‘We Feel It… Martial Law is Back’
Marcos victims 30 years ago, still marching today
If there is anyone who
knows what Martial Law was like, it would be people like Carmencita
Mendoza-Florentino and Rodolfo del Rosario, who were both victims of the
Marcos dictatorship. Many people thought that after Marcos’ ouster in 1986
no dictatorship would ever happen again, but Florentino and Del Rosario
BY ALEXANDER MARTIN
Mendoza-Florentino and Rodolfo del Rosario both look old enough to not be
expected to join protest marches through thick vehicular smoke and under
full noon heat, as they did in Manila last Sept. 21, the 34th
anniversary of the declaration of martial law.
But not only did they
join the march of protesters under the banners of Samahan ng mga
Ex-Detainee Laban sa Detensyon at para sa Amnestiya (Selda or Organization
of Ex-Detainees Against Detention and for Amnesty) and other
cause-oriented groups affiliated with the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan
or New Patriotic Alliance) from the University of Santo Tomas (UST) along
España Avenue to the Liwasang Bonifacio (or Bonifacio freedom park): they
were among the first to troop to UST for the assembly,
stayed at Liwasang
Bonifacio all afternoon though black clouds threatened to pour rain on the
sweat-drenched ralliers (and send them all to the sickbed the next day),
and were among the last to leave the rally park. And it was not only
because they wished to relive that dark chapter of the country’s past: it
is because the dark hours are here again, they grimly said.
ni Marcos ang martial law, winasak lahat niya ang mga oposisyon”
(When Marcos declared martial law, he destroyed all opposition), Mang Rudy
said. “Pati Kongreso, nilansag niya. Y’ong position ng vice
president, nilansag din niya ‘yon. So siya na lang ang natira.
‘Pinakulong niya ang libu-libong taong tutol sa kanya.” (He abolished
even Congress. He also abolished the vice presidency. So no one was left
but himself. He ordered thousands opposed to him imprisoned).
klase”(Now it’s different), he added. “Hindi pa deklarado, marami
nang nawawala, marami nang hinuhuli, maya’t maya may pinapatay at may
nawawala. At ganoon din, y’ong mga oposisyon katulad ni Peewee Trinidad ng
Pasay, pinasuspinde na, ngayon si Binay delikado na rin. Iniisa-isa na. At
siguro, parang katapat ng martial law, kapag nagtagumpay y’ong charter
change, nariyan na. Magiging prime minister si Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
at baka i-declare na rin na siya y’ong president for life. ‘Yan ang
nakikita ko ngayon. So ibang klase, pero doon din papunta.” (There’s
no declaration yet but many people are missing, many are being arrested,
there are many being killed and disappeared. Likewise, those in the
opposition like Pasay City Mayor Peewee Trinidad, who has been ordered
suspended, and Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay, are also in trouble. They
are being hunted one by one. And alongside martial law, if charter change
succeeds then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo may become prime minister
and she may declare herself president for life. So it’s different but it’s
headed in the same direction Marcos took.)
‘We feel it’
“Alam mo, ngayon,
damdam na damdam namin – kasi naranasan namin ang martial law –
martial law na ngayon, e” (You know, we really feel it – because we
experienced martial law – we’re now under martial law), Aling Miling said.
“Hindi nga lang ‘dineklara. Bawal kang magsalita ng katotohanan, pag
nagsalita ka ikukulong ka. Dudukutin ka. Ganoon ang panakot ngayon kaya
maraming dinudukot at pinapatay.” (There’s just no declaration. You’re
barred from speaking the truth, if you speak you get arrested. You get
abducted. That’s what they terrorize people with these days, that’s why
many are being abducted and killed.)
Data from various
human rights groups place the number of victims of extrajudicial killings
under Marcos’ 20-year rule at 1,500. Data from Karapatan (Alliance for the
Advancement of People’s Rights) show 759 persons as having involuntarily
disappeared during Martial Law. Military historian Alfred McCoy, in his
book Closer than Brothers, said there were 35,000 torture victims
all in all during the Marcos years.
recorded 755 victims of extra-judicial killings and 184 victims of
enforced disappearances from 2001, when Arroyo was catapulted to power
through a popular uprising, to September 2006.
When then President
Ferdinand Marcos issued Presidential Decree No. 1081, placing the
Philippines under martial law, Aling Miling was the president of a women’s
community association in Tatalon, Quezon City. There was a law then under
which they were considered the legitimate occupants of the land where
their dwellings stand, and yet their shanties were demolished, courtesy of
the Araneta and Tuason families.
