Street outcry, Palace silence on martial law anniversary
Thousands gathered in various urban centers on Thursday to honor the activists, unionists, religious leaders, academicians, community organizers, artists, students, journalists and other voices of dissent who were killed, tortured, jailed or silenced during the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos Sr., vowing to continue the fight against the “Marcosian” brand of politics under his son’s administration.
Noise barrages, marches, vigils and walkouts were also held in universities across Metro Manila and other parts of the country in commemoration of the 51st anniversary of the proclamation of martial law on Sept. 21, 1972.
In Malacañang, however, the Office of the President did not issue any statement on the occasion that recalls the start of his late father’s authoritarian rule.
At the House of Representatives, during plenary deliberations on the budget of the Presidential Communications Office (PCO), Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman took the floor to question the Palace “deafening and revealing” silence.
“There can be no forgiveness without remorse and repentance from the surviving martial law implementers, perpetrators and beneficiaries. Would you agree with that?” Lagman asked the budget sponsor, Marikina Rep. Stella Quimbo, who answered in the affirmative.
The PCO also told Palace reporters no statement was forthcoming.
In Manila, activist and civil society groups led by Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses in Malacañang (Carmma) marched in the rain from Liwasang Bonifacio to Mendiola, as a show of defiance against Marcos Jr.
Around 6 p.m., the march arrived near the gates of Malacañang, where they held a candlelight vigil and sang an emotional rendition of “Bayan Ko.”Among others, they protested “state-led efforts” to gloss over the atrocities of Marcos Sr.’s rule, including a Department of Education memorandum to drop Marcos’ name from the subject on “Diktadurang Marcos” in the revised social studies curriculum for Grade 6.
Historian Francis Gealogo said these efforts were part of the Marcoses’ “long-running, well-oiled project to revise history … which includes the ‘mythologization’ of their regime through the urban legends of ‘Malakas at Maganda,’ and the ‘Tallano gold from the kingdom of Maharlika.’”
But “the dictatorship has a proper name, and it is ‘Marcos,’” said playwright and martial law survivor Bonifacio Ilagan in his speech. “It is a reminder that there is someone responsible and who must be made accountable for the world-class plunder, the abuses and the widespread corruption from that time,” he added.
The protesters also condemned what they called the “de facto martial law” happening under Marcos Jr.’s administration, such as enforced disappearances and killings of activists and human rights defenders, as well as the Red-tagging of dissidents, or the practice of branding them as communist rebels without basis, said Bayan Muna chair Neri Colmenares, also a martial law survivor.Charm Maranan of Defend Southern Tagalog said the country was also experiencing this in the form of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.
She said that law was being weaponized against dissenters, citing the filing of 18 cases against rights defenders in Southern Tagalog.
Ilagan, 71, urged his generation, or those who lived through martial law, to rise to the challenge of speaking truth to the lies and falsehoods about that era.
He saluted the “new generation of Filipinos” for standing up against injustice and impunity, citing the case of Bataan environmental activists Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano who defied the military to say they were abducted.
Aila Bathan of Concerned Artists of the Philippines called on the public to remember the injustices during the dictatorship, especially in light of efforts “to gloss over these dark chapters in history.”
“The Marcos administration is forcibly changing their family’s image … The branding of this regime is the absence of justice. We must boldly assert our rights,” she said.
At the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman, Quezon City, students and teachers staged a noise barrage on the historic steps of Palma Hall.
At the Ateneo de Manila University, the water of the fountain in front of Rizal Library was dyed red to symbolize bloodshed during martial law.
According to Amnesty International, at least 3,257 were killed, 35,000 tortured and 70,000 imprisoned during the period, with close to 1,000 persons involuntarily disappeared.
In Baguio City, memories of martial law were depicted through poems that drew parallels between Baguio society under the late strongman and the problems faced 51 years later by his son.
Poems of the progressive art and literature group Sulong Likha were mounted at a downtown Baguio Martial Law exhibit on Thursday morning, hours before students at UP Baguio and other schools walked out of their classes at 4 p.m. to stage a protest march.
Activist Luchie Maranan, a poet, praised the social activism of the participants, noting that many of them had not even been born during martial law from 1972 until the bloodless Edsa People Power Revolution that ousted Marcos Sr. in 1986.