‘Fight the fear’ under Duterte rule, FLAG’s Diokno urges Filipinos
Jose Manuel “Chel” Diokno, son of nationalist and democracy icon Sen. Jose “Ka Pepe” Diokno, called on Filipinos to “fight the fear” blanketing the country under the Duterte administration, which has waged a bloody war against illegal drugs, expressing concern over the likelihood of the return of authoritarianism.
“It is exactly the same fear and violence that was employed with so much effectivity by the Marcos dictatorship,” Diokno, a human rights lawyer like his father, said on Thursday. “There is no difference. The only difference is the branding. The label before was fear of communists. The label now is the fear of drug addicts and drug pushers.”
Diokno said that the unabated extrajudicial killings as a result of the war on drug had been eroding the country’s already weak judicial system.
He warned that a legal system allowed to become “weaker and weaker” would result to a “disorderly country.”
“And the only way for government to maintain order is to become more and more authoritarian,” Diokno said.
Diokno’s father was among the first opposition leaders, along with the martyred Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., to be arrested soon after the dictator Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law, which was announced on Sept. 23, 1972, although Proclamation 1081 was signed earlier, on Sept. 21.
Diokno was detained for two years without charges. He shared a prison compound with Aquino in Fort Bonifacio in Taguig and in Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija. Both were also held in solitary confinement for a month.
After his release from prison, Pepe Diokno founded the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) in 1974 with fellow eminent human rights lawyers Lorenzo Tañada Sr. and Joker Arroyo to provide legal assistance to political prisoners and other victims of martial law.
The younger Diokno is now the national chairman of FLAG.
Diokno, who is also the dean of the De La Salle University (DLSU) College of Law, said the people should “fight the fear by standing up.”
“Fight the fear by conquering it,” he said. “Fight the fear by accepting that the fear is there and doing what you have to do because you know you have to do it. In that manner I think just as fear is contagious, that kind of action I believe is also contagious and the more people will stand up and the less people will be fearful.”
Diokno said that the people now had at least started to stand up and say something.
“(Those) who felt it wasn’t right and now there are more and more groups coming out not just in the legal community but civil society, the church and some Catholic organizations that are speaking up,” Diokno said.
Diokno said that the EDSA People Power Revolution remained relevant to this day and Filipinos should continue to learn from the lessons of martial law.
“What people should remember are the darkest days of the dictatorship,” he said. “Moving on is vague and forgetting. We must draw our lessons from martial law so that we don’t repeat our mistakes.” /atm
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