For two straight weekends, thousands have gathered in the streets of Manila to condemn the deterioration of the human rights situation in the Philippines.
On February 18, the Catholic Church mobilized an estimated 20,000 people to participate in a “Walk for Life” as a form of protest against the rising “culture of violence” in the country.
A week later, more than 5,000 people commemorated the 31st anniversary of the Edsa uprising, which toppled the Marcos dictatorship. But the event also became a venue to criticize the “authoritarian” tendencies of President Rodrigo Duterte.
The Duterte government should not be complacent because it succeeded in drawing a large supportive crowd last weekend. On the contrary, it should inspire the president to work for better transparency, better governance, and hopefully, better record in protecting human rights.
Why Duterte Should Fear the Marcos Burial Protest
Despite the fierce opposition of human rights groups, former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos was buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes’ Cemetery) on November 18. This triggered widespread protests across the country, with thousands of young people denouncing incumbent President Rodrigo Duterte for endorsing a hero’s burial for the controversial leader.
Duterte’s political base remains formidable. But the street protests in the nation’s capital also showed that the “punisher” is unable to deter many people from publicly and strongly expressing their sentiments.
The Marcos burial issue has opened the space for groups that seek to engage the Duterte government on other critical issues such as human rights, foreign policy, peace process, and climate change. Could this lead to bigger protests in the next few months?