While speaking at a pro-Duterte rally on Saturday, Justice Sec. Vitaliano Aguirre II asked the crowd at the Quirino Grandstand, “Sino ang gusto niyo isunod?” (Who do you want next?) This is in reference to the arrest of Sen. Leila De Lima a day before the rally. The government has relentlessly pursued her, in line with her alleged involvement in the Bilibid prison drug trade.
The rally was filled with Duterte supporters. It was deemed as a response to the crowd that commemorated the EDSA Revolution at the People Power Monument. According to the Manila Police District, an estimated 15,000 people were present at the rally during the day.
After asking the questions on who they want to be next, the people shouted back, “Trillanes.” This is in reference to Sen. Antonio Trillanes, who is a vocal critic of the President. Just like De Lima, Trillanes has also accused Duterte of involvement in the Davao Death Squad (DDS). He even took it further by accusing the Duterte family for possession of hidden wealth.
A solid support
According to the protesters present at the rally, it is an indication that the President still enjoys huge support from the Filipino people. Not only did people keep coming as the programs of the night continued, the rally is also expected to extend on its second day.
Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno sent a directive to local government units, “encouraging” them to attend the gathering at the Rizal Park on Sunday. Pro-Duterte supporters wore red, which was also the official campaign color used by Duterte in his bid for the presidency.
Opposition groups held rallies
Former President Noynoy Aquino and Vice President Leni Robredo led the gathering of the opposition forces at the People Power Monument, a historic site for the 1986 People Power Revolution. They wore black during the protest as a sign of resistance to the Duterte administration, which according to them, is a threat to democracy. They have also led the protest against the arrest of Sen. De Lima.
The ex-president didn’t address the crowd, but released a statement saying that the EDSA Revolution “should go beyond mere remembrance.” He also said that the current situation the country is facing is a reminder that the fight isn’t yet over and those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.
Over 6,000 protesters joined the People Power celebration in Quezon City. In another location, over 1,000 demonstrators rallied against the war on drugs, which is a staple policy of the Duterte administration. According to the protesters at Camp Aguinaldo, Duterte’s policy could allow a repetition of the Marcos dictatorship. The protest was a sign that they’re taking the matter seriously and to warn the people of the potential rise of fascism. Over 7,000 drug suspects were killed due to the war on drugs by the administration.
Critics noticed Aguirre’s statement
The question posed by Aguirre during the pro-Duterte rally sent chills down the spine of some people who have fought fascism during the Marcos regime. According to them, Aguirre’s line of questioning is definitely how dictatorships begin.
Later during the day, Aguirre clarified his statement. He said that the Department of Justice will prosecute whoever they find guilty if there is evidence.
Sen. Trillanes also released a statement on the same day condemning the arrest of De Lima. According to him, her arrest sends a chilling message that the political opposition could be next. This did not deter the senator. He further said that the effect to him was the exact opposite. He is more motivated than ever to expose the president. He said that Duterte is a “plunderer” and a “mass murderer.”
The real power
By 7 pm of Saturday, over 200,000 people have already gathered at the Rizal Park. Aside from Aguirre, other government officials also took the stage to address the crowd. Communications Secretary Martin Andanar was one of them. He said that the number of people who have joined the rally is a proof of real People Power. He also said that the People Power is not just for the selected few, but for the entire Filipino people.
The overwhelming number of Duterte supporters is taken by the administration as a sign of the president’s popularity and unwavering support from the people.