Updated 01:36 AM PHT Sat, November 26, 2016
Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — President Rodrigo Duterte was in Mindanao on Friday but his thoughts travelled all the way to Manila where a number of protests were being held over the Marcos burial last week.
Duterte, who visited wounded soldiers in Jolo and Zamboanga City, said the present row over the interment of former President Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (LNMB) could have been averted had previous administrations acted and legally settled the matter.
He specifically cited two Aquinos who became presidents: Cory in 1986 and Noynoy in 2010.
Duterte said the mother and son had a good 12 years — their terms combined — to amend the law which qualifies Marcos to have a place at the LNMB.
But he said they were afraid of the possible backlash if they did so.
"Because ayaw magsugal, 'yan ang mahirap diyan [They didn't want to gamble on it]," Duterte said — adding that those before him were "really afraid" of the crowd that would gather to protest such a move.
The President said what would happen if 30,000 or 50,000 Ilocanos would march down to Manila.
"Marcos is hero to the Ilocanos. No doubt about it," he said. "It's almost 98 percent of the all Ilocano-speaking regions. Naghihinakit 'yan [They are hurting]."
He said he had weighed the possible consequences — and the picture didn't look good.
"Can we control it (thousands of people)? Can the military control it? No, of course they cannot because I would not allow them to bring rifles... So it would only be the police so what would happen?"
Duterte said if some of the marchers would get mauled or get killed should a scuffle break out, "You would create trouble in this country pag masaktan 'yang mga Ilocano, anong gawin ko? [If they get hurt there would be trouble. What am I supposed to do?]"
'Unlimited' protest allowed
The President repeated his guarantee that demonstrators can freely take to the streets, gather in open public places without a time limit, without a permit.
He said this would hold true even for the next anti-Marcos burial protest set on November 30 by the "yellow movement."
"Pag sabi mong [If you say] you want to demonstrate for one week, fine. One month, still okay. One year, walang problema [no problem]... Nobody and nobody will give, demand the permit. If you want to scatter dirt... We will clean it up for you."
He ended the speech by repeating a famous line, "Like I said, I may disagree by what you say but I will defend your right to say it."