The state of our rights after martial law


The ouster of the Marcos dictatorship should have restored to us fully our rights and freedoms. But how do we fare 40 years after martial law?

1. Right to due process – Warrantless arrests continue to be practiced with impunity especially in rural areas where farmers are picked up during military operations, mauled, and if their luck runs out, killed. In urban areas, the Ilagan doctrine, where complaints against arrests done without warrants are deemed moot and academic upon the filing of information, is still being considered as valid. Also the military and police still routinely plant evidence to justify the arrest of a suspect.

2. Freedom of speech –Political activists are harassed with trumped up, often absurd charges and are hauled off to jail. Libel is also being used to harass journalists and the critics of those in power. Now the cybercrime law has expanded the applicability of libel charges to the internet, with heavier penalties.

3. Freedom of association – The vilification of progressive organizations that espouse patriotic and democratic ideals as “front organizations” of the CPP-NPA-NDFP and of political activists, make them targets for extrajudicial killings thereby effectively disregarding the freedom of association. Peasants fighting for their right to the land against big landowners and indigenous peoples defending their ancestral domain against the intrusion of large-scale mining and logging companies are being attacked by paramilitary forces formed by the military to protect these corporations and their operations.

4. Freedom of assembly – The “no permit, no rally” rule, under Batas Pambansa 880, another Marcos legacy, and the practice of the government and the police of setting “no rally zones” such as in front of Malacañang and often, Mendiola Bridge and the House of Representatives, during the annual state of the nation address, have severely limited the people’s freedom to assemble and express grievances.

5. Right to form unions and to strike – Contractualization of labor has weakened unions more effectively than the ban on unions during martial law. The assumption of jurisdiction of strikes by the Labor secretary, a Marcos legacy, is still being used to stop workers’ strikes up to this day.

Impunity in human rights violations continue as no perpetrator, from the Marcos dictatorship up to the present, has been made to account, and violations continue to be committed under the different counterinsurgency programs of the succeeding administrations even after martial law. There are still 385 political prisoners languishing in the different jails all over the country as the practice of political arrests and detention continues.

These must not be viewed only from the perspective of an unreformed military machinery. More important is the fact that all the succeeding governments, after martial law, have been implementing the same neoliberal economic program of liberalization, deregulation, and privatization that favor foreign corporations and their local big partners at the expense of the Filipino people. At the same time, these succeeding administrations have been refusing to implement a genuine land reform program that would break the monopoly of land by a few big landlords. Thus, it is necessary for the government to continue using its coercive instruments to keep the people in check and suppress any social unrest that results from the worsening crisis and poverty.

It is, therefore, up to us to fight for greater democracy as we have done during the dark years of martial law. (

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