September 21, 1972 is etched in the minds of millions of Filipinos – it’s when then Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law nationwide, in an effort to curtail efforts of local progressive forces to resist Marcos’ rising dictatorship. For 14 years, Marcos enacted brutal and countless human rights violations on the Filipino people, while incurring billions of dollars of debt to add to his personal fortune.
47-years later, and three decades after Marcos was ousted from his presidency by the People Power Movement in 1986, Duterte has continued Marcos’ grotesque legacy of human rights violations, killings, and all-out war on the Filipino people through the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao in May 2017 and his Executive Orders 70 and Memorandum Order 32 in Negros, Samar, and Bicol.
Since the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao, thousands of people have been displaced from their homes, and many have been subjected to human rights abuses by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police. UN Special Rapporteurs Ms. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz and Ms. Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, released a statement in December 2017, stating that “thousands of Lumads have already been forcibly displaced by the conflict and have seen their houses and livelihoods destroyed. They are suffering massive abuses of their human rights, some of which are potentially irreversible.”
This unchecked military rule and weaponizing of the government and civilian bureaucracy through the “whole of nation approach” has reached the provinces of Negros, Bicol, and Samar under the Duterte administrations counter insurgency program, Oplan Kapanatagan. In Negros alone, there have been 48 extrajudicial killings since October 2018, with a high concentration of killings in these past three months. Under Duterte, the Philippines has been deemed the deadliest country for land and environmental defenders.
On August 6, 2019, Brandon Lee, a Chinese-American indigenous and human rights activist survived a frustrated extrajudicial killing, and was shot by state security forces after being branded an “enemy of the state” for his activism. He is the first US citizen to be targeted by Duterte’s extrajudicial killings. The Malaya Movement is urging people to contribute to the fundraising efforts to bring Brandon Lee back to the United States through this GoFundMe campaign.
Similar to his idol Marcos, Duterte attacks and silences independent press outlets for being critical of his administration. From the continued vilification on one of Time’s Person of the Year, journalist and founder of rappler.com, Maria Ressa, attacks against alternative media such as Altermidya, Tudla and Kodao, to the suspicious arson at the Abante Tonite press offices on September 9, 2019, the press has faced an onslaught of attacks during this regime’s reign.
These clearly show that there exists a de facto martial law in the Philippines and that Duterte, with or without his formal declaration, has established his dictatorship.
Instead of more repression, Duterte should heed the people’s demands for land for farmers, fair wages, and an end to contractualization, a promise that Duterte made during his presidential campaign back in 2016. Upholding human rights, and ensuring press freedom must be at the forefront of any political administration’s governing of a country, but instead Duterte has made it apparent that he doesn’t care.
The Malaya Movement calls on all freedom-loving Filipinos and allies to commemorate the atrocities of the Marcos era Martial Law and learn our lessons well. Let us continue to stand steadfastly against the face of the Duterte regime’s growing tyranny. Now, more than ever, we need to broaden and strengthen our unity in saying “never again to martial law!”