President Rodrigo Duterte leads the flag-raising ceremony during the 120th Philippine Independence Day celebration at the Museo ni Emilio Aguinaldo in Kawit, Cavite on Tuesday, June 12. Duterte led the Independence Day rites for the first time after skipping last year’s celebration. MALACAÑANG PHOTO

MANILA – Protesters interrupted President Rodrigo Duterte’s speech on Tuesday as he attended his first Independence Day rites as chief executive in Kawit, Cavite.

Duterte just started speaking at the window of the historic Aguinaldo Shrine when the demonstrators shouted, “Duterte traydor” (traitor) and “huwad na kalayaan” (false freedom).

One of the protesters – Francis D. Couichie of Santa Rosa, Laguna – was arrested, the Kawit police said.

Couichie “caused disturbance” by repeatedly shouting “huwad na kalayaan,” the Kawit police said in a report. Officers from the Cavite police’s Mobile Force Company accosted him.

Seized from Couichie was a placard with the words, “Kapayapaan para sa lahat at lahat para sa kapayapaan ng bayan (Peace for all and all for the peace of the nation).”

Placed in police custody, Couichie faces charges for “tumultuous disturbance or interruption liable to cause disturbance” under the Revised Penal Code, which is punishable by up to four months of imprisonment and a P1,000 fine.

Duterte was initially caught off guard but continued with his speech for the 120th Independence Day celebration.

“Our Constitution guarantees freedom of the press, freedom of assembly and free expression, so I would just advise the law enforcement to just deal with them peacefully and [with] maximum tolerance,” he said.

“We cannot agree at all times for all seasons,” he said. “We may not understand each other but at least there is a common denominator, and that is love of country. Nobody can ever question ang pagmamahal ko sa bayan.”

Duterte said he understood why protesters were there. “It’s freedom of speech. You can have it. OK lang. I will understand.”

In a message released in time for Independence Day, Duterte said his administration commits to building better lives and a brighter future for all Filipinos.

The President urged everyone to take inspiration from those who fought for the county’s freedom and relentlessly pursued justice.

“May the solidarity and heroism exhibited by our ancestors fuel our desire to spur meaningful and lasting change in our communities as we collectively battle the social ills of corruption, illegal drugs and criminality that impede our progress as a nation,” said Duterte.

“Inspired by the sacrifices of those who have bravely stood before us, may we also find the courage to defend our cherished democratic ideals now and in the years to come,” he said. (Philippine News Agency, ABS-CBN News and Prince Golez/PN)

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