By Genalyn Kabiling and Argyll Cyrus Geducos
Malacañang announced on Tuesday that only government work and classes in public schools across the country will be suspended in observance of the “National Day of Protest” on September 21.
The Palace has left to the discretion of the private sector whether it would call off their work and classes during the planned protest actions on Thursday.
“It is not a special non-working holiday,” Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said during a Palace news conference.
“However, the acting Executive Secretary will issue a memorandum circular suspending work in government offices both national and local as well as classes in all public schools, state colleges, and universities,” he added.
He said certain government agencies shall be required to provide standby emergency assistance near sites of protest actions.
“Regarding private companies, suspension of work in private companies and classes in private schools in affected areas is left to the discretion of their respective heads,” he said.
President Duterte had earlier said he would declare September 21, which marks the 45th anniversary of the declaration of martial law by then President Marcos, as a “National Day of Protest.”
Following the President’s decision, Abella said the people could “exercise their constitutional rights to freedom of speech, peaceful assembly, and to seek redress for their grievances against the government past and present.”
Duterte said he will not deploy a big number of policemen on September 21 as the uniformed men will “stay in the barracks.”
“Lahat kasi ng pulis pati ang Army sa barracks lang. Ang makikita ninyo diyan ang traffic lang (The police and the Army will remain in the barracks. You will only see a few traffic enforcers),” he said.
“Law enforcement authorities are directed to stay away from mass actions and exercise maximum restraint unless their intervention is necessary to maintain public order,” he said.
The President also encouraged those who want to air their sentiments against the government to go out into the streets and join the expected groups of protesters.
“No, September 21 is not a holiday. I have declared it as a ‘National Day of Protest’. Lahat ng gustong mag-protesta laban sa gobyerno, laban sa pulis, sa military o lahat, magbabaan kayo diyan, mag-protesta kayo (Those who want to protest against the government, the police, the military, everything, you can all come down and do so),” he said.
“Kami ring mga taga-gobyerno, ako mag-protesta rin kasi ang aming sahod maliit. Wala kaming equipment, wala kaming mga allowance. Sabay tayong mag-protesta sa gobyerno natin (Same for those in the government. I would also protest because our salaries are low. We don’t have equipment or allowance. Let’s protest together),” he added.
Duterte also invited the members of the media who are not being paid enough for their work to join the protests.
“Pati media. Kayong mga underpaid sa media, hindi binabayaran nitong mga… Kuripot itong mga… Ay sus. O tanungin mo ako, sapat ba [ang bayad] (Even those underpaid in media. Those who are not being paid right. Those cheap… Come on. Ask me. Are you being paid right)?” he said.
However, Duterte renewed his earlier statement that he will not condone crimes committed by protesters on September 21.
“But do not, for the life of me, I’m asking you, do not commit crimes. No vandalism,” he pleaded.