Duterte critics, supporters rally on martial law anniversary

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 21) — Protests for and against the government marked the 45th anniversary of former President Ferdinand Marcos' proclamation of martial law.

People took to the streets in Metro Manila, Cebu, Davao, and General Santos cities and in the provinces to denounce the President's war on drugs and declaration of martial law in Mindanao, among others.

The Metro Manila police estimate around 5,000 attended anti-administration protests, while 3,000 were with pro-Duterte groups.

Anti-Duterte, anti-martial law

Critics of President Rodrigo Duterte gathered in Mendiola, a usual site of rallies, chanting "Marcos, Duterte, walang pinagkaiba, pumapatay sila [Marcos, Duterte, no different, they both kill]."

They are part of the coalition Laban ng Masa, and called for the Duterte administration to put an end to extrajudicial killings and avoid a nationwide martial law declaration.

They also burned a so-called "Rody's Cube," a Rubik's Cube-inspired effigy with faces of leaders they consider dictators: Duterte, Marcos, and Nazi Germany's Adolf Hitler.

The protesters then converged at the Luneta Park in Manila, more than 20 kilometers from Mendiola, for a program until 8 p.m.

(Critics of President Rodrigo Duterte gathered in Luneta Thursday evening.)

Dubbed as the rally against 'tyranny and dictatorship', the Luneta crowd held a concert, featuring singers Bituin Escalante, Noel Cabangon, and political activist cum media personality Juana Change.

At 8 p.m.,the group in Luneta rang bells and joined the nationwide ringing of church bells called for by the Catholic Bishops of the Philippines.

Six hundred anti-riot police were assigned in Luneta for the mass demonstration.

Support for the President

On the other side of Mendiola Peace Arch, supporters in green and orange shirts showed support for the President.

"Gusto natin ipaalam, sa ating mamayanan, sa ating presidente na nandidito kami, na susuporta, na hindi na mabawi, yung tinatamasa ngayon na katahimikan," said Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority Chair Martin Diño, who joined the pro-Duterte demonstrations in Mendiola.

[Translation: We want to inform our fellowmen, our president that we are here to support, that no one can take back the peace we are experiencing now.]

The pro-Duterte groups gathered in Plaza Miranda in Quiapo, Manila to rally behind the President. Members of the Cabinet attended the event, including Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello.

"Nangyari lang ito para pagbigyan ang ordinaryong mamamayan na makapagbigay na mahayag 'yung kanilang pagsuporta maglahad ng kanilang damdamin," Cusi said.

[Translation: This only happened to give chance to the regular citizens to freely express their support.]

Various groups headed by the President's party PDP-Laban and Kilusang Pagbabago organized the rally. They set up a stage with Duterte's face and the caption: "Ituloy ang pagbabago [Continue change]."

Some local government units from Metro Manila, like Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, Caloocan City Mayor Oca Malapitan, and Quezon City Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte sent delegations who wore signature colors of their leaders.

Supporters of the Marcos family were also present.

A complaints desk was set up to assist some protesters on how to engage with concerned government agencies.

LIST: Groups, schools protest on martial law anniversary

Duterte declared this day a "National Day of Protest," suspending work in government offices and classes in public schools in Metro Manila, but clarifying it is not a holiday.

LIST: Class suspensions for 'National Day of Protest' on September 21

Vice President Leni Robredo in a statement joined those condemning late strongman Marcos' declaration of martial law in 1972. She hoped martial law will not happen again.

"Umaasa tayong hindi na pagdadaanang muli ng mga Pilipino ang madilim na kabanatang ito ng ating kasaysayan [We are hoping Filipinos will never again experience this dark chapter in our history]," she said.

The protests were staged as Duterte warned he would declare a nationwide martial law if demonstrations turned violent.

"Do not commit the mistake of staging a rebellion. 'Yung sabihin mo na there's a fighting on the streets. I will not hesitate to impose martial law all throughout the country and order the arrest of everybody," he said during a media interview in Cagayan De Oro on September 9.

Related: Declaring martial law nationwide 'very remote' - defense chief

Generally peaceful

Metro Manila Police Chief Oscar Albayalde said the demonstrations were generally peaceful as of Thursday evening.

PNP Chief Ronald Dela Rosa placed the police force on full alert status since Wednesday afternoon, and all policemen were to observe maximum tolerance on protesters.

More than 1,000 policemen were deployed across Metro Manila.

Duterte earlier said the policemen were deployed not to stop the protests, but only to man traffic in Metro Manila. Traffic on the streets of Manila was light as of Thursday evening.

CNN Philippines' Eimor Santos, David Santos, Camille Abadicio, and AC Nicholls contributed to this report.