Remembering the declaration of martial law:

Karapatan dares P-Noy to indemnify martial law victims, abandon U.S.-instigated counterinsurgency plans  to stop human rights violations and end impunity

COMMEMORATING the declaration of martial law on September 21, the national alliance of human rights groups, KARAPATAN, challenged Pres. Benigno Simeon "PNoy" Aquino III to render the long overdue INDEMNIFICATION of the victims of martial law, ABANDON the US-sponsored counter-insurgency program Oplan Bantay-Laya and all other counter-insurgency programs, to stop human rights violations and end impunity.

KARAPATAN chairperson Marie Hilao-Enriquez, who, together with her family and hundreds of thousands of others suffered greatly during martial law, commented that the horrors of martial law, brought back in by the US-Arroyo regime, are not being dispelled by PNoy!  “In fact, the Filipino people may be seeing more of these horrors in the coming days. Instead of scrapping the bloody counter-insurgency Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL), which engendered the worst human rights violations under the US-GMA regime, PNoy and his military officers extended this brutal campaign up to the end of this year and announced a new one to be put in place next year,” bewailed Enriquez.

Even as the victims of OBL 1 and 2, like the victims of martial law, are still crying out for justice, the victims under the 83-day-old PNoy administration are increasing.  Already, 13 victims of extrajudicial killings under PNoy have been documented by Karapatan; from January-June 2010, there have been 17 victims.  Far-flung communities in Negros Oriental, Caraga and Bicol terrorized by AFP troops, have been forced to evacuate for some time because of military operations in their areas.

The human rights situation remains bleak with no assurances even from the institutions that would supposedly offer remedies for victims.  “Of late, Supreme Court rulings have disturbed, rather than reassured the public. Convicting the victims of torture and stripping them of protection bring back to mind the martial law court, which dispensed justice for the status quo and not for those less in life and in law,” Enriquez wryly observes.

"To add insult to injury, PNoy appointed Etta Anne Rosales as chair of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) despite her record of bias and partiality against the political Left, divisive moves against the martial law class suit claimants, and announced priorities in the CHR which draws a rather discriminatory line that distinguishes between known cases from lesser known ones," Enriquez said.

According to KARAPATAN records, there are 1,206 victims of extra-judicial killings under former president Macapagal-Arroyo, more than 200 forcibly disappeared, and 380 illegally arrested, detained and tortured. “ 38 years ago today, the Filipino nation was robbed of its rights and freedoms; the open terror unleashed by a dictatorial regime propped up by US imperialism, ravaged our nation for 14 dark years engendering hundreds of thousands of victims in its wake. Ironically, today, 38 years after, PNoy is on his way to the most powerful imperialist state, the policies of which are couched in doublespeak of commitments to human rights and maintaining supremacy in the world by all means fair and foul, even employing its military might,” Enriquez sadly says.

The US has propped up dictators and regimes which violated the rights of peoples so long as these regimes protect US interests.  During the reign of Marcos, martial law was rationalized to supposedly save the republic from the communist threat; the same argument was used by the US-Arroyo regime; but this time a counter-insurgency plan, Oplan Bantay Laya, was implemented along the lines of the “war on terror” hatched by then US President George W. Bush, blindly followed by the puppet GMA regime, to supposedly end the threat.

The US security establishment has come out with successive tactical and strategic materials and doctrinal revisions on “counterinsurgency”. These include a new Army Counterinsurgency Field Manual in 2006, a new Joint Operating Concept on Irregular Warfare in 2007, a new Army Field Manual on Stability Operations in 2008, the US Government Counterinsurgency Guide (US COIN) in 2009 and the renewed Joint Vision 2020, the conceptual framework for continued US military dominance worldwide for the next decade.

These tracks draw heavily from the US experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as from its wars in Vietnam, Korea, Philippines, El Salvador, Colombia and Guatemala, among others.  “Sadly, Philippine presidents, even after the fall of Marcos, have kowtowed and followed these impositions of the US with human rights suffering heavily because of such,” Enriquez said.

“Today, as we commemorate the declaration of darkness over our land 38 years ago, may we remind our President, who is now on his trip to the US, that no amount of terror can defeat a people’s resolve to fight and assert their rights.  Even as martial law darkened the country’s horizons, it also brought out the shining moments of a people’s resistance against exploitation and human rights violations,” Enriquez said.

"We say: never again to martial law! If PNoy insists on following the footsteps of the Marcoses who are being awarded under his administration, he may be causing his own dip in popularity, less than satisfactory ratings, and eventual downfall," Enriquez concluded. ###