Ghost of Marcos' Martial Law seen under Duterte – rights groups

RESIST. Human rights groups urge Filipinos to resist dictatorship under Rodrigo Duterte. Photo from TFDP

RESIST. Human rights groups urge Filipinos to resist dictatorship under Rodrigo Duterte.

Photo from TFDP

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – More than 3 decades since democracy was restored in the country, human rights groups warned Filipinos against the oppressive policies and violations under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte that mirrors those of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.  

Sanlakas Secretary-General Aaron Pedrosa on Wednesday, September 18, said that the 47th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law is a reminder that atrocities still occur, especially under Duterte.

Ilang araw na lang ay anibersaryo na naman ng Martial Law pero sa mga nangyayari ngayon, nakikita natin na iyong multo ng Marcos dictatorship still looms even larger today dahil bumabalik ang bangugot,” he said. 

(A few more days before Martial Law anniversary and yet with what’s happening now, we see that the ghosts of the Marcos dictatorship still looms even larger today because the nightmares are coming back.)  

Marcos signed Proclamation No. 1081 on September 21, 1972, placing the Philippines under military rule, a period marred by gross human rights violations. According to Amnesty International, about 70,000 people were imprisoned while 34,000 were tortured, and 3,240 were killed during this time. (READ: Martial Law, the dark chapter in Philippine history) 

Local and international groups have criticized the Duterte administration mostly for the high number of killings in his war on drugs, calling the situation a "human rights crisis." (READ: The Impunity Series

Failing democracy? 

Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) chairperson Father Christian Buenafe called the situation under Duterte almost as worst as what happened under Marcos. 

“We are living in dangerous times again and many seem not to bother nor care that the whimsical and capricious display of vindictiveness of Duterte is eating the nation’s soul and trampling on people’s rights,” he said.  

In its midterm report, TFDP said that the under Duterte, there is a failure to strengthen democratic traditions in the country, while elected leaders are “shamelessly transgressing the rule of law and tilting balance of power to favor the executive branch.”

Nilda Lagman-Sevilla, chairperson of Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND), hit the government for its “callous” disregard of the situation. 

Pinaninindigan namin na may human rights crisis na sa Pilipinas at pakitid na nang pakitid ang democratic space para sa lahat (We stand by our statement that there’s a human rights crisis in the Philippines and that the democratic space is shrinking for all),” she said.

In a statement on Saturday, Vice President Leni Robredo appealed to Filipinos to remember their duty to protect the Philippines from regressing into despotic rule, as the country observed the anniversary of Martial Law.

Speak out, take a stand 

More than 3 years have passed since Duterte took his oath as Philippine president. According to Pedrosa, the government’s eyed policies such as the proposed revival of the anti-subversion law and the death penalty showed that things may only get worse. (READ: Creating a Marcos? Reviving the anti-subversion law under Duterte

Nakakabahala kasi hindi pa ito tapos, mahaba pa ang Duterte administration,” Pedrosa said. “Ang kadiliman ng Martial Law ay babalik kung hindi kikilos ang mamamayan.”

(It’s worrying because this there's still a lot of time left in the Duterte administration. If the citizens don't act, the darkness of Martial Law will return.)

Buenafe urged Filipinos to speak against abuses and called for “blind obedience” to end. He, however, acknowledged the culture of fear prevailing in the country now.

“When injustice becomes law, we need to speak and stand our ground,” he said. 

The Duterte administration is also widely criticized for its crackdown on dissent and its harassment of those deemed as opposition, including human rights defenders. (READ: Duterte's war on dissent)

For Sevilla, the public should know that defenders are not armed combatants and that their work “is through peaceful means.” 

“Amid unabated human rights violations, we have no other option but to resist,” she said. –