Activists enjoin the public to make their dissenting voice heard outside the Palace gates in Mendiola tomorrow Friday.
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – Progressive groups led by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) are set to mount bigger protests against martial law, even as President Duterte threatened to proceed with its imposition nationwide, following his declaration on Mindanao on May 23.
Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. enjoined the public to come to the Black Friday protest tomorrow, May 26, at Mendiola (Chino Roces) Bridge, a few blocks outside the Malacañang Presidential Palace in Manila. Groups will converge at the University of Sto. Tomas along España avenue at 3:30 p.m., then march to Malacañang.
At the solidarity action for Mindanao held at Plaza Miranda yesterday May 24, activists called on Duterte to lift martial law in the island, as they expressed fears of even worse human rights violations, on top of already thousands of victims of extrajudicial killings under Duterte’s war on drugs and counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan. The President also gave a “shoot-to-kill” order on “anyone caught possessing a gun and confronting us with violence.”
The feeling of impending doom, however, is mixed with a sort of anticipation and readiness among progressives, many of whom belong to groups formed during – and in defiance of – Marcos’s martial law. There is a certain bring-it-on spirit that comes from those who do not wish for war but are more than ready to fight it when it comes.
“We have to be vigilant, and not be reluctant to fight. Because if we hesitate, the militarists will win and fear will prevail,” Reyes said.
Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao island has been the worst turn yet, under the barely-one-year-old administration. Late last year, Duterte showed his loyalty to the late dictator, Ferdinand Marcos Sr. and his family, as he allowed the burial of his remains in the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
“Patuloy na nagiging masalimuot ang sitwasyon sa ilalim ni Duterte. Hindi na lang drug war, hindi na lang extrajudicial killings sa kanayunan, humantong na tayo sa martial law sa Mindanao,” Reyes said. “If we do not protest now, it will even more embolden the human rights violators, the militarists, and the US,” he added.
As always, the activists turned to the decades-old call, which reverberated at Plaza Miranda: “Makibaka, huwag matakot!”
The protesters took turns denouncing Duterte’s orders, on martial law, on designating Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Maj. Gen. Eduardo Año as an implementer, and extending his term as AFP chief. The groups said that instead of carrying out operations to contain the armed group, Duterte listened to the “hawks” in his Cabinet and their militaristic solution, as he laid a blanket Mindanao-wide martial law.
Año has been implicated in the disappearance of agriculturist Jonas Burgos, who has been missing for 10 years.
“The AFP chief-of-staff accused of human rights violations is the chief implementer of martial law,” Reyes said.
Bayan-National Capital Region chairperson Raymond Palatino scoffed at the President’s statement that there will be no abuses by state forces under martial law.
“The institution tasked to implement martial law is the same institution accused of extrajudicial killings, charged with corruption and subservience to the US,” Palatino said. He warned that the US may have a role in the government operations in Marawi city, as it came on the heels of the PH-US joint war exercises, which ended last week.
Ronald Bage of the Lumad group Kasalo from Caraga region in Mindanao, said indigenous communities have already suffered the brunt of attacks from government troops and their paramilitary groups.
“Even without martial law, the Lumad have been bombed in their communities, charged with trumped-up cases, killed…Now, there will be even more victims,” he said.
Duterte’s martial declaration in Mindanao came after an alleged ISIS-affiliated Moro group led by the Maute brothers clashed with government troops in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur. The group is being blamed for the burning of a Catholic school and abduction of a priest and other civilians.
Duterte must address the root cause of the conflict in the Moro lands and in the country, the poverty, inequality, and discrimination, which has pushed people to take up arms, Reyes said. Ironically, the Duterte administration is engaged in peace talks, precisely to resolve the root of the armed struggle. Reyes said the next round of talks, which starts May 27, comes “under the shadow of martial law,” which includes the revolutionary forces among its targets in Mindanao.
Among those at Quiapo were martial law activists who suffered, and survived torture and detention under the Marcos dictatorship.
”Hinihiling ko lang, sana naman huwag nang mag-Martial Law part 2 ang maging karanasan ko (I wish that I will not experience Martial Law a second time),” said Danny dela Fuente of the group Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Aresto at Detensyon (Selda).
During the Marcos Dictatorship, Dela Fuente was a youth activist who was arrested, tortured and detained for four years. He recalled how activists then mounted “outright, direct, non-stop resistance against martial law,” which he said should be replicated now in bigger protests.
Tinay Palabay, secretary general of the human rights group Karapatan, called on the vigilance of the public. The group has issued bust cards to increase public awareness on their human rights and against abusive state forces.
“Stand for rights against illegal arrests, torture, illegal searches…we need to uphold the Filipino people’s rights more than ever, and to take the path towards long-lasting peace based on justice, which martial law will not resolve,” Palabay said.
The group Movement of Moro and Indigenous Peoples for Self-determination or Sandugo said in a statement Duterte should refrain from following the path of the ousted dictator or he will face the same fate. “The national minorities and the Filipino people know how to resist. We have survived years of martial law under the Marcos dictatorship, and we are prepared to defy repression again,” said the group.