MANILA, Philippines, September 22 ------ The Philippines marked the 50th year of the declaration of Martial Law by late tyrant Ferdinand E. Marcos – ironically, under the presidency of the dictator’s son Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
Martial Law survivors, rights groups, civil society organizations, and youth groups massed on the streets to show their force and remember what is said to be the one of the darkest chapters in Philippine history. Local and regional groups held their respective programs in various locations in Metro Manila. Progressive groups like Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, Karapatan, and Kabataan Party from Southern Luzon trooped to Plaza Miranda in Quiapo, Manila to hold their program. During the benighted years under the dictator, the writ of habeas corpus was suspended after the Plaza Miranda bombing in August 1971. At the very same venue, half a century later, progressive groups met with so-called “anti-Communist Party of the Philippines” (CPP) organizations.
Cops on ground said protesters were not allowed inside the plaza, but the anti-CPP group was able to held a short program. They also red-tagged progressive organizations, adding that the CPP and the New People’s Army are the “real” terrorists. Shortly, the progressive groups from Southern Luzon arrived in the area and started their own activity in front of the anti-CPP group. A line of cops separated the two groups from each other. The progressive groups also performed a cultural depicting the human rights violations committed under Marcos regime. At least 70,000 people were imprisoned, 34,000 were tortured, and 3,240 were killed under Martial Law, according to Amnesty International. A set of performers also wore crocodile masks to symbolize the corruption of the Marcos family. Based on various estimates, the family of the late tyrant looted around $5 billion to $10 billion from the nation’s coffers. After a short program in Plaza Miranda, another set of progressive groups from Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino and Partido Lakas ng Masa held a demonstration in front of the Mendiola Peace Arch, some hundred meters from the gate of Malacañang Palace.
On the other side of the road, in front of the San Sebastian College-Recoletos, the groups who earlier held a program in Quiapo were barred from crossing to Mendiola. The police officers on ground said protesters are only allowed in Liwasang Bonifacio. The activists and cops held a dialogue, but the police insisted that the groups would not be allowed to cross. Ultimately, the Southern Luzon activists settled in the road and held their program there. Other progressive groups also assembled in the Elliptical Road and at the Commission on Human Rights in Quezon City and march toward the University of the Philippines Diliman campus. The groups’ grand protest and unveiling of lanterns will be held inside UP. The event is symbolic because during the Martial Law years, UP has been the cradle of student activism in the country.
Prior to the events, various groups established and launched the network “ML@50” to consolidate most of their activities. ML@50 is a public information, education, and cultural movement launched to remember the dictator’s imposition of military rule five decades ago. The network primarily aimed to counter historical distortion and denialism amid the return of the Marcoses back to power. As early as September 17 – four days before the anniversary – the network had launched webinars and held film screenings to tackle Martial Law atrocities.