“Today, our nation is reliving the nightmare. The Marcoses have conned, maneuvered, and schemed their way back into power, and into an alliance with Duterte.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL and RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA —Undeterred, 15,000 protesters marched from different assembly points in Metro Manila and converged at Rizal Park (formerly Luneta), Sept. 21 echoing the call, “Never Again to Martial Law!”
The scare tactics of the Duterte administration did not work. For two days, students of Manila universities and colleges received bomb threats. The Philippine National Police (PNP) also repeatedly claimed that the protest actions commemorating the 46th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law would be infiltrated by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA). Weeks before, on Sept. 11, President Rodigo Duterte himself claimed that the Sept. 21 protests aim to destabilize his administration. He went as far as alleging that Magdalo, the Left, and other political forces have been communicating with one another to oust him.
Thousands of students from the university belt, where the bomb threats circulated, went ahead in joining the protests.
Entrances going to Rizal Park were closed. Thousands of policemen were stationed near the protest site. Still, the protesters from different political colors and from all walks of life managed to assemble just across the monument of national hero Dr. Jose Rizal. The thunderstorms did not dampen their spirits.
Delegations from Central Luzon and Bicol region traveled to Manila to join the bigger action.
Elsewhere in the country, similar activities were staged. Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) chapters from Ilocos, Bicol, Negros, Central Visayas, Western Visayas, Southern Mindanao and Northern Mindanao led protest actions in at least 32 urban centers.
Filipinos overseas under the banner of Migrante International also held protest actions in the United States, Hong Kong, Australia, Canada, Belgium and the Netherlands.
Not moving on
Veteran activists as well as millennials have made it clear that they have not forgotten the horrors of Martial Law and have not forgiven the Marcoses for their crimes.
Last month, Marcos’ eldest daughter Imee berated their critics, telling Filipinos to move on from the memories of Martial Law.
Members of Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses and Martial Law (Carmma), mostly senior citizens, marched from Mendiola to Luneta with a banner that read, “Labanan ang Alyansang Duterte-Marcos.” (Fight the Duterte-Marcos alliance)
“Today, our nation is reliving the nightmare. The Marcoses have conned, maneuvered, and schemed their way back into power, and into an alliance with Duterte,” Carmma said in a statement.
Even the youth remember. At the program in Luneta, a student leader from Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM) clutched a black-and-white photograph of Liliosa Hilao as she delivered a speech. Hilao, then editor in chief of PLM’s Ang Hasik, was one of the first to be abducted, tortured and killed by government troops after the late dictator imposed Martial Law.
Another student leader from Unibersidad de Manila paid tribute to the workers of La Tondeña who staged a strike in 1975, which shattered the illusion of “industrial peace” under the Marcos dictatorship.
In her speech, Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno belied claims that Marcos brought progress to the nation. “We suffered under Martial Law,” she said in Filipino as she urged the youth to study the country’s history.
As dusk set in, Jerome Adonis, Kilusang Mayo Uno secretary general, went on stage and announced that the Supreme Court affirmed the acquittal of Imelda Marcos over wealth stashed away in Swiss accounts. The crowd roared in indignation.
‘Duterte copying Marcos’
Beyond Duterte’s alliance with the Marcoses, several speakers criticized how the Duterte administration implements programs and policies that are the same with the Marcos dictatorship.
Detained Senator Leila de Lima, in her message read by a Catholic nun, said that both Marcos and Duterte are dictators. She said both presidents imposed Martial Law.
Denouncing Duterte’s Martial Law in Mindanao were Lumad students who joined the protest action. Their teachers are constantly harassed by military and paramilitary groups, according to Ricky Balilid of the Alliance of Community Educators.
“Some were even subjected to trumped-up charges and are currently languishing in jail for crimes that they did not commit,” he said at the program in Mendiola, citing the incarceration of five parents of Salugpongan Community Learning Center in Compostela Valley, agriculturist Dominiciano Muya and teacher Jolita Tolino of Center for Lumad Advocacy Networking and Services (Clans).
Protesters also scored Duterte’s economic policies, which they said were also copied from Marcos.
Arman Hernandez of Migrante International pointed out that it was Marcos who started the labor export policy. He said that today, many Filipinos suffer from slave-like conditions in many countries.
Protesters also noted how Duterte, like Marcos, acquired huge loans. Duterte’s Build, Build, Build (BBB) infrastructure projects will be funded by tax reform program and loans. The Asian Development Bank, for instance, has pledged $100-million loan for Duterte’s infrastructure projects.
All throughout the program, the participants sustained their agitation, chanting and singing along with the performers.
Various artists rendered performances including Chikoy Pura of The Jerks, Rom Dongeto of Buklod, Patatag, PETA, Cabring Cabrera of Datu’s Tribe, The General Strike, Tubaw, rapper BLKD, People’s Chorale, among others.
When Roneo Clamor, deputy secretary general of Karapatan, announced the verdict of International People’s Tribunal declaring Duterte and U.S. President Donald Trump guilty of crimes against humanity and war crimes, the crowd responded with applause.
The last speaker, Kara Taggaoa of the League of Filipino Students, led the protesters in reciting “Panata ng Pakikipaglaban.” (Pledge of Struggle) They lit the night with their electronic gadgets, symbolizing the Filipino people’s continuing fight against darkness. (With reports from Janess Ann J. Ellao)