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Safeguard rights, Duterte tells Pinoys on People Power day

PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte on Thursday, urged Filipinos to be vigilant in safeguarding their rights and the country’s democratic institutions as he marked the 35th anniversary of a street uprising that toppled the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos.

In a statement, he asked Filipinos to set aside their differences and “work together in building a legacy that we can proudly leave behind for future generations.”

Vice President Maria Leonor G. Robredo said Filipinos should have a “collective resolve” to fight the threats to the country’s fragile democracy.

Filipinos are in the process of “forging the nation we dreamt of and fought for,” the opposition leader said in a separate statement, adding that the promise of the EDSA uprising remained unfulfilled.

Ms. Robredo, whom the Supreme Court favored in an election protest filed by rival and the dictator’s son Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr., cited “efforts to revise history for the personal agenda of a powerful few.”

The Philippines slipped one place to No. 55 out of 167 countries in London-based think tank Economist Intelligence Unit’s democracy index last year.

The nation under Mr. Duterte retained its “flawed democracy” status, with a score of 6.56 from 6.4 a year earlier.

At least 188 human rights defenders have been killed under the Duterte administration, while 426 activists and community organizers were arrested, according to human rights group Karapatan.

Since becoming president in 2016, Mr. Duterte has attacked journalists critical of his policies, particularly his deadly war on drugs.

Amid a coronavirus pandemic, Mr. Duterte signed a law expanding crimes against terror, which critics said could be used to violate human rights and stifle dissent. 

Congress under his administration also rejected the franchise application of ABS-CBN Corp., which is critical of his government.

The tough talking leader said he would bar the broadcasting firm from using free TV and radio frequencies even if it gets a new franchise.

“Today, we are reminded of what we can do, marching towards a shared horizon, bound not only by the crisis we face, but by our collective resolve to truly achieve the promise articulated 35 years ago — a nation that has more freedom and more justice and more humane,” Ms. Robredo said in mixed English and Filipino.

The elder Mr. Marcos’s two-decade was marred by political killings, human rights violations, corruption and media repression.

About 3,200 people died, 70,000 were jailed and 35,000 were tortured during Mr. Marcos’s two-decade rule, according to American historian Alfred W. McCoy.

The country’s democracy is “under constant threat,” Ms. Robredo said. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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