“Be afraid, Digong because this is not the last.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA — The mass movement ousted a dictator in 1986 and it will do it again once President Duterte declares martial law. This was the warning of progressive groups to the President in the rally yesterday, Sept. 21, on the 45th commemoration of the imposition of martial law by Ferdinand Marcos Sr.
Some 20,000 rallyists belonging to various groups under Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) marched from UST to Chino Roces bridge (Mendiola) with the delegation of this year’s Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya led by the national minorities alliance Sandugo, which culminated their three-week long protest in Manila.
The groups amplified their calls to stop the killings and fight the return to tyranny and martial law.
Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes, Jr. slammed Duterte’s declaration of Sept. 21 as a “National day of protest,” which was actually meant to be “Takot ako sa protesta day” (Afraid of the protest day). Police and Malacañang also warned that the protests maybe “infiltrated,” and may lead to violence. Reyes said despite efforts to derail protests, people did not back down.
“They won’t give us permit, they gave us a smaller venue (in Luneta) they thought we’re small (in numbers). We are not! We are determined, we are big and we are fighting. Be afraid, Digong because this is not the last,” he said during the program at Mendiola.
Several parallel protests were also held nationwide from Luzon to Mindanao as well as solidarity actions in Hong Kong and the United States.
Reyes started his speech by honoring the martyrs of martial law. He noted that as the nation commemorates Marcos’s martial law, military rule is being implemented in Mindanao.
Reyes said 45 years after the people ousted Marcos, human rights abuses are still rampant due to the government’s war on drugs, the military operations in Marawi, and the counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapayaan. All these violence waged against the people, he said, are backed, funded and armed by the United States.
As if Duterte has not learned from the lessons of the past, Reyes said it seems that Duterte is slowly shifting towards martial law. He said that while there is no martial law, retired military officials are being appointed by Duterte to top government positions.
“The government wants to suppress the people, the institutions, silence the media and his critics. We are warning him, what happened to the last president who declares martial law and acted as a dictator? He was ousted by the Filipino people,” said Reyes.
Trinidad Herrera, chairperson of Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (Selda), also spoke at the rally and said the people should not allow martial law to return. She cited the ordeal she and many other victims suffered in the hands of their military captors. Herrera was a leader of the urban poor in Tondo when she was arrested. She said only aspired for a better life for her family and the poor but the Marcos dictatorship responded with an iron fist.
She said the millennials should seek the truth about martial law and should not allow the return of dictatorship. “We want a good life for our millennials. We should not allow the return of martial law. Never again to martial law,” she said.
‘Policy to kill’
Kerlan Fenagel, secretary general of Kalumaran said the indigenous people in Mindanao were killed under the US-backed counterinsurgency program with its indigenous-people centric, or IP-centric approach continued by the Duterte government.
He said this is the reason for the massive attacks against Lumad schools in Mindanao. He cited the recent killing of Obello Bay-ao, a Lumad student killed in Talaingod, Davao del Norte.
But this fascist regime cannot silence the people staunchly fighting for their rights, said Fenagel. “And we are showing our strength through Lakbayan despite martial law implemented in Mindanao. They cannot bar the Lumad and the Bangsamoro to continue with our struggle,” he said.
Forty-five Lumad were killed under Duterte, Fenagel said, excluding the Lumad farmers. Evacuation of the Lumad communities also continues, with the latest on Sept. 20, as as the 39th Infantry Battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines launched aerial bombing in Magpet, North Cotabato. The Lumad school in the area, the Fr. Fausto Tentorio Memorial school had to close due to the bombing.
“They can kill activists and the indigenous people, but not the revolution and the people who continue to fight,” he said.
Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) secretary general Carlito Badion said the urban poor are also ready to fight against any dictatorship. He said there is no declaration of martial law in the country but fascism against the urban poor is unabated. Duterte’s war on drugs has killed thousands. He cited the harassments against Kadamay leaders and the continued demolition which violates the poor’s right to housing is also continues.
“Whatever Duterte plans to do, we are ready,” he said.
He said Duterte continues to deceive the Filipino people with his promises. “Many are being deceived, being paid to join rallies supporting government, which still kills them the next day,” Badion said referring to the participants of the Duterte rally who were reportedly paid to attend the event.
“Let us further organize. When we return to our communities we should explain to them and urge them why we should fight,” he said.
As the program ends in Mendiola, the protesters burned the effigy called “Rody(k)’s cube,” which looked like a giant Rubik’s cube, with three movable parts. Painted on each side of the cube were the faces of dictators Adolf Hitler, Marcos, Duterte and a puppy to symbolize subservience to the US. The cube was designed and made by Ugatlahi Artists Collective and Sandugo.
Showing their rage against the emerging dictator Duterte, leaders set the cube on fire while chanting “Duterte, Hitler, diktador, pasista!”
Windel Bolinget, chairperson of Cordillera People’s Alliance said the burning of effigy shows what will happen once Duterte declare martial law. “They are mistaken if they declare martial law because it will not weaken the Filipino’s fight,” he said.
In the Cordillera, he said setting someone’s picture on fire means disgust against the person.
“Laging mag-aalab ang apoy ng pakikibaka ng mga Pilipino. Ang apoy ay simbolo ng lumalagablab na laban ng pambansang minorya para ipagtanggol ang lupang ninuno. Aming iigiit ang tunay na pagbabago,” he said.
Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan also said that fascist regimes are cowards who want to stay in power, and “clutches the skirt of the military to continue to exploit and oppress Filipinos.”
“Cowards and puppets do not compare to the courage of the Filipino people. We are showing today the history of the Filipino people’s struggle against tyrant, oppressors and invaders whether in the urban or in the countryside.”
Jerome Aba of Sandugo also said that this year’s Lakbayan was a success despite martial law in Mindanao. He said the unity of the people cannot be defeated despite threats and harassments.
“The thunderous armed struggle of the people, led by the New People’s Army, counters the fascist Duterte regime. As vigorous is the armed struggle of the Bangsamoro people,” he said.
He said as this year’s Lakbayan ends, the national minorities will go home to their communities in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao and will continue their fight for self-determination, national liberation and against the US-Duterte regime.
“At kung kailangang ibagsak na si Duterte, aasahan n’yo ang pambansang minorya na pupunta sa Maynila para sa pagbagsak ni Duterte,” he added.
Meanwhile, Duterte supporters also held a program on the other side of the bridge, inside the Mendiola Peace Arc nearer to the Presidential Palace. Another pro-Duterte group held a song-and-dance program at Plaza Miranda, in Quiapo.