Another protest that came together somewhat organically and was facilitated by technology was the Million People March on August 26 of 2013. What started as a Facebook post turned into a rallying cry against corruption and culminated with 100,000 people in Manila and more in other cities. The call of protestors was the abolition of the “pork barrel” or the discretionary funds given to lawmakers for their pet projects. The scandal came to a head when accusations of $232 million in government funds intended for farmers were instead funneled into ghost projects and stolen. Following August 26 several other protests were held calling for transparency and the accountability of those who stole the funds. 40
Violent dispersals of protests continue into the 21st century. As recently as April 1, 2016, at least 1 farmer was killed and 13 more were wounded when police and military violently dispersed a 3000-person human blockade along the Davao-Cotabato Highway. Two policemen were also in critical condition and another 40 cops were injured in the scuffle. The protestors were farmers suffering through the severe drought for several months and had gathered to demand 15,000 sacks of rice from the North Cotabato governor. They had been protesting since March 29 and completely blocked the highway since the 30th. However, negotiations between the protesters and the local government officials broke down and the order came for their dispersal. The violence prompted several investigations, including by the Commission on Human Rights. 41 42
30 years since 1986 former President Marcos Sr. Still sparks protests. 2016 there thousands of people gathered to protest his burial in Libingan ng mga Bayani (National Hero’s Cemetary). The burial with full military honors was one of President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign promises and as early as the first August after his swearing-in he was preparing to go through with his plan. Protests bloomed in Manila and other cities – including Davao City – calling for President Duterte to reverse his decision. Just days before Marcos Sr. was secretly buried in Libingan ng mga Bayani, 20,000 Martial Law survivors, students and workers and other protestors assembled in Rizal Park and a few days later rallies were held all over the country and even in the U.S. Following the stealthy burial, more protests broke out all over the country. 43 44 45
The burial of President Marcos Sr. was not the last of the protests under the Duterte regime. Less than a year later on September 21 2017 – the anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law – thousands of people from across different sectors joined demonstrations against his administrations policies, including the bloody War on Drugs which by that point had already killed thousands of people. Masses were said, effigies were burned and protesters marched in the street to express their discontent with the killings, the threat of martial law and other issues. 46
TheLakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya is a protest march organized by the Movement of Moro and Indigenous Peoples for Self-Determination (SANDUGO) to bring the issues of indigenous peoples to the attention of the capital and policy makers. It was first held in 2012 and then was revived in 2015 in September and October after a spate of Lumad killings and the threat of further violence forced 3000 to 4000 people to evacuate with some making the trek all the way to Manila in order to air their grievances. The country was shocked and angered; #StopLumadKillings trended on Twitter with people demanding justice. In 2016, as part of the Lakbayan, a protest action outside the US Embassy decrying American imperialism and its effects on indigenous people turned violent when a police car rammed into the protesters towards the end of the demonstration. 50 were injured and 29 were arrested. The most recent iteration of the Lakbayan was in 2017 however in November of 2020 the series of protests was in the news again when the event was red-tagged by the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency and called the participants “so-called lumads.” 47 48 49
As shown in earlier years, protests don’t always mean marches on the street. In July 12 2018 several banners appeared all over Metro Manila bearing the Chinese flag reading “Welcome to the Philippines Province of China” plus some more text in Chinese characters. This was on the two-year anniversary of the favourable Hague court ruling in the Philippines’ arbitration case against China regarding territory in the West Philippine Sea. The banners appear to be a reference to a “joke” made by President Duterte that the Philippines can be made a province of China. No group or individual claimed responsibility for the tarpaulins but they did spark outrage from both the Duterte administration and the Chinese government. Public reaction was mixed. 50
Another form of protests are strikes and from 2017 to 2019 transport strikes nearly paralyzed the country. The protests were organized by Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Operators Nationwide (Piston) and were against the government’s jeepney modernization program which drivers and other critics called anti-poor and would drive many drivers into either deep debt or unemployment. At one point in October 2017, Piston claimed that the transport strike had paralyzed 95% of the routes around Metro Manila. During several of these strikes, classes and government work were suspended either by the national or local governments in direct response to the strike. To this day, the PUV Modernization Program has not been implemented although it has not been officially scrapped either. 51 52 53
Throughout history, protest has been a powerful tool for change. But governments around the world are cracking down on protests and it must be protected.
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