“Martial Law may not exist today but the social conditions that gave rise to it remain.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Marking the 44th anniversary of the declaration of martial law, progressive groups today challenged President Rodrigo Duterte to remove what they called as “imprints of martial law.”
Roneo Clamor, deputy secretary general of human rights alliance Karapatan, zeroed in on the practice of detaining political activists.
At least 120,000 were imprisoned due to their political beliefs during martial law.
“The existence of political prisoners in a so-called democratic country proves that imprints of martial law are still here,” Clamor said.
As of June this year, 525 political prisoners are languishing in various jails all over the country. Clamor said political prisoners have been slapped with trumped-up charges, mostly common crimes in an attempt by the state to hide the political nature of their cases.
Clamor cited missionary worker Amelia Pond, who was arrested last month in Cebu. A Davao Today report revealed that authorities produced fake government-issued IDs to falsify Pond’s identity. Police claimed that Pond is Adelfa Toledo; she was charged with murder and frustrated murder.
Killings, militarization of communities
The extrajudicial killings in Duterte’s ongoing war on drugs are reminiscent of the abuses of the past, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said in a statement.
According to Amnesty International, 3,240 were killed and 34,000 were tortured during martial law.
Since Duterte assumed office, the number of drug-related killings has reached around 2,000, according to a report.
“If Duterte is serious in fighting illegal drugs, he must stop the killings (of drug suspects),” Mark Lui Aquino of Bayan-National Capital Region said in his speech.
Jerome Succor Aba of Moro-Christian People’s Alliance, on the other hand, underscored the continuing militarization of Lumad and Moro communities in Mindanao.
Aba said hundreds continue to be victims of forcible evacuation because of the counterinsurgency program Oplan Bayanihan.
Martial law activists, meanwhile, are opposing the plan to give the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos a hero’s burial.
“Marcos is not a hero. He was a butcher,” Fr. Ben Alforque of Kapayapaan network said.
Bayan said, “The Marcoses have yet to be made fully accountable for their reign of terror and plunder.”
The Marcoses are facing several cases involving ill-gotten wealth amounting to $365 million, according to the Office of the Ombudsman.
Social ills remain
“Martial Law may not exist today but the social conditions that gave rise to it remain,” Bayan said, citing large-scale corruption in the bureaucracy and big business using their influence in government to get juicy yet onerous contracts from privatization deals.
Bayan said the social basis for armed struggle remains. The group challenged the Duterte administration to address the root causes of armed conflict by pursuing serious peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).