Protect open legal space, strengthen institutions destroyed by Martial Law: UP prof

Aleta Nieva-Nishimori, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 21 2021 05:00 PM

 Protesters conduct a lightning rally in front of Mendiola Bridge in Manila on September 21, 2021, commemorating the 49th year of the imposition of Martial Law. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News
Protesters conduct a lightning rally in front of Mendiola Bridge in Manila on September 21, 2021, commemorating the 49th year of the imposition of Martial Law. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - A University of the Philippines (UP) professor on Tuesday stressed the need to protect open legal space and strengthen institutions that were destroyed under Martial Law to prevent a repeat of the past. 

“Ngayon naman, hindi naman tayo dapat under an authoritarian regime. Buhay 'yung ating mass movement. Buhay 'yung ating civil society. Ipinaglalaban 'yan," UP Diliman Department of Political Science professor Miriam Coronel Ferrer said as the country marks the 49th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law by the late President Ferdinand Marcos.

(We're not supposed to be under an authoritarian regime now. The mass movement is alive. Civil society is alive, and we're fighting for that.)

"Pero ang nakita natin nitong huli, yung media ina-attack, 'yung political opposition, hina-harass; 'yung red tagging na nangyari; maraming pinapatay. At 'yung extrajudicial killings sa panahon ngayon, higit na marami lalo na sa anti-drug war na pinag-umpisahan ng current administration," dagdag niya.

(But we have seen that the media is under attack, the political opposition is harassed, red-tagging is happening, many are killed and many fall victims to extrajudicial killings this time especially because of the anti-drug war initiated by the current administration.)

"So 'yung buong context na 'yan (that entire context) is recreating the same conditions that generated the growth of rebellions in the 1970s."

Ferrer said open legal avenues and open mass movement should be protected as these will prevent another protracted war which have already cost human lives.

“Yun ang gusto nating iwasan. Kaya dapat, protektahan natin itong open legal space natin. 'Yung ating institutions, i-strengthen natin kasi 'yan ang winarak ng Martial Law at 'yan din ng nagbigay ng kondisyon para sa ganitong klaseng armed conflict na naging bahagi ng ating malaking kasaysayan bilang isang independent Philippine republic,” said Ferrer, a former peace negotiator of the government.

(We should safeguard our open legal space and strengthen our institutions which have been destroyed by Martial Law, allowing this kind of armed conflict that form part of our history as an independent Philippine republic.)

Ferrer's remarks were made at UP Diliman's weeklong virtual commemoration of the declaration of Martial Law.

Under the theme “Dambana ng Gunita Day 2: Hindi Mapayapa sa Panahon ng Batas Militar”, Ferrer talked about the growth of the Muslim and communist-led rebellions, which were used to justify the military rule imposition.

Marcos’ Proclamation 1081, dated Sept. 21, 1972, was supposedly aimed at suppressing disorder, quelling rebellion and instituting reforms in the republic.

But Ferrer said that even before Martial Law was imposed, the number of New People’s Army fighters and their firearms were not that high. She said the Communist Party of the Philippines’s first plenum started with just around 75 members in the late 60s.

“Sa katapusan, bago magtapos nung 1980s, datos ito ng AFP, tumalon na sa halos mga 10,000 yung fighters at saka yung firearms lumaki na rin. So bakit imbes na masupil ay dumami?" she said.

(By the end of the 1980s, based on data from the AFP, the number jumped to about 10,000 fighters and the number of their firearms increased also. So instead of quelling it, how come it increased?)

Ferrer said that when Martial Law was imposed, all open avenues available to a citizen in a democratic country was shutdown.

She said there was a turn to radicalism and went underground since people could not openly protest, and legal avenues such as the press, courts, and even Congress were under Marcos.

“Bakit ba sumasali sa rebellion ang maraming tao? May communist ideology. Pero sa totoo lang, ang nagtutulak para sumabak sa armed struggle ay 'yung human rights violations na na-experience nila mismo — kanilang tatay, kapatid, kasapi ng pamilya nila, kaklase, kaibigan, isa sa mga naging biktima nitong pangayari na ito, at sila mismo nagkaroon ng ganung recourse, precisely radicalism and joining the underground,” she said.

(Why do many people join the rebellion? The main push to take up arms struggle is human rights violations that they’ve experienced—their father, sibling, members of the family, classmates, friends, who became victims that forced them to take that recourse, precisely radicalism and joining the underground.)

Development aggression like the Chico Dam project and economic difficulties also prompted many to join the rebellion.

Ferrer said that in 1969 to 1970, there were only 390 recruits of the Moro National Liberation Front that underwent training. But their numbers increased to several thousands following a series of attacks and massacres in their communities.

“Kung tutuusin, 1960s, napakaganda na. Nag-uumpisa na yung civil society organizations sa mga kabataang Muslim. Pero marami sa kanila, napilitang mamundok, lumaban at maging kabahagi ng MNLF kasi nakita nila yung nangyari sa kanilang komunidad,” she said.
 
The UP Diliman event aims to honor the struggle of the Filipino people under the authoritarian regime and the university's contribution to the uprising against the Marcos dictatorship.

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