MANILA – Students around the nation staged an age-old form of school protest on the 44th anniversary of the declaration of martial law, with thousands from different schools walking out of their classes to protest the commercialization of education and student repression.
Although regular classes were held on Sept. 21, hundreds of college students– and some from high school — stormed the streets of Manila to join the progressives groups at a rally at Mendiola (now Don Chino Roces) Bridge.
In the University of the Philippines (UP), Student Regent Raoul Manuel had issued a memorandum mandating the conduct of system-wide days of action on student issues on the 3rd week of September.
Around a thousand students joined the walkout in UP Diliman, with many proceeding to the rally in Mendiola.
In UP Los Baños on Sept. 22, hundreds of students staged a snake rally from the Humanities Steps to the Office of the Chancellor to present their Students’ Agenda and List of General Demands.
UP Diliman University Student Council Chairperson Bryle Leaño said the mobilization was bigger than in the past, due to the strong campaign by student leaders, he said.
“Primarily, there is so much clamor for our rights as Iskolar ng Bayan; secondarily, it is because the Iskolar ng Bayan are calling against the burial of Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (LNMB), and above all, we are defending our human rights,” Leano said.
The Duterte administration has recently expressed openness to burying the Philippine dictator’s remains at the LNMB, which faced fierce opposition among various groups and martial law activists. The Supreme Court had extended the status quo order on the burial until Oct. 18.
Progressive groups say the current state of the country is not far from what it was during martial law.
“There is an insidious dictatorship that has not ended when Ferdinand Marcos was toppled – a dictatorship that was even nurtured by subsequent regimes, from Cory Aquino up until the present,” said Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago. “It is the dictatorship of neoliberalism, the creeping onslaught of private interest and profiteering over the shrinking public sphere.”
Culminating their program in Mendiola, the groups burned effigies representing the Marcoses. Youth leaders echoed the calls of the generation that came before them: Makibaka, huwag matakot!
“More than four decades after the declaration of Martial Law, the same conditions exist – and have even worsened – the plight of youth and students, the climate of impunity, the worsening economic situation. And that is precisely why we marked the anniversary of the declaration of martial law with massive protests,” Elago said.
Text and photos by GINO ESTELLA