MANILA, Philippines — Various advocacy groups have issued statements on September 21, which has been declared a National Day of Protest, including a Davao-based organization calling for an end to martial law in Mindanao.
“Violent extremism poses a complex set of challenges that cannot be met by a failed 45-year old formula,” said Konsyensya Dabaw in a press release.
“Konsyensya Dabaw stands with fellow Dabawenyos who believe that regardless of how we voted last May 2016, we should not shirk from exacting accountability from public leaders that have been part of our city’s history for the past three decades,” they stressed.
They pointed out that almost four months after Martial Law was declared in Mindanao, the Maute group had still not been vanquished. Rather, “airstrikes and sustained artillery attacks have done so much damage to the (Marawi) City.”
They warned that such destruction might trigger even more resistance in the coming years, even as Martial Law tapped “into the sense of fear of many urban Mindanaoans, and convinced them that it takes no less than ‘military supremacy’ to ensure stability and order.”
This would affect the people’s exercise of their civil and socioeconomic rights, they pointed out.
Konsyensya Dabaw said that it was not yet too late for President Rodrigo Duterte to lift martial law in Mindanao lest Proclamation 216 become “a self-fulfilling prophecy of terror, death, and damage the way Proclamation 1081 (of former President Ferdinand Marcos) ended up becoming.”
Martial law under Marcos, they reminded, “created the conditions that intensified human rights abuses, exploitation, and underdevelopment in Mindanao.”
Meanwhile, the Movement Against Tyranny, the organizers of the rally at Luneta Park, said the people would “not be intimidated or cowed into silence and inaction.”
They were ready to fight for human rights and justice, said Raoul Manuel, one of the youth who help convene the alliance in the wake of the killings of 17-year-old Kian delos Santos and other minors by the police.
Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights, also part of the network of Movement Against Tyranny, observed the similarities between the Duterte and Marcos regimes, especially since Duterte was aiding “the political rehabilitation of the Marcoses” and had mentioned considering re-imposing nationwide martial rule over the whole country.
“Marcos’ Martial Law was used as a tool to plunder public funds, plunge us into debt, restrict forms of protest, and completely do away with civil and political rights. We now have martial law in Mindanao and it has expectedly followed the same trajectory of escalating rights abuses,” Karapatan warned.
Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay also criticized Duterte’s protection of the police and the military.
“Akin to martial law during the Marcos regime, Duterte’s martial law unfolded with guarantees and protection for State security forces who are at the front line of committing rights violations. There has not been a change in the framework of the military and the police, thus continuing with their atrocities in indigenous and peasant communities,” she said.
Marcos-era survivors SELDA (Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto), meanwhile, declared their intention to keep fighting for the generations of Filipinos who came after them.
“Habang buhay kaming mga naglamay noong diktadurang Marcos, hindi namin patatahimikin itong presidenteng hibang sa martial law at gusto ring maging diktador (As long as we who kept vigil under the Marcos dictatorship are alive, we will not stand down with a president who’s obsessed with martial and wants to become a dictator himself),” said SELDA‘s newly-elected chairperson Trinidad Repuno.
She warned of Duterte’s “obsession” with martial law, believing he would “grab every opportunity to justify a dictatorship.” His regime, she said, “postures as a strong government with the people’s support, but is weak and insecure because it has failed to deliver the much-needed change for the people.”
Despite many of them being old and of fragile health, SELDA members joined the protests.
“No military solution was ever successful, because the people who are aware of their hard-earned rights rise up and resist. We call on the people not to allow a comeback of tyranny, and come together to fight for change, a change that was not simply abandoned by the current regime, but used and exploited in furtherance of their own interests. We are challenged again to fight tyranny, and say a million times, never again!” Repuno said.
Migrante also issued a statement, saying protests were also held in Hong Kong, Japan, Qatar, Italy and South Korea.
They condemned the war on drugs and the killings associated with this, and promised to “frustrate any and all moves by Duterte to install himself as a fascist dictator like his idol Marcos.”
Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate, meanwhile, said Duterte must not belittle the strength and indignation of the rallyists.
“Higit sa lahat, ang Luneta rally ay pagpapakita na hindi takot ang mamamayan na labanan ang banta ng batas militar sa buong bansa tulad ng ginawa natin dati laban sa diktadura ni Marcos (More than anything, the Luneta rally is proof that people are not afraid to stand up against the threat of nationwide Martial Law, just like what they did against the Marcos dictatorship),” the lawmaker said.
Finally, the lawyer’s group Artikulo Tres Human Rights Alliance, said: “There can be no doubt that extrajudicial killings is now a State policy. For over a year, the authorities duly tasked to protect the people have blatantly disregarded human rights. The body count continues to pile up in a drug war that President Duterte himself admitted he cannot win.”
Enough is enough, they stressed.
“President Duterte has singled out human rights lawyers and advocates in his many tirades, to the point of encouraging the police to shoot us. But we will not be silenced nor will we be cowed into submission and blind obedience. We draw strength from the late Senator Jose W. Diokno, who said these immortal words: ‘It is extremely dangerous to defend our rights. But it would be infinitely worse not to do so. If we do not struggle with all that we have and do all that we can to vindicate our rights, we not only condemn our rights to death; we also condemn our hopes and our dreams, our present, and our children’s future’,” the group said.