POLITICS-DU30: Manila – Protesters call Duterte ‘traitor’

MANILA, Philippines — Militant groups yesterday denounced President Duterte, branding him a “traitor” to the country’s interests.

A group of activists heckled Duterte while he was about to deliver his speech at the celebration of the 120th anniversary of Philippine Independence in Kawit, Cavite.

Some of the protesters who held the lightning rally called Duterte a traitor and called for his ouster before they were escorted out of the venue by the police and Presidential Security Group.

The protesters raised several posters with different messages and chanted “Hunyo a dose, huwad na kalayaan (June 12, a fake independence).”

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Duterte was unfazed by the protesters, who he said have the right to express their views.

Duterte said he loves his countrymen, including those who heckled him.

“We cannot agree at all times for all seasons. But at least we have this exercise once every six years. I suppose under this new Constitution you can elect the leaders that you want to run the country,” the President said.

Hundreds of protesters also gathered in front of the Chinese embassy in Makati City and in Liwasang Bonifacio in Manila denouncing Duterte’s supposed selling out the country to China.

“Filipino fishermen were harassed by the Chinese Coast Guard, and the Duterte regime is too cowardly to challenge this intrusion into our territory,” Kilusang Mayo Uno chair Elmer Labog said. ?“Duterte has traded away the dignity and livelihood of our workers to protect his own interests,” Labog added.

He said Duterte has not opposed China’s claims to the disputed South China Sea, and even refused to assert the Philippines’ right to that territory.

Labog accused Duterte of colluding with China as proven by the President’s agreement with the Chinese on trade and economic cooperation as well as infrastructure projects.

“Duterte boasts of close ties with China, but it has benefitted only him, at the expense of the rest of the country,” Labog said.

The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) assailed Duterte for reneging on its promise of an independent foreign policy.

“The Philippines cannot be truly free, not when foreign powers collude to take advantage of our people and resources. We cannot be truly free if China continues to claim most of the West Philippine Sea,” Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes said.

He said the Duterte administration has chosen the path of “subservience” as it practically gives up the West Philippine Sea in exchange for loans and investments from China.

Manila Bishop Broderick Pabillo said the incident at Panatag Shoal and reports of reef destruction in the area could indicate a “creeping subservience to China.”

He said the tolerance of the Duterte administration to Chinese transgression at the West Philippine Sea and the abuses at the shoal could be perceived that the Philippines is slowly losing its independence.

“With our situation, our independence is being chipped off. We have the creeping subservience to China,” he said.

Vice President Leni Robredo called for a stronger government stance against such reported incidents inside the Philippine waters.

Robredo assured Filipino fishermen traversing the West Philippine Sea of her support amid reports of harassment committed by the Chinese coast guards against them.

“It’s heartbreaking to see them (fishermen) feeling that they don’t have anyone to turn to. We want to assure them that many of us are still ready to fight for them,” Robredo said.

Detained Sen. Leila de Lima issued her Independence Day statement, saying there is no real democracy under the Duterte administration.

Ousted chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno said the Philippines was plunged into “terrible times” because fear was allowed to rule the country.

On the other hand, the urban poor group Kadamay slammed “the government’s policy of giving up Philippine territories while aggravating the poverty levels domestically.”

“This was best summed up recently by (presidential spokesman) Harry Roque’s comments justifying the taking of Filipino fishermen’s catch by Chinese authorities in exchange for instant noodles,” Kadamay chair Gloria Arellano said.

Teddy Casiño of Bayan said Roque should resign for downplaying the harassment incident involving the Chinese coast guard on Filipino fishermen.

Casiño recalled Roque was once like them, joining them on the streets fighting for the sovereign rights of the Philippines over the disputed Panatag Shoal and even defended the fishermen.

Casiño emphasized he understands where Roque is, being the spokesman of the President, when he seemed to have downplayed the harassment of Chinese coastguard.

“The best thing that he can do now, if he wants to maintain his integrity, is to resign – just because he wants to maintain his position, he is abandoning his principles,” Casiño said. –  With Mayen Jaymalin, Evelyn Macairan, Marvin Sy, Helen Flores, Robertzon Ramirez, Emmanuel Tupas, Rhodina Villanueva, Janvic Mateo

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