MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte has not declared martial law in the whole country, at least not yet. But victims of the Marcos-era martial law said the Duterte administration makes them feel like another dictatorship has come.
"Kahit walang martial law parang meron," said Evelyn Tan, who joined the First Quarter Storm in 1970 and went through the dark times of martial law, which Marcos declared 45 years ago.
Tan was among the thousands who walked to Luneta as part of Thursday's protest, the biggest so far under the Duterte administration.
Tan said the killings under the war on drugs, and the President's threats of placing the country under martial law, bring back the fearful days when the late dictator Marcos ruled.
"May galit. I just watched 'Respeto,' 'yung movie. At merong flashes doon ng martial law days. I could see the faces of my friends at mga dating kasama," said Zone Narito, Tan's classmate who was also part of the First Quarter Storm.
Tan and Narito said they lost many friends, who were innocent people, during the Marcos regime. One was abducted and raped by military men in Davao, while a pastoral catechist just disappeared and was never found.
Meling Florentino, an urban poor leader who was accused of being a communist insurgent, arrested, stripped naked, and detained for a month during the Marcos-era martial law, agreed with Tan and Narito.
"Ganoong-ganoon. Ang daming patay gabi-gabi," said Florentino, who admits that memories of Martial Law continue to haunt her to this very day, especially now during Duterte's presidency.
Despite already being in her late 60s, Florentino said she still joined the protest because she does not want millennials and even those that will come after to experience what they had to go through under the late dictator.
"Akala ng kabataan, okay lang. Gusto niyo maransan? Go ahead. Pero ayaw namin sanang maranasan niyo. Pagka hindi kumilos ang kabataan baka ito hanggang ngayon nasa isip niyo pa rin ang dinanas niyong hirap," said Gloria Ortego, another Martial Law victim, who was also detained and accused of being a communist.
Florentino said she finds it funny that Duterte declared the 45th anniversary of Martial Law as a National Day of Protest, because the President is the one they are rallying against -- particularly the killings under the drug war.
"National Day of Protest? Ito ang sinasabi niya para mailabas ang aming hinaing? Ang hinaing namin ay itigil na niya ang patayan lalo na sa kabataan at mahihirap. Ang pinapatay puro naka-tsinelas," she said.
"Dapat hindi niya i-idolize si Marcos. Dapat hindi siya makipag-compromise kay Marcos. Kasi may mga kasalanan si Marcos na dapat pagbayaran niya," added Mel Montano, who was mauled by cops during martial law.
Trining Repuno, now 76 years old, was tortured during the Marcos regime. She joined the protest despite having difficulties in walking to warn Duterte against placing the Philippines under martial law.
"Huwag niyang susubukang mag-declare ng martial law. Kasi kahit ako, matanda na, ako ay sasama pa rin para patalsikin ang isang diktador," she said.
This rage shown by the old martial law victims, and the youth who joined the protest must be a lesson for President Duterte, said Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate, who was also in the rally.
"H'wag niyang maliitin ang galit ng mamamayan... Dapat aralin niya ang leksiyon ng kasasayan," he said, stressing on the fate of the late strongman Marcos.
"Kailangan matuuto rin siya sa aral nung nangyari kay Marcos. Noong nag-declare si Marcos ng martial law, popular din siya noon. Parang ngayon. Pero kita natin, eventually, pinatalsik," added ACT Rep. Antonio Tinio.