Davao City ‘tolerates’ all kinds of protesters—police

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/ 6 February)–The city has a “very open” democratic space even for revolutionary groups, city police chief Ronald Dela Rosa said Wednesday.

He pointed this out after 20 members of the radical youth group Kabataang Makabayan (KM), which is identified with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), staged at around 4 p.m. Tuesday a lighting rally at the Claro M. Recto Street (formerly Claveria Street) here.

President Benigno Aquino III was in the city earlier in the day to speak at the closing program of the Philippine Development Forum, which was attended by 300 high-ranking representatives from the international community, civil society, the academe and the private sector.

In a phone interview, dela Rosa said he did not get any report about the rally, although he noted that it was not the first time that an “underground” group staged a demonstration in the city.

In a text message, Mayor Sara Duterte said that whenever there are protests or assemblies, the city police has a standing order to observe maximum tolerance”to show respect to everybody’s constitutional right to freedom of speech and expression.”

“We don’t distinguish the organizations, provided that at the time they conduct the rally, they do not commit unlawful activities,” she said.

Duterte said the city mayor or police director has the discretion to suppress a protest if there is imminent danger to the public, otherwise the position is to exercise maximum tolerance.

The protesters, who covered their faces with shirts and handkerchiefs, held placards with slogans like “Mabuhay ang KM (Long live the KM)!” “Imperyalismo ibagsak (Put down imperialism)!” and “Kabatan-onan sampa sa Bagong Hukbong Bayan (Youth join the New People’s Army)!”

Some protesters distributed copies of the “Pasa Bilis,” the official publication of the NPA-Southern Mindanao.

The NPA is the armed wing of the CCP involved in a communist insurgency in the last four decades.

In a statement sent Tuesday evening, Maria Liyab Magtanggol, KM regional spokesperson, said that “revolutionary youth from different schools and communities” in the city are protesting the development plan of the Aquino regime as it is a “development for the US (United States), elite class, and not for the Filipino masses.”

The statement said, “For almost three years, the US-Aquino regime is marked by massive privatization of basic social services particularly on health, education and housing under its flagship program, the Public-Private Partnership (PPP).”

It added that the Filipino people suffer from expensive cost of living, which, according to the group, is aggravated by the “anti-people” expanded value-added tax, while multinational companies enjoy tax exemptions such as tax holidays.

But the President said in his speech: “Right now, we are at a critical juncture. As we near the midpoint of our term, it is all the more important for us to look back on both our successes and shortcomings, so we can strategize for the future.”

He said he and his team have only three years and four months left and they want “to make the most this time to build on what we have achieved, improve where we are lacking, and fulfill our promises to our people—towards attaining inclusive growth, sustainable progress, and greater peace and stability.”

“This is a daunting task,” he continued, “but knowing that there are those who are willing to share this responsibility with us—such as those of you present here today—makes it easier.”

Aquino said the government continues to heavily invest in the Filipino people through the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or conditional cash transfer (CCT) program, as they are the country’s “strongest competitive advantage.”

Magtanggol said the KM is determined to persevere in their struggle against US imperialism and the local reactionaries in order to achieve national and social liberation.

“The youth will embrace the revolutionary struggle, especially armed struggle as its primary form, to bring an end to the current ruling semi-colonial and semi-feudal system and create a socialist society that will bring social justice and peace for the entire Filipino people,” she added.

Tuesday afternoon’s rally by KM members lasted for only about three minutes as a police patrol coming from Bonifacio Street arrived, prompting the group to disperse. (Lorie Ann A. Cascaro/MindaNews)