby University of the Philippines campus, said Metropolitan Manila police chief Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas. Other groups protested via online video, including one that planned to burn Duterte’s “e-ffigy” in a virtual rally.
Authorities have banned public gatherings of more than 10 people under coronavirus restrictions, but protesters said the government was using the health crisis as a cover to mute widespread criticism over a wide range of issues, including its handling of the pandemic.
Waving flags and holding up placards, the protesters, wearing face masks amid a continuing rise in coronavirus infections, lashed out at an anti-terror law that Duterte signed early this month. More than a dozen petitions have been filed before the Supreme Court for the law to be declared unconstitutional, mainly on fears it could be used to muzzle legitimate dissent and human rights defenders.
The protesters also condemned the shutdown of the Philippines’ largest TV network, ABS-CBN Corp., after a committee in the House of Representatives, which is controlled by Duterte’s allies, voted to reject a new 25-year franchise for the broadcaster. Duterte had repeatedly threatened to shutter the network, partly for what he said was the company’s failure to broadcast his campaign ads in 2016 and its support of a rival candidate. ABS-CBN has denied any wrongdoing.
A convoy of vans carrying protesters staged a brief rally outside the TV network’s headquarters on Monday, displaying posters that read, “Stay safe, not silent.”
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Source:: Time – World