PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte called for unity on the 32nd anniversary of the Edsa People Power uprising even as he skipped the commemoration rites for the second year in a row on Sunday.
“The People Power Revolution has become the enduring symbol of our determination to fight for what is right and—during our country’s most crucial and trying times—to defend and uphold our cherished democratic values,” the President said in a statement released to the press a day ahead of the Feb. 25 celebration.
“May this occasion foster unity and solidarity as we pursue our hopes and aspiration for our nation,” he added.
Duterte urged the public to mark the 1986 uprising that he said showed the world “how a people’s courage and resolve can alter the course of our nation’s history.”
“Let us further enrich our democracy by empowering our citizenry, defending their rights and strengthening the institutions that safeguard their freedoms,” the President said.
Hundreds of people flocked to the People Power Monument in Quezon City to mark the anniversary of the uprising that toppled the dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
Former President Fidel V. Ramos, Edsa People Power leader, led the wreath-laying ceremony at the monument and the traditional “Salabungan” reenactment of the historic meeting of military officials and civilians in 1986.
He was joined by Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno also arrived at the People Power commemoration.
A mass was held and officiated by Fr. Harold Rentoria, OSA, commissioner of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.
Some protesters led by a militant priest held a separate mass on the other side of the monument to protest the “dying democracy.”
Militants groups took to Edsa as early as Saturday evening to dramatize their opposition to the administration’s effort to amend the Constitution to shift to a federal form of government.
Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros on Saturday said the spirit of Edsa was the “ideological opposition of authoritarianism” and called on Duterte to abandon “his dictatorial ambitions” and to go back to the ways of democracy.
She added that Duterte should learn the lessons of Edsa and accept that authoritarianism is an unsustainable framework of governance.