“Never again, never again: Never again to martial law.”
The call echoed from the streets of Roxas to the streets of Magsaysay, where the protesters marched in protest of martial law, and in condemnation of what they say is Aquino’s imperialist regime. They believe that martial law in the Philippines is existing, but is hidden behind the president’s counter insurgency campaign, the Oplan Bayanihan.
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) Southern Mindanao Region spearheaded the event, which was in commemoration of the 42nd year since the declaration of Martial Law. BAYAN spokesperson for SMR Sheena Duazo said that Aquino, by implementing anti people laws like the EDCA (Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement) and by challenging the Supreme Court over the DAP (Disbursement Acceleration Program), is showing dictatorship. “The people are clamoring for him to leave the presidency, but he really wants to stay. His refusal is already a violation of our rights,” Duazo stressed.
In 1972, former president Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law over the Philippines, which, in effect, formed a long line of human rights violations, disappearances, and extra judicial killings.
The activists who joined in the protest were unified in one aim: to oust Benigno Simeon Aquino now.
Joyce Perpetua of LFS (League of Filipino Students) says that Aquino’s forces do not exist to protect the people. “They [military] are here to protect their “bosses” which they alone can benefit from,” explained Joyce.
Groups also in the protest included the Anakbayan partylist, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), Gabriela Women’s Partylist, Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (KADAMAY), and PANALIPDAN.
The youth sector was represented by the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP), League of Filipino Students (LFS), Kabataan Partylist, College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), and Kabataang Artista Para sa Tunay na Kalayaan (KARATULA).
From the Indigenous Peoples were the Datus of various tribes, who are now part of the group PASAKA.
Datu Isidro Indao, from the Matigsalug tribe, said that the government’s military forces try to tag everything they own, including their schools and livestock, as properties of the New People’s Army (NPA), a communist rebel group. The Datu says that if it were not for the NGOs and other groups that helped them, they would have no one to turn to.
“Mao ni ang kahimtang sa katawhang Lumad” (This is the current situation of the natives).
Don Pagusara, a renowned and award-winning literary writer, spoke during the protest. Pagusara, also a leader in progressive demonstrations in Cebu, was one of the many victims of martial law. At the height of martial law, he was detained in Cebu for five years.
Pagusara, being a writer, dedicates a message to the young and aspiring writers today: “Dedicate your talent for the emancipation of the people from poverty. Join in the struggle for national liberation and democracy. Wield the power of the pen.”