MANILA — Various groups and individuals, including survivors of the Martial Law era, launched the ML50 campaign on Thursday to commemorate the 50th anniversary this year of the declaration of military rule by former President Ferdinand Marcos, Sr.
Former political prisoners Judy Taguiwalo and Joel Lamangan led the launch of activities, which include film screenings, fora and webinars, at the Quezon City Sports Club.
Lamangan, a filmmaker, said he is also ready to direct a film to counter efforts at historical negationism, particularly the upcoming pro-Marcos film "Maid in Malacañang."
"Kung ako, manonood ba ako? Oo, manonood ako. Titingnan ko kung anong katarantaduhang ginawa nila at sasabihin ko sa mga tao na hindi totoo ang lahat ng ito at gagawa ako ng pelikula laban dito,” Lamangan said of the film.
The release of the film comes as the late dictator's son and namesake assumed the presidency 36 years after the family's ouster from power.
Taguiwalo and Lamangan recalled their activist days during martial law, which they said should be remembered all the more as Marcos Jr. takes the helm of the Philippine government.
“Napaka-ironic na sa taong ito, ang nakaupo sa Malacañang ang ikalawang Marcos," said Taguiwalo.
"Lungkot, panlulumo, galit ang naramdaman ko noong nanalo sa isang eleksyon na kwestiyonable ang isang tao na may hindi nagbayad ng buwis at walang malinaw na track record,” he added.
For younger activists like Tanggol Kasaysayang lead convenor Francis Gealogo and Student Christian Movement of the Philippines chairperson Kej Andres, there is a need to remind the present generation of the past under Marcos Sr.
“Maraming kabataan ang nagbuwis ng buhay dahil sa pagtatanggol ng ating karapatan, mula noon hanggang ngayon. Nandiyan ang mga martir gaya nila Edgar Jopson, nina Jessica Sales,” Andres said.
“Halimbawa, 'yung pagbibigkas niya noong inagurasyon na sinasabing hindi tayo dapat pakulong sa nakaraan, mag-move on. Pero sa kabilang banda sasabihin niya na ito 'yung sinakatuparan ng kaniyang ama na kailangan nating dakilain,” Gealogo, for his part, said of Marcos Jr.
Also in attendance during the ML50 launch were anti-Marcos activists Satur Ocampo, Erin Tanada, and Teddy Casiño.
Meanwhile, National Union of People's Lawyers (NUPL) president Edre Olalia denounced the decision of the Quezon City Department of Public Safety not to allow protesters along Commonwealth Avenue during the first State of the Nation Address (SONA) of Marcos Jr.,
“Legally, inconvenience is a necessary consequence of an exercise of a basic constitutional right to assembly. Wala namang assembly na hindi nag-cause ng traffic eh. Kahit libing, kahit parada eh, kahit VIP nagko-cause ng traffic,” Olalia said.
At the end of the launch and press conference, the activists went outside the Quezon City Sports Club after learning that policemen were gathered across the venue.
Bayan chairperson Carol Araullo approached the policemen and asked them why they were there. But the policemen refused to respond.
“I told them to leave because they have no reason to be here. We are merely commemorating the 50th year of martial law and its lessons. What is the reason to intimidate us? If this is a signal, we are not intimidated,” Araullo said.
In April, Marcos Jr. said he had told his children that Martial Law was something their grandfather "had to do."
"The situation at the time was dire. We were fighting a war on two fronts. We had a secessionist movement in the south, we had the dissident NPAs, CPP-NPA in the countryside. And these were people who wanted to bring down the government, and the government had to defend itself," he said when asked in a CNN Philippines interview how he would explain the Martial Law era to millennials and the "Gen Z" generation.
"That's how I explain it. That was what your lolo had to do. He felt that he had to do that."
The Philippines' Official Gazette said Marcos Sr. "declared" Martial Law on Sept. 23, 1972 through Proclamation No. 1081, which he signed two days earlier.
It paved the way for him to take control of "all power, as well as all operations of the entire government", based on his General Order No. 1, the late President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, son and namesake of Marcos Sr.'s most vocal critic, had said.
"(Marcos Sr.) succeeded in amassing all the powers of the state, and plunged our country into abyss of dictatorship," Aquino said in Filipino during the 40th anniversary of the Martial Law declaration.
Martial Law, which was officially lifted in 1981 in preparation for the Philippine visit of Pope John Paul II, led to the arrest of political opposition figures, corruption, and human rights violations. It also imposed government control over all forms of media.
The Official Gazette noted that the lifting of the Martial Law on January 17, 1981 "was merely a symbolic gesture" ... "since all decrees issued during that time were still in force".
Rights watchdog Amnesty International has reported that some 70,000 people were imprisoned, 34,000 tortured and over 3,200 killed during the martial law era.
The August 1983 assassination of former Sen. Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr. sparked movements that culminated in the ouster of the latter in February 1986 through the People Power Revolution.