#LunetaRally: What it means for the protesters

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We talked to protesters at Luneta Park to know why it was important for them to join the demonstration for the martial law anniversary. Photo by JL JAVIER

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — Before the martial law anniversary, President Duterte proclaimed Sept. 21 as a National Day of Protest, a first of its kind since martial law was declared 45 years ago.

Plaza Miranda had pro-Duterte groups who rallied to support the president in their green and orange shirts, while Luneta Park assembled a myriad of people ­— from indigenous groups and women travelling from Marawi to LGBTQ organizations and religious congregations — protesting the policies of the administration, particularly the conjectured threat of nationwide martial law.

Metro Manila police estimated 3,000 pro-Duterte attendees while 5,000 people showed up in Luneta to protest against government policies. CNN Philippines Life talked to various people in Luneta and asked them why it was important for them to join the demonstration during martial law’s 45 year mark.

Below are edited excerpts from the interviews.

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Sohra Batua, 45, vendor from Marawi

Sana ‘wag nila ituloy ‘yung martial law doon sa Mindanao kasi nahihirapan talaga. ‘Yung mga sibilyan ang naapektuhan sa martial law. ‘Yung mga sibilyan katulad nga mga kamag- anak namin dun sa Marawi, naapektuhan talaga sila nung dineclare ni Duterte sa Marawi.”

“Galing kami ng Marawi kasi nanawagan kami kay presidente na itigil na ‘yung martial law sa Marawi. Maliit pa ako nung naabutan ko ‘yung martial law at mahirap talaga ...

"Wala kaming mababalikan doon. Sunog lahat ng mga bahay namin, mga negosyo namin, mga hanap buhay, wala na. Walang tao ngayon sa Marawi, puro mga sundalo lang at mga [rebelde], nagbabakbakan sila doon.”


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Andrew Zarate, 30, secretary general of Bahaghari LGBT  

Nandito kami dahil ayaw namin maulit muli ang bangungot ng diktadura, ang bangungot ng martial law. Tingin namin, malaki ‘yung banta na ituloy at itulak ni President Duterte ang pagdedeklara ng isang pambansang martial law. Hindi kami papayag, hindi kami sang-ayon na mangyari ito, at nakikiisa kami sa ano mang pagkilos para tigilan ang anumang pagtatangka.”

Buhay na kasi ‘yung magulang ko noong martial law. Actually, sundalo ‘yung aking father at alam niya kung ano ‘yung kayang gawin ng militar ‘pag may martial law at ayokong maulit ‘yun. Hindi ko man ‘yun naranasan, batay sa mga na-ikwento, nabasa ko, nakita ko, hindi na siya dapat talagang maulit.”

At ngayon na wala pang martial law, wala pang batas militar, nakakatakot na ‘yung gobyerno eh. Pumapatay siya. Hindi siya kumikilala sa proseso, sa due process, sa batas. ‘Yung mga pulis, hindi rumerespeto sa batas mismo, ano pa kaya ‘yung makikita natin kung merong martial law? Gaano pa kaya kalala ‘yung kaya nilang gawin if there's martial law?”


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Sister Monina Baybay, 72, Society of St. Paul

“My presence here means that I agree with the stance against extrajudicial killings and all the abuses of martial law .… First of all, this tokhang, which is an outright violation of human rights. Some would just knock and then shoot … Where is the justice there? It's murder. For me, my presence here is to protest this kind of government system.”

“[Tulad ng] martial law [ni] Marcos. How many tortures? How many extrajudicial killings? .. Walang kaibahan ... The circumstances may be different [with what is happening now to what was happening then] but the gravity of the offense is the same.”

“It's very disappointing [to have protested before] and it's really very disappointing at my old age that we're still protesting [now]. It’s crazy.”


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Michaella Ortega, 28, daughter of slain journalist Gerry Ortega

“Seven years ago, my father was murdered for telling the truth and for exposing corruption in Palawan. And it's so close to home to understand that sometimes when you're telling the truth, you need to have a government that's not oppressive and repressive. I don't want the same experience to happen to more and more families in the Philippines, and it seems to be something that we're headed to and that's a scary thing.”

“I just really wanted to lend a voice and I wanted to not be silent at a time like this. When my father was murdered, it immediately made a lot of people silent and I know that the moment you're silent and the moment you don't pay attention, and the moment you stop acting and resisting, that's the time when tyranny comes in and that's the time when human rights abuses come in. It's very important to lend your voice and show your support for these kinds of demonstrations.”

