When President Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law on Sept. 21, 1972, the military and police were granted a dangerous amount of power.
Human rights were immediately stripped from the Filipino people with the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, which allowed the arrests of people without access to due process.
The moment people rose against the dictator–with angry shouts and clenched fists–they were immediately chained back down and put behind bars, and those who live to tell the tale speak of heinous torture methods—electric shocks delivered to private parts, gallons of water forcefully pumped in one’s mouth, sexual assault and constant beatings, among others.
Human Rights advocacy group Amnesty International tallied 34,000 Filipinos who had become victims of such human rights violations in one of the darkest periods of the country’s history.
The non-government organization also listed 70,000 arrested individuals, 3,240 victims of summary executions, and at least a thousand victims of enforced disappearances in said era.
More than 40 years later, the Philippines remains subject to much of the same conditions as it was before.
The culture of impunity persists with President Rodrigo Duterte’s iron rule, which pays little regard for due process and human rights, scarily reminiscent of the ousted dictator’s regime characterized by fascism and heavy reliance on the country’s armed forces.
While the Philippines may no longer under Martial Law, Duterte has declared a “state of lawlessness” in the Philippines, authorizing armed forces to suppress any deemed lawless violence.
The writ of habeas corpus may still be intact, however, fairness still escapes alleged drug pushers and abusers, or at least those from the lower class.
While the poor are targeted and killed in cold blood, those from the other end of the spectrum–such as radio DJ Karen Bordador, who was caught selling illegal drugs amounting to P 2.2 M at a club in Fort Bonifacio last month–enjoy the human right to a fair trial.
Since Duterte’s inauguration in June 30, the drug-related killings have claimed more than 3,000 lives according to a Philippine Star report dated Sept. 11.
The president refuses to acknowledge these as human rights violations, despite many of the victims allegedly having willingly surrendered. Only recently, he had called the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon a ‘fool’ after he condemned the cases of summary killings in the country and said these acts were illegal and clear violations of human rights.
However, it is not only Duterte who has kept the country shrouded in Martial Law.
The administrations following Marcos have continued this tradition.
Not one president has been spared these accusations, and despite his promised change, Duterte has not extinguished the fascist actions of the state. Instead, he has enforced it.
Despite the Constitution stating that no person shall be imprisoned by reason of political beliefs and aspirations, Filipino political prisoners still await their freedom while the numbers of enforced disappearances–2,300 since the 1970s according to the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearance (AFAD)–cannot be unseen.
These political prisoners include UP College of Mass Communication film student Maricon Montajes, who, together with Ronilo Baes and Romiel Cañete, are collectively known as the Taysan 3. In 2010, the group was unjustly detained on yet-to-be proven allegations of illegal possession of explosives and firearms.
While it cannot be denied that human rights violations have become rampant under the first stages of Duterte’s regime, one of the current administration’s commendable efforts is the resumption of peace talks between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and National Democratic Front (NDF).
This initiative has resulted to 16 political prisoners released for participation in the peace process. However, these releases are only temporary and account for so much less than the total of 550 unjustly arrested.
While chants of opposition against historical revisionism and Martial Law ring louder more than ever, the Duterte administration has chosen to respond to this by honoring Marcos with a burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (LMNB), repeatedly insisting that the former president’s service as a soldier is what makes him qualified for the burial.
In doing so, the Duterte administration has ignored the National Historical Commission of the Philippines proof that Marcos lied about the war medals he received as well as soiled his hands with the lives his regime claimed during Martial Law.
Even the Official Gazette of the Philippines has not escaped from the clutches of historical revisionism. In a publicity material released Sept. 11, the online graphic tried to conceal the atrocities of the Marcos regime by stating that the former president and dictator had “stepped down from the presidency to avoid bloodshed” in 1986.
While the caption was edited later on to remove its initial inaccuracies, the fact remains that Duterte not only shares similarities with the former president but as well as aids in turning history to his favor.
Allowing this burial to ensue, along with the persistence of the ideology that Marcos is a hero, is historical revisionism at its finest, a negation of the freedom and the democracy the Filipino people have fought for and paid for in blood.
Nevertheless, it is not too late to fight back and oppose these human rights violations.
While social media may no longer be a desirable platform due to the persistent hate comments arising whenever an online user criticizes the president, the streets are more than open to those who wish to express dissent towards the administration’s war on drugs—its war on the poor—as well as its decision to bury the deceased dictator among heroes and brand him as such.
The streets are more than welcome to those who wish to support reconciling with Asia’s longest-running communist insurgency as well the release of those who have been imprisoned due to a different political ideology.
The streets are more than unobstructed to hear the voice of the people that has long since cried for societal change targeting the destruction of fascism and with that, the persistent culture of impunity.
The streets are open to the cries of ‘never again to what never really left.’