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Duterte accuses gov't of preventing Tacloban rally; mayor denies

Former President Rodrigo Duterte has expressed disappointment over the cancellation of a prayer rally he was supposed to attend in Tacloban City, Leyte over the weekend.

In an open letter, Duterte accused the administration of efforts to stop the holding of the Maisug rally, which was initially slated for May 25 at the Remedios Trinidad Romualdez Plaza.

Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez denied Duterte's allegations.

The event was cancelled due to the onslaught of Typhoon Aghon. 

“I am writing this open letter to the people of Tacloban in the light of recent events that have brought inconvenience, discomfort, and disruption in their lives,” said Duterte. 

“This is for all those whose flights have been cancelled, travel to the city has been restricted, normal activities disrupted by unscheduled power interruptions and obstruction in the use of the Remedios Trinidad Romualdez Plaza,” he said. 

The former President added:  “As part of the Marcos administration’s policy of stifling peaceful dissent, they are doing everything to prevent this rally from happening”. 

Duterte likewise alleged similar rallies scheduled in Bulacan, Davao, Cebu, and Davao del Norte were dismantled. 

“I was city mayor for 22 years and President for six years but I never, never ever prevented anyone from exercising his or her right to peacefully assemble,” he said. 

“Freedom of expression is very important and even more so now when there is no transparency, accountability, peace and security in our country. It is a sad day for Philippine democracy,” he added. 

Romualdez denies

Romualdez rejected the allegations and explained the city airport was under repairs. He also urged the rallyists to focus on other issues. 

“Hindi naman sa kalye inaayos yan. Pag may problema nag-uusap naman. Yung anak nya Vice President, eh di kausapin si Presidente anytime. Kami mga simpleng tao sa Tacloban, ano magagawa naman po namin?” said Romualdez. 

(If there are issues then his daughter, the Vice President, can talk to the President. We’re simply the people of Tacloban, what can we do?)

Meanwhile, Tingog partylist Rep. Jude Acidre backed Romualdez, saying the ex-President is blaming the city government for the low turnout of Maisug rallyists. 

The lawmaker also slammed Duterte’s statement that the government had restricted flights to Tacloban, adding their group did not apply for a permit. He also said the Remedios Trinidad Romualdez Plaza has been booked for another event as early as May 10.

“Malamang sa hindi, naghahanap din sila ng justification bakit hindi marami ang nakarating, no? Kasi kung ako ang tatanungin mo, wala naman kaming kinalaman, si Speaker (Ferdinand Martin Romualdez) wala namang kinalaman,”he added. 

(Maybe they’re justifying the low numbers. If you ask us, we did not do anything against it. Even Speaker Martin Romualdez is not involved.)—LDF, GMA Integrated News