Various progressive organizations and survivors of Martial Law upbraided President Rodrigo Duterte and his administration for the unceasing extrajudicial killings and human rights violations under his presidency. Duterte’s regime, they said, is reminiscent of the dictatorship of his professed idol, the late Ferdinand Marcos, Sr. but he did it without an open, nationwide martial law declaration. In some aspects, the Duterte regime’s atrocities exceeded the 14-year despotism of the elder Marcos.
The groups protested on the 49th anniversary of Martial Law at the Liwasang Bonifacio in Manila on September 21 as part of this infamous day’s annual commemoration by the civil society groups and the public so the Filipino people never forget the atrocities of martial law and continue to condemn any current reprise of tyranny and also the effort to whitewash Marcos’ martial law.
The protest was also to condemn the rampant human rights violations, killings, treachery, and corruption, committed by the past regimes, especially the current administration of Duterte. Rally participants chanted “Never again,” an outcry that reverberated until the people overcame the Marcos regime. But this time, they also cried out “Tama na, Wakasan na!” [Enough of this! End this!] pertaining to Duterte’s rule.
Atty. Neri Colmenares, current chairman of National Union of People’s Lawyers and a Martial Law survivor, scored the resemblance between Marcos and Duterte. He expressed how the two weaponized the law and emboldened the military to silence dissent, captured activists and opposition figures. He also made note of people’s fund use anomalies from ballooning debts that would be shouldered by the people.
“Isang bangungot para sa atin ang ating karanasan noong panahon ng Martial Law, bangungot din sa atin ang ating nararanasan sa ilalim ni Duterte. Noong panahon ng Martial Law, winakasan natin ang diktadura ni Marcos, ngayon wawakasan natin ang tiranya ni Duterte,” he said.
[The past Martial Law experience was a nightmare for us, our experience under Duterte’s rules is also a nightmare. We ended Marcos’ dictatorship, we will also end Duterte’s tyranny.
Protesters also chanted, as they have for years during this day, “Marcos, Duterte, walang pinag-iba! Parehong tuta, diktador, pasista!” [Marcos, Duterte are the same! Both are puppets, dictators and fascists!].
Groups also assailed the Duterte-Marcos or Marcos-Duterte tandem in 2022 elections. Duterte has accepted his party’s nomination to run for vice president. His daughter, Sara, is suspected to become a substitute candidate for Duterte or even for the presidency. And while father and daughter has no clear running mate yet, groups scored the possibility of a tandem between a Duterte and the dictator’s son Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. The younger Marcos lost his bid for vice president (and also his election protest) when Duterte ran for president in 2016. While they were not running mates, Duterte said repeatedly he would resign should Bongbong win and let him succeed as president. Should Bongbong win his coveted return to Malacañang or in the vice presidency role, he would be seated among the highest posts in the land on the 50th year commemoration of martial law.
At the end of the program, the protesters sang Bayan Ko, the people’s anti-martial law uprising anthem and a song representing the country’s current state and the promise to continue the fight and free the country from the hands of tyrants.
As the protest in Liwasang Bonifacio approached its end, the Manila police forcefully grabbed one of the journalists covering the event as an attempt of arrest. The scuffle ended with other media personnel and protesters decrying the repeated attempts of arrests since the protests began today.
Prior to the start of the rally program, the police also blocked the way to Liwasang Bonifacio to restrict the protesters from reaching the location’s event.
In Escolta, Manila, the police formed barricades to restrict the protest. As the protesters denounced the interruption, the state forces bombed them with water cannons.
Police also tried to restrict similar peaceful protests in Batangas and Cavite.
“These harassments to interrupt the 49th year commemoration of Martial Law in different regions in the country and the state of human rights in the country is a brazen display of a de facto Martial Law today under Duterte’s administration, as he aspires to be the same tyrant and dictator as Ferdinand Marcos, Sr. As the Filipinos triumphed in the fight to end the Marcos regime, the Filipinos will triumph against Duterte,” said Andrea Trinidad of the Youth Movement Against Tyranny.