Palace: Duterte against student 'walkouts' from classes, not protests

Ian Nicolas Cigaral - Philstar.com
Palace: Duterte against student 'walkouts' from classes, not protests

In this July 24, 2017 photo, President Rodrigo Duterte appears before protesters outside the Batasang Pambansa after delivering his second State of the Nation Address. He was later chanted off the stage. PPD/King Rodriguez

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte supports freedom of expression, but he is against students missing classes to join protests, Malacañang said Saturday.

The Palace’s issued the clarification after Duterte threatened protesting University of the Philippines students that he would strip them of the right to study at the country's premier state university by giving their slots to "bright" Lumad children.

“Hindi po ipinagbabawal ang malayang pananalita, hindi po ipinagbabawal ang rallies,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque, a former UP professor, said in a press conference in Ilocos Norte.

“Ang ayaw lang ni Presidente, iyong mga walkouts dahil sayang naman iyong kaban ng bayan na binabayad ng mga ordinaryong mga mamamayan kung sasayangin lang ng mga estudyante,” he added.

Students from UP, traditionally a hotbed of political activism, were unfazed by the presidential warning as they vowed to organize bigger protests against some policies of the Duterte administration.

They also hit Duterte for saying he would provide slots for indigenous people even as he previously threatened to bomb Lumad schools that he claimed were run by communists.

READ: UP students unfazed by Duterte's threat vs protesters

Despite vocal opposition from critics on the president’s controversial war on drugs as well as his diatribes against democratic institutions, Duterte remains an extremely popular leader, polls show.

A National Day of Walkout will be organized by the students on February 23 to protest Duterte's policies, including the deadly drug war, the declaration of martial law in Mindanao, the tax reform law and the jeepney phaseout.

READ: Kabataan: More students to hold protests despite Duterte’s threat to kick them out

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