MORE than a thousand supporters of President Rodrigo Duterte gathered at the Rizal Park Saturday, February 25, not to celebrate Edsa 1 but to denounce what organizers call as a destabilization plot against the present administration.

A national-coordinated Defend our Freedom rally was held Saturday in Davao City, which started at 3 p.m., were participated by people who were mostly wearing red and blue shirts.

Support groups from Hugpong Federal and Kilusang Pagbabago pushed for the platforms of Duterte including the war on drugs which has been criticized by human rights groups and the so-called yellow group of the Liberal Party.

Streamers caught by SunStar Davao lensman Macky Lim criticized Edsa and Senator Leila de Lima who have been recently incarcerated for charges of perpetuating the illegal drug trade in the country.

The streamer criticized Edsa as a celebration of an "elitist democracy" and the spoils of the Aquino's and the oligarchy.

Meanwhile, Davao City Inday Sara Duterte-Carpio, who earlier issued a scathing statement against Archbishop Socrates Villegas for his statement against her father, expressed her gratitude to all the supporters of her father.

“Thank you Davao, Mindanao, and all other President Rodrigo Duterte (PRD) supporters from the Philippines and overseas. There are no words for the gratitude that I feel. May God bless you,” Duterte-Carpio said.

Celso Tizon, Secretary General of Hugpong Federal, talked about federalism and its advantages during the rally.

Former Davao City Administrator now undersecretary to the Office of President Jesus Melchor Quitain Sr., his son Davao City Councilor Jesus Melchor Quitain Jr., Councilor Mary Joselle Villafuerte, Councilor Marissa Salvador Abella were among the officials seen in the crowd.

The crowd also cheered as Hugpong Federal Region 12 member Orlando Nuevo, composer of Rehas na bakal, sang his own version of the “Tunay na Pagbabago,” originally composed by Freddie Aguilar.

Water sponsored by Hugpong Federal Japan Chapter was distributed, while a vendor earned chuckles and increased sales as she used a Senator Leila De Lima mask with horns while selling water.

A volunteer group also brought in arroz caldo, reporting that a total of 20 cauldrons were consumed that night. Donated arroz caldo has become a mainstay in every Davao activity.

Speakers from Moro and Indigenous tribes were given a chance to speak before the crowd.

Marlon Caab from the Royal Sultanate of the Kagan tribe in his speech appreciated the efforts of the President to recognized Bangamoro, including the Bangsa-Kagan, and other Muslim tribes.

Deputy leader of Ata Manobo Tribe Arthur Ali also thanked the president’s effort to recognize the Indigenous People.

“Kining mga lumad sa Davao City, hangtod karon ang baruganan wala mausab kay para kanamo, ang tinuod na president nga nagtan-aw sa kahimtang sa lumad, ang ato lang jud nga president Duterte (The Indigenous People of Davao City are firm in our stand to support Duterte because he is the only president that saw the real needs of IPs),” he said.

Datu Allan Sumandang from Supreme Tribal Council for Peace and Development aired the same sentiments.

A female missionary from Jolo also made her testimony calling for peace in the land and support for the president saying that one of her fingers was cut to save a European who was kidnapped in Jolo.

The missionary expressed her unwavering support to Duterte and even addressed the church to do the same.

“Nakikiusap po ako sa simbahan na hindi po ninyo kailangang maglakad para kontrahin ang death penalty, ang gawin niyo po turuan po ninyo ang mga tao sa simbahan. Bakit hindi po tayo magkaisa para makagawa ng tama para sa taong nangangailangan (I am asking the Church, you don’t need to walk to the counter the death penalty. What you need to do is to teach the people of the Church. Why can’t we unite to address the needs of people),” he said.

Naughty Notes, a Davao-based stand-up comedian group provided entertainment, entertaining the people with their gags and songs.

Candles for peace, prayers, freedom, and support for Duterte were lighted at around 6 p.m. Prayer leaders asked for the success of Duterte's campaigns especially that of his war on drugs.

Prayer leaders also asked for the protection of the President, and for his continued good health.

Social media

A live video taken by SunStar Davao during the opening of the event also went viral on social media reaching 981,276, with 242,000 views, 17,000 likes and 4,798 shares, and 3,522 comments in less than 24 hours.

Social media viewers also posted message of support to the president.

Barry Rosita Sweetman commented, “Mabuhay to all Pilipino, Goodness, well done Duterte supporters. God bless you all.”

Many of those who commented said they were watching from different parts of the country and the world. Those from abroad introduced themselves as being from Dubai, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, Jerusalem, Canada, USA, Saudi Arabia, England, Switzerland, UAE, Cyprus, Azerbaijan, among many other countries.

A similar rally was also staged in the Luneta Park in Manila, where thousands of people also gathered.