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Statement on the 48th anniversary of the declaration of martial law

Thursday, 17 September 2020

Forty-eight years ago, the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos plunged the nation into one of its most devastating social, political and economic crises by declaring a nationwide martial law. The impact of more than a decade of political repression, plunder, corruption, nepotism and cronyism is still being felt by our generation. Marcos’ tyrannical rule orchestrated tens of thousands of incarcerations, enforced disappearances, tortures, internal displacement and extrajudicial killings alongside the destruction of our democratic institutions, and left an almost bankrupt Philippine economy.

The dictator was overthrown in a popular revolt in 1986 but the Philippines has never completely recovered. While there was a return of basic freedoms, a real and meaningful democratization of the economy never materialized, especially for the poor and marginalized. Successive post-EDSA governments failed to deliver a more just and equitable society. This failure precipitated the rise of Duterte and the return to strongman rule.

President Rodrigo Duterte professed an admiration for Marcos, and by allowing for the return of the Marcoses to political power, the dismissal of forfeiture cases against them and by honoring the dictator’s birthday, has tried to sanitize his martial law’s dark legacy.

Duterte’s war on illegal drugs opened the floodgates to impunity for massive human rights violations, assaults on our democratic institutions, and the crippling of popular discontent. Likewise, the entrenchment of new cronies and fast-tracked anti-people economic programs fit the dictatorship blueprint for widespread poverty and oppression.

The unprecedented outbreak of a new pandemic exposed the deadly combination of authoritarian might and graft-led, incompetent governance, over weak social protection systems and a brutalized population. The country has become the epicenter of COVID19 in Southeast Asia despite having the longest quarantine; this is due to the government’s response framework that debilitated civic involvement in public policy and crisis management.

Forty-eight years after the “conjugal dictatorship” our people still bear the consequences of the failures of our elite dominated socio-political and economic system. The change that people were clamoring for has been appropriated by a populist narcissist autocrat who now peddle our land to foreign powers.

Martial Law history is undisputed. Its profound lessons unfold our urgent tasks. Despots like Duterte, who sacrifice human rights at the altar of public order, offer false hopes of progress, and must be held accountable. Tyranny has no place in a democracy, and will be repeatedly challenged by the people emboldened by the awareness of their power. Only the people’s active engagement and direct participation, shall finally dismantle the violence and injustice that has beset our society for decades.

Today as we remember the day our democracy died, we honor the brave souls who dared to resist. With their spirit, and until now, we cry out- NEVER AGAIN! – to the darkness that cloaked our dreams of freedom; NEVER AGAIN! to the disenfranchisement of human dignity; NEVER AGAIN! to state sanctioned lies and propaganda! Never again to Marcos! Never again to tyranny and authoritarian rule! Resist Duterte dictatorship!