Never again to fascist dictatorships, #NoDuterteMarcos2022

Today, we remember when, 49 years ago, Proclamation 1081 was declared by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, which placed the entire Philippines under martial law.

For victims of the Marcos dictatorship, just putting these words together brings back an avalanche of memories of lives lost and disappeared without a trace, of bruised bodies and broken limbs, of time spent within prison walls. Amid the worsening crisis, ballooning foreign debt, rise in unemployment, and landlessness of the majority, Marcos declared martial law to stay in power without bounds.

When Marcos and his henchmen attempted to quell dissent, the Filipino people gathered strength and unity, and the dictator was ousted.

On September 22, 1992, the jury at the US District Court for the District of Hawaii found the Estate of Marcos liable for acts of torture, summary execution and disappearance, eventually awarding plaintiffs in the suit $1.2 billion in exemplary damages. On July 23, 2012, Republic Act No. 10368 or the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013, recognizing the gross human rights violations of Marcos and the State’s moral and legal obligation to recognize the victims and provide reparations, was signed into law.

Forty-nine years later, and 35 years after the People Power uprising that ousted the dictator, to remember is not enough. We are all urged to go beyond remembering as the horrors of tyranny and dictatorship are right in our midst.

Rodrigo Duterte offered change to the people who are in deep discontent of failed promises of change of administrations before him and after Marcos. However, Duterte did not only fail at his promises of ending the drug problem, freeing the government of corruption, pushing for an independent foreign policy, among others — he used and exploited further the call for change in a complete mockery of people’s rights, making anyone who criticizes and voices out opposition as an “enemy,” a “terrorist,” justifying repression and State-sponsored terror.

Duterte is viciously implementing a war against dissent attempting to silence critics and opposition members, throwing activists and peace advocates to jail, killing “enemies of the State,” and storming homes and communities with threats, intimidation and coercion by State forces. He continues to implement his murderous and sham drug war, leaving thousands of victims and families desolate and crying out for justice. He needed no sugarcoatings of a “democracy.” As vulgar as his ramblings and threats against his critics, Duterte proudly raises an iron fist in openly directing the police and military to “kill, kill and kill.”

The police and military men in his Cabinet, who are at the helm of an inadequate, militarized and corruption-laced pandemic response, are recycled and appointed to government positions after shameful records of disservice and impunity, while his minions in the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict who have a penchant for fantastic lies through red-tagging complete the machinery of Duterte’s fascist dictatorship, with an almost absolute assurance that he shall absolve them of any crime.

Duterte need not declare martial law to bring us back to its nightmares — in the thousands of people killed in the sham drug war and war against dissent, in his government’s subservience to China and the US, in seemingly endless despair and death within a pandemic made worse by corruption and criminal negligence. He has ushered back the Marcoses to power by cementing their alliance in the burial of the dictator Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani and in their imminent partnership in the 2022 elections.

Duterte now poses as a president wanting to stay in power by vying for vice-president or by fielding his minions in the 2022 elections, in desperate attempts to evade independent investigations on cases of killings in the Philippines, like that of the International Criminal Court.

The Marcoses have not been fully made to account for their crimes, even as the Sandiganbayan has convicted Imelda Marcos guilty for graft cases and as the billions of stolen public funds remain largely unreturned. And Duterte is planning to stay. Put together, tyranny and dictatorship is real and far worse in a nation grappling in crisis, pandemic, and State-sponsored terror.

In the same way that the struggle of the people did not end with the downfall of the Marcos dictatorship, the campaign to stop Marcos and Duterte from returning to and staying in Malacanang continues, as a way to do justice for the Filipino people of the martial law generation and all other generations after Duterte.

This is a call to rise against forgetting, and simply remembering. This is an urgent appeal for action against the return of the Marcoses to Malacanang. This is a necessary call to prosecute and punish Duterte for his crimes against the people. We should not wait for the 2022 elections to make this possible. We demand accountability, we seek justice, we prosecute Duterte now. We say “Tama na, wakasan na, #NoDuterteMarcos2022!”