“It's the antithesis of oppression; it's giving voice and actually being present and being there in witnessing it.”


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Mony Romana, 47, professor at the College of St. Benilde

“[I am here] because human rights are important for me and it's under attack. It's being threatened so anyone who has any concern with their fellow human beings should be counted and say that we really have to uphold human rights.”

“We've been through the dark ages with martial law and if we're not careful, it's going to happen again. So we have to stand up and we have to stand with our fellow human beings.”


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Luna Villanueva, 14, high school student

“This is important to me kasi gusto ko ng magandang future sa akin, sa kinabubuti ko, at saka sa future na generations dahil mali na ‘yung nangyayari sa gobyerno ngayon. Gusto kong makisama dahil gusto kong ipaglaban ‘yung nararapat at saka ‘yung alam kong tunay.”

‘Yung nanay ko, ‘yung family ko, tinuro nila ever since bata palang ako, na mali ‘yung nangyari nung martial law. Tapos nakikita ko na sobrang nag-re-reflect dito ‘yung nangyayari ngayon sa mga nangyayari dati.”

Maraming nagsasabi na wala naman kaming mga alam [kasi bata lang kami]. Kung wala naman kami dun, ba’t kami nakikisama lang, pero di naman ‘yan totoo kasi may sarili kaming opinyon, kahit bata lang kami at saka kahit papano meron kaming view ng tama at mali.”


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Marlo Carandang, 58, lawyer

“Actually, ang ina-anticipate is the nationwide declaration that's why we are here to express our disgust. We cannot go through the Marcos time dictatorship again. We cannot allow that. For our generation who experienced Marcos, we're very appreciative nga of the millennials who did not experience Marcos and yet they share in our feelings towards having to return to civility. There should be a return to national civility. There should be respect for the law. There should be the highest respect for human life.”

“I thought with the institution of the 1987 constitution, they have addressed [this] but apparently they didn't anticipate this.”

“To my 89 million countrymen, we have to speak out, we have to be here. It's part of being a Filipino citizen. It's our moral duty, our legal duty, and probably our heavenly duty also.”


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Steph Andaya, 26, researcher at the University of the Philippines

Nandito ako kasama ‘yung org ko, Alliance of Contractual Employees in UP. Taga-UP kami at nakikiisa kami sa panawagan na baka sana i-end na ‘yung martial law sa Mindanao at huwag na ibaba dito sa buong Pilipinas.”

Kasama ‘yung org, kasama nitong mga tao dito nag-martsa from UP hanggang dito sa Luneta para panawagan din kay Duterte na tigilan niya na ‘yung war on drugs kasi obviously ‘di naman nawawala ‘yung drugs eh, dapat tugunan niya nalang ‘yung mga basic na pangangailangan ng tao like education, mga social services at siyempre ako contractual ako, dapat i-regularize ‘yung mga contractual, ‘yung funds na binibigay niya para dun sa war on drugs na ang laki laki, kung ibibigay lang niya sa social services, malaki na ‘yung magiging effect nun at para pa siya sa tao, hindi sa patay.”

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Christy Mediavillo, 52, early retiree

“Every time there is an excess of a government attitude, I'm always here in Luneta. At this time, the cup of the present government is overflowing with abuses. When martial law was declared, I was still very young at that time, but history itself tells us that there are some similarities in the curtailment of some rights.”

“We should not keep silent. We should not be a silent audience. If we could, we should express it in any way we can. I'm here alone, I have nobody to ask to accompany me because they're working, so I said I'll do something alone and be brave for once.”

“Being here is not being alone as in physically because everyone has a single purpose to voice everything against what the present government is doing right now — the abuses, the tyranny, and the bullying.”


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Buen Cruz, 33, cleric

“By declaring a National Day of Protest, [we have] several things [to] protest about. Especially at this time of our government, [we] call it an age of inauthenticity [because we] don't know what is real anymore; you don't know who to listen to, and we are here [because] we want to know what is real, we want to know what is true.”

“And at the same time, we look back at what happened years back, the declaration of martial law during that time, 1972. We want to remember and not forget what our country stands for; why we are here … We would like to awaken the conscience of the people [especially] that the events that have been happening around us calls us to conscience. If we are not awakened, then there is something wrong.”

“We cannot just let people die. As part of the church, we cannot just allow deaths to continue without people being accountable to them because these are lives and life is not cheap, it's valuable … No political color, no sides, but that we want to stand for what is true and we want to stand for life.”