Sept. 21 (UPI) -- Thousands engaged in protests throughout the Philippines on Thursday for the 45th anniversary of the declaration of martial law by President Ferdinand Marcos.
About 5,000 protesters dressed in black shirts gathered on one side of the Mendiola Peace Arch: "" target="_blank"} in Manilla shouting "never again to martial law!" across from hundreds of people in green and orange shirts chanted to show support for current President Rodrigo Duterte, Rappler reported.
Duterte signed Proclamation Number 319, declaring Thursday a national day of protest and canceling government work and classes in public schools.
The move was praised by Duterte's supporters as an opportunity to exercise their freedom of expression, while his detractors said the declaration was an opportunity to belittle protests against him and his regime.
"That's a big joke. He is the subject of the protest. He cannot declare a day of protest against himself. It is an effort to belittle the protest," Teddy Casino, a former member of the House of Representatives, told Rappler.
Human rights lawyer Democrito Barcenas, who was detained during martial law, challenged the nation to not repeat past mistakes that led to the country's martial law, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported.
"Signs of martial law have reemerged," Barcenas said. "Although it's not been formally declared, we can feel it."
Duterte has earned the nickname "The Punisher" as a result of his war against drugs that has seen at least 3,800 people killed.
On Wednesday Duterte said he would order police to kill his son Paolo, 42, if he was convinced of trafficking methamphetamines into the country.
"In the time of Marcos, people were killed because they were suspected as communists," Barcenas said. "Now, people are killed because they are suspected as drug personalities. All of them are persecuted and killed without any due process. That's why the people must be vigilant and unit against the looming dictatorship."