Impunity persists, legacy of the Filipino people’s valiant struggle continue

40 years after the imposition of martial Law 

It may not be as visible as it was 40 years ago but, human rights violations that are indelible marks of Ferdinand Marcos’ Martial Law, continue to this day: illegal arrests and detention, torture, disappearance, extrajudicial killings, bombings and hamletting of communities, forced evacuation, use and proliferation of paramilitary groups, among others. 

Making things worse is that people in the government, specially the President, hide behind their previous involvement in the anti-dictatorship struggle; banking on their being victims of martial law to escape accountability and responsibility on the current state of human rights in the country.  

Thus, the likes of The Butcher, Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr. roam freely. Torturers like Maj. Gen. Jorge Segovia and Col. Aurelio Baladad are being promoted, despite cases filed against them, similar to Col. Rolando Abadilla, Rodolfo Aguinaldo, and Billy Bibit who were rewarded handsomely by Marcos. 

As we remember the 40th year of the imposition of martial law and the dark days that followed it,  we underscore the fact that the Marcoses are back in power, occupying various government positions, while justice continues to elude the victims of the tyrannical regime; martial law was lifted but the terror machine, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, continues its violent and terrorist practices such as killings, torture, arrests, and other rights violations; the Civilian Home Defense Force (CHDF) is now called the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) but, with the same paramilitary functions inflicting fear, repression and violence; repressive Marcosian laws and decrees that curtail basic freedom are still enforced and enacted such as the newly passed Cybercrime Prevention Law; and the same land reform program which perpetuates landlessness and legitimizes landgrabbing is in place. Names and positions may have changed but the exploitative and oppressive system remains the same. 

The victims are still the same, too — the ordinary Filipinos who aspire for freedom, democracy, and justice; and they who speak up, organize themselves and fight for their rights to land, jobs and decent wages, housing, education and health services. They are branded at best, as nuisance; at worst, as enemies of the so-called restored democratic state.  

Forty years and five presidents ago, the “democratic space” that was supposedly restored in 1986 remains a space for the landed, the rich and the powerful. The poor are still poor, exploited and oppressed. Today, social justice remains elusive, and the culture of impunity prevails, like it was under martial law. 

Because the same situation exists, the people’s desire for meaningful and thoroughgoing change remains as steadfast as ever. The legacy of the Filipino people’s resistance against exploitation and oppression is passed on to the next generation of activists who carry on the struggle for social justice, freedom and democracy.  

Remembering martial law is not too difficult. We only have to look at, and hear the voices of, the people around us—the peasants and indigenous peoples, the workers and the urban poor, the youth, women and children. The current situation bespeaks of the prevalence of martial law. It is when we realize the similarities of the situation now and 40 years ago can we truly say Never Again to Martial Law.  Ituloy ang Laban!