By Marivir R. Montebon
New York – Filipinos in New York converged at the vicinity of the Philippine Consulate here Monday, July 23, with one group protesting the Duterte administration for its gross human rights violations timed for his third State of the Nation Address. The other group came as a counter rally to defend Duterte, saying that the Philippines is so much safer now under his watch.
The two groups naturally became a chaotic spectacle on the very busy 5th Avenue and were under tight police watch. They exchanged rants like competing cheering squads do, but spewing political messages that were disturbing. The Malaya Movement, composed of about a hundred young people from youth and women’s organizations wearing red T-shirts, called the Duterte government as dictatorial and fascist and warned against the return of Martial Law.
The DDS group, a handful of middle-aged men and women who were also wearing red shirts, meanwhile chanted Duterte was the best and that they wanted Martial Law.
Ramon Mappala warned the public against the return of Martial Law in the entire Philippines reminiscent of the Marcos Martial Law where press freedom was stifled and over 40,000 activists were jailed in the 1970s.
Mappala said “The same pattern is happening right now in the Philippines. He already declared Martial Law in Mindanao.”
Malaika Queaño, who is of Maranao descent, rejected Duterte’s promises in his SONA to bring peace and autonomy in Mindanao and his claims of pursuing an independent foreign policy. She pointed out an alleged unsolicited plan by a private consortium comprising a Filipino management company and Chinese companies to rehabilitate and develop Marawi City after its devastation last year in the war between the Philippine government and Islamic State-allied militants.
The pro-Duterte rallyists meanwhile asserted that the Philippines has become a safer place under Duterte’s watch, as people no longer fear being assaulted by drug addicts. A resident from the Leyte province however said that the war against drugs by Duterte has only instilled fear, not peace, and has targeted the poor and has failed to prosecute big suppliers of drugs. “This problem will not end. And the killing of poor people continues,” she said.
On his third year in power, Duterte’s popularity rating has declined vis-a-vis mounting uproar against the massive extra-judicial killings as a result of his drug war. The challenge continues to turn around the economy, substantially make the economic lives better for ordinary citizens, and curb big-time drug lords.
While the rally of two opposing groups ensued outside the Philippine Center, the Philippine Consulate opened an exhibit of the Philippine silk and pineapple fabrics at the Kalayaan Hall. Weavers and embroiderers who flew in from Laguna and Aklan demonstrated the intricate manner of weaving pinya (pineapple) and seda (silk) into exquisite fabrics that the Philippines is known for.
Entrepreneurial and government attention have been continuously given to make this centuries-old industry and tradition thrive. (With press release from Malaya Movement)