By Tiara Nacario
Hundreds of students from all over the metro walked out from their classes and marched to Mendiola, Manila to commemorate the declaration of Martial Law as well as condemn neoliberal policies repressing human rights and education, Sept. 21.
Students from the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman, UP Manila, Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP), University of Sto. Tomas (UST), National Teachers College (NTC), as well as Batasan National High School and Araullo High School joined the walkout protest.
Kabataan Partylist Representative Sarah Elago acknowledged the attendance of high school and college students from Baguio, Pampanga, Laguna, Naga, Cebu and Tacloban in what she dubbed as “Pambansang Araw ng Protesta para sa Edukasyon, Karapatang Pantao at Kalayaan.”
“Ngayong araw sama-sama nating ipakita na hindi tayo nakakalimot,” Elago said. “Sa hindi natin paglimot sa pagtapak sa karapatang pantao sampu ng lahat nang nag-alay ng kanilang buhay para sa ating kalayaan, tayo din ngayong araw ay nananawagan ng hustisya sa lahat ng biktima ng Batas Militar.”
According to Amnesty International, approximately 70,000 people were imprisoned, 34,000 tortured and 3,240 were killed from during the course of Martial Law, 1972-1981.
Elago also stressed the importance of the power of mobilizations in making sure Martial Law is never repeated again.
Marching alongside youth groups during the system-wide walkout were non-governmental organizations including Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights (KARAPATAN), GABRIELA National Alliance of Women (GABRIELA), Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) and consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
KARAPATAN’s NDFP consultant Loida Magpatoc, shared her journey towards collective action.
“Noon sa kanayunan namin, edad lang po ang aming hinihintay para sumali sa bagong hukbong bayan at maging aktibo at kasapi ng armadong pakikipaglaban sa diktadurya,” said Magpatoc, who came from Mindanao.
At 19, Magpatoc had joined the New People’s Army (NPA) in her locality under the headship of Bandida Komunista ng Pilipinas.
Meanwhile, Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights in UP (STAND UP) Chairperson Josiah Hiponia emphasized the need to continually fight for human rights well beyond Martial Law.
“Tunay nga ba tayong malaya?” Hiponia said, citing similarities between the conditions of Martial Law and current times when farmers still struggle for land ownership, employees work under unjust labor policies and contractualization, human rights are violated and summary killings are prevalent.
“Hindi tayo titigil sa ating laban hanggat hindi nakakapasok ang mga kabataang magsasaka, mga kabataang manggagawa at ang napakaraming Pilipino ang hindi maatim makapasok sa ating unibersidad,” Hiponia added.
Meanwhile, Anakbayan Chairperson Vencer Mari Crisostomo said freedom from all neoliberal policies will not be given unless the Filipino people take it.
“Itulak pa natin ang pakikibaka laban sa imperyalismo, burukrata kapitalismo at pyudalismo. Tuluyan natin ibagsak ang bulok na sistema na iilan lamang ang naghahari at pinagsasamantalahan ang nakakarami,” Crisostomo said.
(Photo by Tiara Nacario.)