Activists prepare for commemoration of Martial Law declaration 50 yrs ago

Jorge Cariño, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 20 2022 06:24 PM

Members of Karapatan prepare banners ABS-CBN News
Members of Karapatan prepare banners at their headquarters in Quezon City on Sept. 20, 2022, the eve of the 50th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law by the late President Ferdinand Marcos, Sr. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — Visual artists from different groups rendered finishing touches on their pieces on Tuesday, as they prepare to commemorate former President Ferdinand Marcos' declaration of Martial Law in the country on September 21, 1972.

"Hindi dapat tayo makalimot sa madilim na nakaraan nung panahon ng batas militar," said 22-year-old Nicholas Jalea.

(We should not forget the horrors of Martial Law.)

Nicholas, or "Nick" to his peers, is among artists who collaborated on a mural titled, "Kalahating Siglo ng Daluyong." 

The mural depicts the faces of the Marcos family and those who fought the Martial Law, as well as artists who stood against the dictatorship of the late president, the father and namesake of the incumbent leader.

The art work was commissioned by the group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) as part of the commemoration of the Martial Law declaration, specifically for Wednesday's gathering at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City.

Other groups, such as Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), Karapatan, and Kalikasan, are also working on their respective pieces that will be shown to the public at the same event.

Isis Molintas of Karapatan told ABS-CBN News that the event is significant as Marcos' imposition of Martial Law remains very relevant to people like her who were not yet born during that period.

Martial Law was in place until January 1981, or five years before Marcos was ousted by the People Power Revolution. The period was marred by human rights abuses and massive corruption.

"Para sa amin pong mga kabataan, mahalaga pong bagay na inaalala at binibigyang halaga 'yung nangyari sa kasaysayan — na hindi po maipagkakaila na kahit ilang beses na pagtakpan na... nagkaroon po ng diktadura… Marami pong karapatang pantao na inapakan at marami din pong tao na lumaban para sa payak na karapatang pantao na hangarin nila," said Molintas.

(For us the youth, it is important to commemorate the past. It can't be denied that despite repeated whitewashing, the dictatorship happened. Human rights abuses were recorded and many people fought for their rights.)

The 24-year-old visual artist leads the group of artists who worked on the banners of Karapatan, which were painted with faces of people who valiantly stood against the Marcos dictatorship.

In a text message, Renato Reyes of BAYAN said President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who is in the United States for the United Nations General Assembly, cannot escape the ghosts of Martial Law wherever he may be in the world.

He said justice remains elusive for the victims of his father's Martial Law imposition and for the Filipino people.

According to reports from global human rights watchdog Amnesty International, there were 100,000 victims of martial law, with 3,000 killed, 34,000 tortured and 70,000 arrested.

The Marcoses also amassed an estimated $5 to 10 billion, or some P500 billion, in ill-gotten wealth, based on the World Bank-United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s Stolen Asset Recovery report.

Reyes stressed that the Marcos family has yet to be made fully accountable for human rights abuses and their ill-gotten wealth, noting that it is for such reason that the ghosts of the past will continue to haunt them wherever they may be.

“Marcos Jr. may use the UN General Assembly as a platform to gain international acceptance but this will not extinguish the crimes of the dictator and his family," said Reyes.

"He may speak about rule of law during the high-level meeting but [the] fact remains, the Marcos dictatorship undermined the rule of law by usurping power via Martial Law."

"As the nation marks 50 years since Ferdinand Marcos, Sr placed the entire country under Martial Law, paving the way for a fascist dictatorship that would last until 1986, we reaffirm our commitment to never forget and to never allow a repeat of the same horrors imposed on our people," he added.

Reyes said that on the 50th anniversary of the Martial Law declaration, they vow to fight all forms of disinformation and historical distortion about the dictatorship, to fight for justice for the victims of the military rule and for the Filipino people suffering under a second Marcos presidency.

BAYAN said they will hold nationwide commemorative activities on Wednesday, with protest actions and events scheduled in Baguio, Naga, Albay, Negros, and Cebu. 

The group said there will be a cultural event dubbed "SING-kwenta: Mga Kanta at Kwento ng Martial Law" in UP Diliman from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. 

BAYAN is inviting all those who want to learn about history and the people's struggles to attend the gathering.

“We recognize naman the problems that happened, the abuses that occurred like in any war. All of these things are some things that are already part of history,” Marcos Jr. said an interview that aired on ALLTV channel on his 65th birthday last Sept. 13.

“There’s no reason to revise history,” he said in the taped interview.

Last April, he said he 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... That's how I explain it. That was what your lolo had to do. He felt that he had to do that," he said when asked on CNN Philippines how he would explain the Martial Law era to millennials and the "Gen Z" generation.

Marcos Sr. was elected president in 1965 and reelected in 1969. He announced his Martial Law declaration two days after signing the proclamation, and went on to stay in power until February 1986.

He passed away in September 1989 in Hawaii where he was on exile, and his remains were brought home in 1993.

In November 2016, with the approval of then President Rodrigo Duterte, Marcos Sr's remains were buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Taguig City despite objection from several groups. Until the transfer, his remains were kept in the family's mausoleum in Batac, Ilocos Norte.

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