DAVAO CITY, Philippines – In the home city of President Duterte, two different programs were held with different themes on the commemoration of the 122nd Independence Day.
The city government held its annual commemoration during the City Hall’s flag ceremony, with Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio delivering a message on learning from heroes to persevere amid the covid-19 crisis.
Meanwhile, activists staged an online protest, as police earlier threatened to arrest protesters on the street, where they asserted the people’s rights which are threatened by the government’s push for the Anti-Terror Bill.
Mayor Duterte’s message was delivered to a small crowd of city officials, City Hall employees due to physical distancing. The mayor hailed the efforts of the public to face the crisis brought by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Around us, we see the gloom and despair. These days the challenge is for us to overcome the crisis brought by a deadly virus that has brought us fear, deaths, and an unimaginable blow on our lives and our future. Our enemy today may be faceless. But we are undaunted even in the face of the unknown,” the mayor said.
Davao City has one of the highest cases out of Metro Manila with 347, and the strict two-month community quarantine has affected not only the city but the nation’s economy with companies and businesses threatened to close.
But the mayor pushed the public to unite as the Katipuneros did in fighting for the country’s liberation.
“We are a race of people with a long history underlined by our heroes’ bravery, strength, and determination to be free,” Duterte said.
The crisis in the pandemic was also the issue tackled by progressive groups in their online protests.
“Our protest is anchored in our unity to signify opposition with the anti-terror bill despite the current situation of the pandemic, we are not truly free as the government prioritizes efforts to silence us,” said Jay Apiag of Karapatan Southern Mindanao Region.
Progressive groups including Kilusang Mayo Uno, ACT Teachers Partylist, Kadamay, and Transmision-Piston joined the protest they dubbed as “HINDIpendence in Davao”.
The groups fear that Anti-Terror Bill for its “broad and vague definition” of terrorism and will be dangerous in suppressing the Constitutional rights of the people.
Apiag said that once the president signs the bill, the attacks against individuals and organizations with critical views and opinions will worsen at is gives “a go signal to demonize” legitimate rights to express and to protest.
Karapatan said attacks on marginalized sectors particularly in Davao Region has worsened in the current administration. They have recorded 96 victims of extrajudicial killings under the current administration since 2016, 74 of which are farmers. One Lumad student was also killed by the paramilitary.
Arrests of activists and later filed with trumped-up charges have also risen under Duterte, with 55 cases reported in the past four years, and 43 of them happening since Martial Law was declared in Mindanao since May 2017.
The Manobo evacuees also staged their rally through a flag ceremony program inside the UCCP Haran where they sought sanctuary.
Lumad evacuees also opposed the Anti-Terror Bill saying this could worsen the government’s attacks against them.
Datu Mintroso Malibato, one of the Manobo leaders, said that the bill, as they understand it, would criminalize their struggle of protecting their ancestral land and would label them as “terrorist”, as they have been constantly red-tagged by the military.
“Our struggle is legitimate. It is for the benefit of our people and how we defend an entire tribe is never a terroristic act,” said Malibato.
Malibato said they had forcibly left their communities as the attacks on them and their schools intensified. But now even in the sanctuary, they may not be spared from attacks and black propaganda as they have experienced this year.
“That is why we are calling to junk the Anti-Terror bill and to pull-out of military troops in our ancestral land, disarm the paramilitary forces,” Malibato said.