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-CHRA Karapatan

September 21, 2020

On September 21, 1972, then President Ferdinand Marcos signed Presidential Declaration 1081 declaring Martial Law in response to the growing unrest and dissent against the Marcos regime whose policies blatantly exploited the people and whose iron hand struck down on human rights.

With the declaration, curfews were imposed, gatherings banned, protests silenced. Publications, radio and television stations were shut down. Organizations were deemed illegal. Communities were heavily militarized. Those critical against the government were tagged as subversives and were arrested, detained, and tortured. A number became victims of summary executions or ‘salvaging’ or became victims of enforced disappearance and are still missing up to this day.

Those in power plundered the nation’s coffers.
Government resources – taxpayer’s money – were used to violate people’s rights, aside from being funneled into the bank accounts of Marcos and his cronies. The funds were used to arrest, torture, and kill those who seek social justice and peace.

The funds were used to ‘hamlet’ villages as what the people of Hungduan, Ifugao went through. They were displaced from their homes, their mobility was restricted and their economic activities placed to almost a halt.

The funds were used to burn and pillage communities like Beew, Tubo, Abra. The people have not forgotten how the Philippine Constabulary and the Philippine Army led by Captain Berrido burned down houses in the village, illegally arrested and tortured residents, killed a village leader and a pregnant woman, and wounded a four year-old child.

The funds were used to impose projects like the World Bank funded Chico Dam on communities along the Chico River in Mt. Province and Kalinga with brute military force, bribery and deception. More than a hundred Kalinga villagers were imprisoned because of their resistance. Macliing Dulag and many others were killed because of leading the strong people’s opposition.

It was during these trying times that the Filipino people defined the assertion of human rights as they rose in collective noble defiance against tyranny and ousted a dictator. Forty-eight years after, the Marcosian legacy is being brought to life by the Duterte regime with his own brand of plunder, pillage, militarization, cronyism and treason to national sovereignty.

These are times of unabated economic oppression with unjust taxes on top of unjust wages, mass lay-offs and unemployment, rising prices of basic commodities and cost of living, landlessness, treacherous debts and shameless plunder of the nation’s resources and coffers, in the midst of a covid-19 pandemic.

The constant narratives of hunger and poverty are paralleled with daily news of extrajudicial killings, trumped-up charges, illegal arrests and detention, political repression and other forms of human rights violations starkly similar and even worse than Martial Law, especially with the signing of the Anti-Terrorism Act

Today, various military, police, and troll social media accounts are used in terrorist-tagging that incite violence against human rights defenders, including our families and children. Posters and flyers have circulated branding indigenous peoples’ organizations and service institutions as Communist fronts. Some human rights defenders have been forced to submit and clear themselves from the military’s blacklist, only to be presented later as rebel surrenderees. Trumped-up charges have constantly been filed and rights defenders, including peace consultants have been imprisoned or extrajudicially killed.

While funds were cut from the Department of Health, Department of Education and the Department of Science and Technology from the 2020 budget, police and military budget was dramatically increased. The Department of National Defense (DND) will receive PhP192.1 billion, while the Philippine National Police (PNP) will receive PhP187.3 billion.

Accessible and quality public health care and education as basic human rights are violated in the context of livelihood loss.

At a time of health crisis, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board imposed restrictions on jeepney transportation in railroading their jeepney modernization program inhumanely reducing drivers to mendicancy to survive.

Media repression and disinformation are a current norm. The Duterte regime and his rubber-stamp Congress even had the guts to shutdown ABS-CBN resulting to the unemployment of more than 11,000 workers.

Billions of international debt now amounting to more than $2 billion have not been translated to assistance to the people. Within the duration of this health crisis, each citizen has received only a measly amount of PhP11.00 a day in terms of aid and subsidy[1].

We commemorate Martial Law today and urge the people to rise up, continue to defy State tyranny and repression. We are challenged to live by the lessons of the Filipino people’s resistance against dictatorship.

“Martial law breeds resistance and revolution. The period from the mid-seventies to the mid-eighties was a decade of ferment and upheaval throughout the Cordillera region. The indigenous peoples relied on their tribal practice of concerted and unified mass action as they increasingly asserted their collective rights even under conditions of martial rule and intense militarization in the countryside.”[2]

In Ifugao, people sought ways to ensure food and water for villagers and ensure their safety at the risk of being killed during a military-declared economic blockade.

Kalinga people – men, women and children tore down the National Power Corporation equipment four times in their protest against the Chico Dam project. “The fourth time, the people carried the materials from Tomiangan to the PC-Police camp at Bulanao, a distance of 35 kilometers, in a silent protest march of around 250 people, lasting through the night and the curfew hours.”[3]

Those arrested, even in the face of the most grueling torture and death stood by their principles. These are among the inspiring stories of courage that must be embedded in our collective memory as a people and the ‘tawid’ or inheritance we must pass on to the next generations.

As we face Duterte’s tyranny, we must face repression with organized resistance, confront fear with courage, and assert human dignity even in the darkest and most difficult times. #

[1] IBON Foundation: With P606B budget for COVID-19 response, aid largely unfelt;…/with-p606b-budget-for-covid-19-…/
[2] Remembering Martial Law, by Joanna Carino, Cordillera Peoples Alliance Advisory Council, September 23, 2012
[3] A History of Resistance: The Cordillera Mass Movement Against the Chico Dam and Cellophil Resources Corporation by
Joanna K. Carino

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