“The people will always resist. Aquino is treading the path of authoritarian rule by seeking a second term and by wanting to clip the powers of the Supreme Court while keeping Congress in his pockets.” — Renato Reyes Jr., secretary general of Bayan
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — As progressive groups commemorate the 42nd year since the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos declared martial law, they asked President Benigno S. Aquino III if he has a sense of history at all.
“We are not sure if Aquino flunked history class but it sure looks like he has not learned the lessons of the past. Does he not know that at one point in our history, another president sought to perpetuate himself in power in the name of reforms and New Society? Does he not know that that was the start of the US-backed Marcos dictatorship?” Renato Reyes Jr., secretary general of Bayan, said.
Members of progressive groups marched from Plaza Miranda to Mendiola at 4 p.m. on Sept. 22.
Protesters played excerpts of audio recordings of President Aquino and his late mother Corazon Aquino. In between, they played Freddie Aguilar’s internationally popular song “Anak,” which is about a child who betrayed the love of his parents when he chose a decadent life.
“Sa kangkungan ng kasaysayan (In the swamp of history),” this is where Aquino will find himself if he will push through with his plans for charter change and term extension, warned Roger Soluta, secretary general of Kilusang Mayo Uno, in his speech at Plaza Miranda.
Reyes said that throughout history, “tyrants and wannabe dictators have learned that the people will always get in the way of their evil plans.”
“The people will always resist. Aquino is treading the path of authoritarian rule by seeking a second term and by wanting to clip the powers of the Supreme Court while keeping Congress in his pockets,” he added.
‘No man of peace’
During the program in Plaza Miranda, protesters also paid tribute to those who fell victims to various human rights violations for fighting against the Marcos dictatorship.
Martial Law era activists held photos of victims, while younger ones gave them roses.
In a statement, human rights group Karapatan said that among the many reasons they believe Aquino does not deserve to be in power is for continuing “to sow deceit; treachery and terror.”
Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan, said Aquino’s counterinsurgency program Oplan Bayanihan has, so far, resulted in 204 cases of extrajudicial killings, 204 frustrated killings, 21 enforced disappearances, 99 tortures and 664 illegal arrests, from 2011 to June this year.
Palabay dubbed Aquino as “no man of peace.”
Satur Ocampo, president of Makabayan and an activist back in the martial law days, said one of Marcos’s basis in declaring martial law was the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), then three-year-old, and its armed wing the New People’s Army (NPA).
During the protest, Reyes said Marcos failed to end the armed insurgency against the CPP. Can Aquino defeat them now that they are stronger, he asked rhetorically.
Palabay added that the Aquino administration has chosen a “militaristic option to remedy the situation,” but had failed to quell the people’s resistance.
“Trampling people’s rights and perpetuating injustice and impunity fuels rebellion. This is one of the most significant lessons of Martial Law — that the Filipino people’s aspirations and struggles for a truly democratic society will persist despite cunning dictators and US intervention,” she said.
Reyes then urged Aquino to push for peace talks and address the roots of the armed conflict in the country.
Joms Salvador, secretary general of Gabriela, noted during the protest that it is ironic that while the country is commemorating martial law, Aquino is in the US for his state visit. She added more than just supposedly looking for foreign investments, Aquino is asking the support of the US and European countries for his planned term extension.
Starting when Aquino had former chief justice Renato Corona impeached, Aquino desired to control other branches of government, said Salvador.
“Whether out of sheer ignorance or malicious intent, Aquino thinks he can make everybody bend to his whims and desires, much like the son of a landlord-spoiled brat that he is,” Salvador said.
She noted that there are hardly “vocal critics” among lawmakers. She said that if no one sees this as a sign of impending dictatorship, “they might as well give Aquino control and power on a silver platter and commit political suicide.”
“Marcos was subservient to the US then, but Noynoy is even more subservient than he was,” Salvador said in her speech in Plaza Miranda. She added that no president, Marcos included, was elected and had stayed in power without the backing of the US.
Garry Martinez, chairperson of Migrante International, said the protest actions led by Filipinos in countries Aquino visited is a clear message that wherever Aquino may be, “Filipinos will always find a way to relay the message that they want him out.”
“We have had enough of four years of massive corruption, blatant subservience to US imperialist dictates and brutal leadership,” Martinez added.
Aquino’s pronouncements that he is open to a second term and to charter change to clip the powers of the Supreme Court is his desperate measure to cover up “gross failures of the past four years,” Reyes said.
“There is no way in the world the people would allow Aquino to seek a second term. He is delusional and a fool if he thinks there is a clamor for him to stay in office beyond 2016. Aquino is the problem. He cannot be the solution. He is no champion of change. He is a staunch defender of the corrupt status quo,” he said.
Instead of getting a term extension, Reyes said Aquino must be held accountable for his anti-poor policies, corruption in his administration, the surrender of the country’s sovereignty to the US and gross human rights violations against the people.
Einstein Recedes of the Student Christian Movement of the Philippines said that while Aquino is doing a Marcos, the Filipino people inherited the sense of nationalism of the Kabataang Makabayan and that the fight against oppression would continue.