Unbridled tyranny, corruption and oppression from Marcos Sr. to Marcos Jr.

As we mark the 51st anniversary of the declaration of martial law today, we recall a time of widespread repression and terror, where the voices of the people were silenced and their rights trampled upon.  Dangling the communist bogey, the dictator Marcos Sr.’s martial law saw at least 3,257 extrajudicially killed, 35,000 tortured, 70,000 unjustly detained and close to 1,000 persons involuntarily disappeared on the pretext of “saving the nation” and “forming a new society.” In fact, Ferdinand Marcos Sr. had wanted to perpetuate himself in power and went on to raid the public coffers, amassing wealth for his family and cronies as the vast majority of Filipinos wallowed in poverty.

It was a period of unmitigated tyranny and corruption in our history that we must never forget, and more importantly, must never allow to happen again.

Yet, we find ourselves facing the same forms of repression with the enforcement of the counter-terrorism laws that are essentially martial law instruments. These laws, much like the repressive Marcosian presidential decrees of the past, are being used to silence dissent and stifle protest.

The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) created under Duterte is being utilized to the hilt by the Marcos Jr. regime to witchhunt activists, human rights defenders and other dissenters and enable the fascist military and police to perpetuate repression reminiscent of the martial law era. Through the so-called whole-of-nation-approach, the NTF-ELCAC has been given unbridled authority to use the resources of the entire State bureaucracy to hound and persecute the regime’s perceived enemies and set them up for forced surrender, detention on unjust charges, involuntary disappearance or even extrajudicial killing.

Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano, young women environmental activists who have risen to prominence as among the most recent victims of abduction and enforced disappearance would have been the 9th and 10th desaparecidos under the Marcos Jr. regime had they not courageously spoken truth to power at great risk to their personal safety.

Barely two weeks after their abduction, Bea Lopez, a 26-year-old peasant organizer, and Peter Agravante, a tricycle driver, were seized in Negros Occidental by armed men presumed to be State agents. Agravante’s body was found two days later, while Lopez remains missing.

Several political activists and human rights defenders have already been unjustly and arbitrarily labeled as terrorists, criminally charged and their personal and organizations’ assets and properties subjected to civil forfeiture proceedings.

Among the recent victims of the Marcos Jr. regime’s terror laws are community journalists, indigenous and peasant leaders in Southern Tagalog, Cordillera and Mindanao, young human rights defenders in Southern Tagalog, church leaders and workers in Southern Tagalog, Bohol, Davao and Northern Mindanao as well as those from the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines.

We must stand against Marcos Jr.’s repressive measures, just as we stood against the Marcos Sr. dictatorship of the past. From the regime of the dictator-father to that of the son, we have endured and fought against tyranny.

Today, we continue that fight, urged on and inspired by the courageous and determined collective strength and examples of hundreds and thousands Filipinos like Jonila and Jhed.

Martial law then, Anti-Terrorism Law now—but we will not be silenced, we will not be cowed to submission.

We demand the abolition of the NTF-ELCAC and the repeal of the Anti-Terrorism Law and its diabolical twin, the Anti-Terrorism Financing Law. We also call for the junking of the confidential and intelligence funds (CIF) in the national budget which are used to create a vast informer network within the State bureaucracy in compliance with the NTF-ELCAC’s repressive and terrorist mandate. The P10.14 billion CIF slated for 2024 would be much better used to fund the country’s deteriorating social services.

We will continue the fight for human and people’s rights, for justice, and for accountability.

Cristina Palabay
Karapatan Secretary General