The women, she said,
organized among themselves because the men then were being arrested. But,
she would later learn, being a woman was no protection against arrest.
Traumatic first arrest
Her first arrest,
which was in 1976, was particularly traumatic for her. She was brought to
Camp Crame, then the Philippine Constabulary general headquarters in
Quezon City, and was grilled by several officers, among them then Cols.
Ramon Montaño and Rolando Abadilla. She thought she was going to be raped
– and that probably would have happened, she said, if the torturers had
not discovered she was from the Ilocos like many of them.
After her release two
months later, she went back to community organizing and became involved in
human rights advocacy through the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines
(TFDP), which had taken up her case. She would be arrested and detained
two more times during the Marcos years.
Mang Rudy was a
founding member of the Kabataang Makabayan (KM or Patriotic Youth), which
was formed in 1964, and participated in the First Quarter Storm of 1970.
When the Liberal Party opposition rally in Plaza Miranda, Quiapo, Manila
was bombed in 1971, Marcos suspended the privilege of the writ of
habeas corpus and he was among those arrested and detained as a
result. He was still in prison when martial law was declared, but was
released a year later.
At the Liwasang
Bonifacio rally – which later in the afternoon was joined by the Concerned
Lawyers for Civil Liberties (CLCL), Laban ng Masa (The Masses’ Fight), the
Union of Masses for Democracy and Justice (UMDJ), the United Opposition (UNO),
the Black & White Movement, and the Kilusang Makabansang Ekonomiya (KME or
Nationalist Economy Movement) – observations and sentiments similar to
theirs were being voiced out by the speakers and performers.
“Notice how Mrs.
Arroyo is charting the same path of corruption and repression taken by
both Marcos and Thaksin,” Bayan chairperson Dr. Carol Pagaduan-Araullo
said, referring to former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, deposed
a few days ago through a coup d’ etat.
“Though there is no
martial law declaration, it is just like we are under martial law,” said
Joel Cadiz, a leader of the CLCL and a former president of the Integrated
Bar of the Philippines (IBP). “More than 700 have been killed, among them
lawyers and journalists. With these, it is like we are under a
“My former boss
appears as though she wants to be the next dictator,” said former social
welfare secretary Dinky Soliman, one of the so-called “Hyatt 10”
cabinet-level officials who resigned from office last year amid renewed
allegations of fraud in the 2004 presidential election – where Arroyo is
supposed to have won a fresh mandate three years after assuming power
through what is now known as the People Power II uprising. “The killings
of critics, the filing of sundry charges – all these Marcos did.”
All through the
rally, the Jess Santiago composition “Martsa ng Bayan” (People’s March)
kept playing: “Tayo na at magsama-sama/Sa pagdurog sa imperyalista/Tayo
na at magkaisa/Lansagin ang pasistang diktadura/Nasa atin ang tunay na
lakas/Tiyak na nasa atin ang bukas...” The song was composed in the
1980s and became an anti-dictatorship classic.
Santiago, still the
reed-thin bespectacled man that he was two decades ago but now with his
still-long hair graying, would himself stir the crowd – numbering about
10,000 – with a passionate rendition of his song “Halina,” composed 30
years ago and telling tales of a unionist and a peasant slain by state
agents, and an urban poor family driven from their “home” near a garbage
dump. “Y’ong sinasabi nitong kanta, nangyayari pa rin ngayon” (What
the song tells us about is still happening), Santiago told the audience in
a calm but emphatic voice.
The late strongman’s
eldest daughter, Imee, ranked as 11th among more than 20
political figures in Pulse Asia’s July survey on senatorial preferences –
scoring even higher than noted anti-dictatorship fighters like Sen. Joker
Arroyo and Bayan Muna (People First) Rep. Satur Ocampo.
Asked to comment on
this, being victims of the Marcos regime, both Aling Miling and Mang Rudy
said they didn’t think the particular survey was able to reflect the
general pulse accurately enough. They don’t think people have forgotten,
“Ewan ko kung
talagang mananalo pa ‘yan” (I don’t know if she can really win), Mang
Rudy said, referring to Imee who is said to be planning to run for senator
“Habang buhay ang
mga biktima, patuloy na isasambulat sa buong mundo: ‘eto ang ginawa sa
amin” (While the victims are alive, we will continue to tell the
world: this is what was done to us), said Aling Miling. Bulatlat
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© 2006 Bulatlat
Alipato Media Center
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