“The poor are still poor, exploited and oppressed. Today, social justice remains elusive, and the culture of impunity prevails, like it was under martial law.” – Karapatan
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Wearing red headbands with slogans “Never Again to Martial Law!” “Justice for Victims of Martial Law!” “No to State Terrorism!” activists – old and young – marked the 40th anniversary of the imposition of martial law with a protest march to Chino Roces (formerly Mendiola) bridge, Sept. 21.
Members of progressive organizations under the banner of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) converged in front of the University of Sto. Tomas before marching toward the foot of Malacanang palace.
Cristina Palabay, secretary general of human rights group Karapatan, opened her speech by giving tribute to all those who dedicated their lives fighting the dictatorship.
“Forty years have passed since Marcos imposed martial law. But even without any formal declaration of martial law, injustice and human rights violations, poverty and subservience to U.S. dictates continue and are worsening,” Palabay said in Filipino.
Drawing parallelisms, Palabay said: “Forty years have passed but, like Macliing Dulag, Tullo Favali and Liliosa Hilao who were killed during martial law, we now have Jimmy Liguyon, Fausto Tentorio and Genesis Saguitan who were killed by Noynoy Aquino’s military.”
Dulag, a tribal leader from the Cordillera who led the opposition to the Chico River dam project, was assassinated in April 1980. Liguyon, an anti-mining advocate in Bukidnon, was killed in March this year.
Both Favali and Tentorio, meanwhile, were Italian missionaries killed by paramilitary forces. Favali was slain in 1985 and Tentorio in 2011.
Hilao was arrested in 1973 and died from torture while Saguitan, an indigenous leader in Agusan del Sur, is the most recent victim of extrajudicial killing.
According to Karapatan, there have been 100 victims of extrajudicial, arbitrary and summary killings under Aquino. Eight of the victims are children, mostly killed due to indiscriminate firing, according to Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns.
“It may not be as visible as it was 40 years ago but, human rights violations that are indelible marks of Ferdinand Marcos’s martial law, continue to this day: illegal arrests and detention, torture, disappearance, extrajudicial killings, bombings and hamletting of communities, forced evacuation, use and proliferation of paramilitary groups, and other human rights violations,” Karapatan said in a statement.
Martial law reigns in provinces
Speaking during the rally, Melissa San Miguel, executive director of Salinlahi, revealed that schools run by indigenous peoples in Mindanao are not spared from attacks by the military.
In a previous article of Bulatlat.com, various schools in Surigao, Agusan, Davao del Norte, Sarangani, and Bukidnon are being occupied by the military, forcing some to close down temporarily. Teachers are vilified as members or supporters of the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
In the provinces of Southern Tagalog, soldiers also occupy daycare centers, barangay (village) halls and other public places, according to Glendhyl Malabanan, secretary general of Karapatan-Southern Tagalog.
Malabanan said that even after martial law, the region has never experienced any respite from terror caused by counterinsurgency programs of the Philippine government.
In fact, under the Aquino administration, Malabanan said ,17 civilians, mostly activists, have been killed and 66 have been arrested on trumped-up criminal charges.
“There is no declared martial law but the farmers in South Quezon experience martial law-like repression every day,” Malabanan said in Filipino.
Eight battalions of combined state security forces are deployed in the 22 villages of Bondoc Peninsula, the highest concentration of military deployment since martial law.
Willy Marbella, spokesman of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), deemed that the heavy military operations in Southern Quezon, as in other parts of the country, “serve to protect the interest of the ruling elite.”
“Farmers and farmworkers who struggle for their right to land are met with violence,” Marbella said.
The peasant leader cited the harassment experienced by farmers in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan and in Rodriguez (formerly Montalban), Rizal.
“Farmers who actively oppose the MRT-7 project are visited by suspected state agents,” Marbella said. “They are accused of being NPA members just because they assert their right to land.”
The MRT-7 project is a 22-kilometer rail track from North Ave. in Quezon City to San Jose del Monte, Bulacan and a 22-km six-lane access road from San Jose del Monte to the North Expressway Tollgate in Bocaue, Bulacan.
Like the farmers, the same issues confront the indigenous peoples and the Bangsamoro people, Kakay Tolentino, spokeswoman of Katribu, said.
“Until now, the Moro people are forced to evacuate from their homes,” Tolentino said. “Indigenous peoples fighting for their ancestral domain are killed, disappeared, tortured.”
She cited the enforced disappearance of James Balao who has been missing for more than four years.
“Forty years and five presidents ago, the “democratic space” that was supposedly restored in 1986 remains a space for the landed, the rich and the powerful,” Karapatan said in its statement. “The poor are still poor, exploited and oppressed. Today, social justice remains elusive, and the culture of impunity prevails, like it was under martial law.”
Karapatan slammed Aquino’s speech at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani, Sept. 21. “It is a shame how President Noynoy Aquino criticized Marcos and martial law when the same things he enumerated in his speech are the same things that are happening under his government, sans the formal declaration of martial law,” Palabay said.
“It is ridiculous,” Palabay said, “to hear Noynoy Aquino disapprove of the checkpoints during martial law when the same proliferate today, especially in the rural areas; the rounding up and arrests of people who criticized the Marcos government when there are 385 political prisoners to date, 170 of them were arrested and detained under his two year old rule.”
Speaking during the rally, Judy Taguiwalo, former political prisoner and former Faculty Regent of the University of the Philippines (UP) said: “The issue of martial law is an issue of justice for landless peasants, for the jobless and contractual workers, for the youth who are denied the right to education, for the urban poor who have no homes.”