Rights victims of Marcos and victims of Arroyo vow “Never Again to Martial Law! Assert and defend our rights!”

On the eve of the 36th anniversary of the declaration of martial law, victims of the Marcos dictatorship and victims of human rights violations under Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo remind the nation that we must say never again to martial law!  There is a new dictator and kleptocrat in Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her cohorts under an undeclared martial law.  And like the hated dictator Marcos, she must be made to answer for her transgressions on the rights of the Filipino people.

This was the message of members of the human rights groups SELDA, Karapatan and Hustisya (Victims of Arroyo Regime United for Justice) today, September 20, as they marched together to remind the world of the dark period of martial law in the country.

Former political prisoners of martial law who are mostly members of SELDA and members of Hustisya (Victims of Arroyo Regime United for Justice) met near the foot of the Mendiola Bridge, locked arms and walked towards Malacañang.

Human rights group Karapatan and the militant Bayan joined them in laying a wreath at the monument of Don Chino Roces at the foot of the bridge named after the anti-dictatorship stalwart.

The ribbon on the wreath reads: Sa alaala ng lahat ng nakipaglaban para sa demokrasya at kalayaan  (In memory of all those who fought for democracy and freedom), a tribute to the thousands of Filipino heroes, both living and dead, who have fought the dictatorial regime of Ferdinand Marcos.  The message is likewise a present-day call to all Filipinos to be vigilant and to fight the tyrannical Arroyo regime and defend their rights to freedom, justice and democracy.

Selda and Karapatan also called attention to the struggle of martial law victims for indemnification and the Arroyo government's looting of the money that should have been used for reparations to the victims.

Many of the 9,539 victims of human rights violations during martial law who filed a class action suit against the Marcoses are impoverished and worse, many are sick and dying.  Sixteen years have passed after a famous judicial decision rendered in their favor, ironically in another country through an international jurisprudence called the Aliens Tort Act.

Instead of rendering justice to the victims of martial law and other regimes, Arroyo added her own victims to the already long list of victims of human rights violations.

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has brought back the horrors of martial law.  Unlike Marcos, however, she has  not declared martial law but has committed gross and systematic violations of human rights with 910 victims of extrajudicial killings, 195 victims of enforced disappearances, hundreds illegally arrested and sent to prison, tortured and harassed and has caused the displacement and forced evacuations of millions of our fellow Filipinos.  Like Marcos, she has caused the war in Mindanao and has terrorized millions of the already impoverished poor due to her blind and dogged puppetry to the US government’s dictates.  And as is the wont of dictators, both Marcos and Arroyo are in a state of denial on the violations they have committed, as they both relied on the military to prop up their regimes.

And as the nation reels over both the economic and human rights crises that the Arroyo regime has wrought on the nation, like in the Marcos dictatorship, the culture of impunity is made to sway over our lives.  This is due to the fact that no perpetrator of human rights violations from the time of martial law to the present has been punished for these crimes.  And no justice has been rendered to victims.

Thus, victims of both regimes exhort the nation to assert and defend their rights in the face of oppression and repression recalling the heroic struggle of the Filipinos to oust the Marcos dictatorship.

The rights groups said no time should be wasted in rendering justice and reparation for victims of crimes against humanity.  Moreover, they said, no time should be wasted in toppling the new dictator who has already given clear indications that she will find a way to stay in power and continue to bleed the people dry, the way Marcos did 36 years ago.  In the face of this threat, the people must look at the lesson of martial law and assert and defend their rights! ###