Anti-Marcos groups hold EDSA day protests

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Anti-Marcos groups stole the limelight from the government's EDSA day celebration on Saturday as protesters took to the streets to rally on the People Power Revolution's 31st anniversary.

Eclipsing the government's "sober and simple" EDSA 31 celebration, protesters assembled at the People Power Monument near Camp Aguinaldo to decry the late President's burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

The monument marks the spot where thousands united to oust the late Ferdinand Marcos, and is a symbol of the bloodless revolution that toppled the former President's 20-year rule.

To commemorate the event, a simple wreath-laying and flag-raising ceremony was held at the monument Saturday morning.

Cabinet officials were expected to attend but did not show up.

Instead, some anti-Marcos groups were at the monument to air grievances against the Duterte administration.

At least 20 groups are expected to converge at the monument Saturday afternoon, where a concert will be held at night.

One of these is the Block Marcos Movement, an anti-Marcos group protesting the burial of the late President at the Heroes' Cemetery.

The group insists the late Ferdinand Marcos' remains be exhumed from the Libingan ng Mga Bayani.

To drive their point, they arrived at the monument early Saturday and plastered fake shovels in the hands of statues at the People Power Monument.

The group also performed a blessing of symbolic soil from the Libingan ng mga Bayani, which they said was "contaminated" by the Marcos burial.

The former President's burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani was one of President Rodrigo Duterte's early campaign promises and has been a contentious issue among the late strongman's critics.

In November, Marcos' surprise burial amid this fierce opposition caught many off guard, spurring protests by angered Filipinos.

Police use water cannons on Embassy protesters

Prior to trooping to the People Power Monument, other groups also held separate rallies Saturday morning.

Earlier, tensions escalated at a protest near the U.S. Embassy after police used water cannons to block protesters from entering the U.S. Embassy.

The protesters were composed of urban groups lobbying against the U.S.-backed all-out war policy against the Left and the Philippine National Police's "Oplan Tokhang" anti-drug campaign.

Police said at least two rallyists sustained minor injuries.

Despite this, the police say the protest was "generally peaceful."

Read: Police use water cannons on protesters near U.S. Embassy

Later, another commotion between protesters and anti-riot forces ensued after anti-Marcos group CARRMA marched towards Camp Aguinaldo to converge with the urban poor groups from the U.S. Embassy.

Solemn EDSA celebration

The government has insisted on a simple and solemn celebration for EDSA 31.

It said unlike previous celebrations, there will be no frills for the People Power Anniversary this year.

In a press briefing held last Tuesday, Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra said "The theme for this year's celebration is, 'A Day of Reflection.'"

In place of usual celebrations, the government instead held its main commemorative event last Friday at Camp Aguinaldo.

President Duterte, who was in Davao to lead the turnover of a drug rehabilitation center and launch the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, was not present at the event.

The President, however, had some words to say about the EDSA revolution.

In a message read by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, the President said the EDSA revolution was a product of the Filipinos' collective efforts.

He said no single group could take the credit for its success. 

"[T]he spirit of EDSA does not belong to one sector or one group of people, but to all Filipinos who believe in freedom and a democratic way of life," Duterte said.

Related: Duterte: No single party can take credit for EDSA revolution