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Naked mebers of the Alpha Phi Omega (APO) fraternity wearing masks attend a protest against extrajudicial killings and the lifting of martial law in the southern island of Mindanao, at the University of the Philippines in Quezon city, Metro Manila, Philippines December 1, 2017. REUTERS/Dondi Tawatao(reuters_tickers)
By Ronn Bautista
MANILA (Reuters) - A Philippine college fraternity used its annual naked run on Friday to protest against President Rodrigo Duterte's brutal war on drugs and the imposition of martial law in the south in the army's fight against Islamist militants.
The masked and hooded young men sprinted in the nude through their college, holding signs reading "Lift Martial Law" and "Stop the Killings", as bystanders laughed and pointed and others took photos.
"The level of violence in society is growing and the fraternity cannot simply ignore that, that thousands of people are dying", Alpha Phi Omega spokesperson Thomas Roca said, when asked why the fraternity picked the protest theme this year.
Since taking office last June, Duterte has launched a ferocious war of drugs that has left thousands of Filipinos dead, and in May, he imposed martial law in Mindanao, an island of 22 million people, when Islamic State-linked militants took over large parts of the city of Marawi.
This is not the first time the fraternity has taken a political stance with its yearly bare-bottomed event.
The society used its naked run during the rule of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the 1980s to protest against the censorship of activists at the University of the Philippines.
For a finale on Friday, the men gathered by a pond, arms slung over each other's shoulders, and lustily sang their fraternity song, alumni members in the audience joining in as well.
"It's my first time seeing this", college student Haji Viado said, with a smile. "But for me what they did was effective to get people's attention on these issues."
(Writing by Karishma Singh; Editing by Nick Macfie)