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300 activists mark 36th martial law anniversary

By Jerome Aning, Tina Santos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:53:00 09/21/2008

Filed Under: Government, Politics

MANILA, Philippines?Some 300 activists spanning several generations converged at the foot of the Don Chino Roces (formerly Mendiola) Bridge near Malacaang yesterday morning to commemorate the 36th anniversary of Ferdinand Marcos? declaration of martial law.

The activists, including members of the militant umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at para sa Amnestiya (Selda) and Karapatan demanded justice for the victims of the Marcos dictatorship and of the Arroyo administration.

218 political prisoners

They particularly called for the release of 218 political prisoners, 198 of whom were arrested under the current administration, according to Selda.

?The Arroyo regime has gained the sole distinction of being the regime closest to the Marcos dictatorship in terms of its human rights record, corruption and foreign policy,? Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said in a statement.

He added: ?The Arroyo regime is the best argument that we should never allow a return to a fascist dictatorship, no matter what the pretext is.?

The activists toted a life-size replica of a jail cell to symbolize the plight of the political prisoners.

Members of Bayan affiliates, such as Gabriela, Anakpawis, Kilusang Mayo Uno, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas and Migrante International, carried placards and streamers denouncing human rights abuses, corruption and misrule.

Upon reaching the bridge, which was barricaded by barbed wire and blocked by a police force, the activists laid a wreath at the foot of the monument of Chino Roces, the publisher of the pre-martial law Manila Times who was imprisoned by the Marcos regime, as well as pictures of those who disappeared during the martial law regime and those murdered and abducted since President Macapagal-Arroyo took power in 2001.

?Despite [the Arroyo administration?s] claims of an improving human rights climate, hundreds of victims are still being denied justice. Scores of activists are incarcerated in jails all over the country, a grim reminder that the vestiges of martial rule are still here,? Reyes said.

He cited the case of detained peasant leader Randall Echanis, who was imprisoned during martial law and is now facing murder charges under the Arroyo administration. Echanis has been in detention since January.

The veterans of martial law, led by Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo, marched from Lepanto Street corner Recto Avenue while the younger activists marched from the Bustillos Church in Sampaloc.

Reyes said antiriot troops from the Manila Police District tried to block the activists at the corner of Recto.

He said they were allowed to hold a program in the area?which is considered a no-rally zone during weekdays?after presenting a permit from the city government.

Reyes said fear of a return to ?martial law by any name? was not unfounded.

?We see the desperation of the regime to stay in power at all costs. We see the unrestrained role of the military in government. We see the continued backing of the United States for an unpopular regime,? he said, adding:

?The only thing that stands in their way is the people. Our people have learned enough from Marcos and they will never allow such a monstrosity to return. Our people will resist.?

Still feeling it

On Friday, more than 50 black-clad members of the group Socialista flocked to Plaza Miranda in Quiapo, Manila.

?Offenses against the people continue to be observed despite the lifting of martial law. Marcos has been dead for a long time and yet we continue to feel martial law,? the group said.

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