MANILA - Former Senator Rene Saguisag on Thursday said the present atmosphere in the country was the same, if not worse, than the situation during the Marcos dictatorship.
"Today, it seems what we fought for in 1972 is again back—the total disrespect for human life, dignity, human rights. That’s how we started," he told ANC's Headstart.
"In some ways, it may be worse. In a span of a little over a year, more than 10,000 have been killed, EJK (extra-judicial killings) has crept into the language," he said.
Saguisag, a human rights lawyer, said President Rodrigo Duterte's statement to kill more people after 32 died in a drug sweep in Bulacan last month was "very dangerous—no respect for human rights, for human dignity."
But he hopes the current atmosphere would change, adding that after the killing of several teenagers allegedly in the name of President Duterte's war on drugs, it seems that "the government may be reviewing where it has totally failed."
DUTERTE'S CAPACITY TO CHANGE
Although critical of the extra-judicial killings under the administration's watch, Saguisag is hopeful Duterte will succeed, but that the President must "show respect for human life."
"I hope that he will succeed because his success is yours and mine," he said.
Saguisag, who admits a "bias" towards fellow Bedan Duterte, said the chief executive, "after weighing things, has shown that he can change his mind."
"I cannot underestimate anybody’s capacity for change and subjective growth. He’s bright, he can learn from his mistakes, his misjudgments in the first year," he said.
"We had better really all work with him to succeed, but he has to change. He has to show respect for human life," he added.
9 KILLED DAILY
The Duterte administration, however, has belied the high number of fatalities in the drug war often cited by human rights groups. Official data show that a total of 3,811 "drug personalities" died and 107,156 arrested in more than 70,000 anti-drug operations from July 1, 2016 to August 29, 2017. This means 9 people killed daily in presumed-legitimate anti-drug operations.
The Philippine National Police has also determined that out of the 12,833 homicide cases from July 1, 2016 to June 16, 2017, 2,098 deaths were drug-related and 2,535 not drug-related. A total of 8,200 homicide cases, however, were under investigation "with motives to be determined," the PNP said.
45 YEARS AFTER MARTIAL LAW
The nation on Wednesday commemorated the 45th anniversary of martial law declared by former President Ferdinand Marcos.
Protests were held to remember the tragic years under the Marcos dictatorship, and to oppose the EJKs under Duterte's war on drugs.
Saguisag said there was "very little open opposition" against the Marcoses in 1972 when the dictator declared martial law, but several factors came into play over the years to solidify the dissenting voices.
"It took the criticism from the world community in 1975, then the 1978 Laban elections, the cheating in 1981, and then the salvaging of Ninoy Aquino, when everyone realized no one was safe. If they can do it to Ninoy, who was safe?" he said.
"It took another 3 years to galvanize enough people to join what became known as People Power ‘86," he added.