Filipino community condemns continuing martial law

September 20, 2023
Photo: Migrante New South Wales/Facebook

Filipino community groups BAYAN Australia (New Patriotic Alliance), MAT – Australia (Movement Against Tyranny) and 1Sambayan Australia, organised a moving commemoration, “Never Again, Never Forget, Never Again To Martial Law” on September 16 to mark resistance to martial law.

The official beginning of the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship is September 21, 1972.

Bong Bong Marcos Jnr, sworn in as the 17th President in June last year, uses anti-terror laws Republic Act 11749, Anti-Terror Law and Republic Act 10168 Finance Terrorism to attack activists, church groups and indigenous communities.

Organisers pointed out that these laws represent a new martial law rule. Marcus Jnr’s government includes Vice President Sarah Duterte, the daughter of former President Rodrigo Duterte.

Speakers remembered the victims of torture, rape, extra-judicial killings and countless other violations against human rights.

Maria Elena Ang, a survivor of government attacks in the 1970s, said: “I’ve had experience of what was then and, as I have been back to the Philippines, I have had experience of the attacks on democracy activists now.

“Everything is the same as it was in the ‘70s martial law.”

Atty. Chona Davidson, 1Sambayan Australia President, spoke about the plummeting Philippines economy and violations on human rights. “May nagbago ba?” (“Has anything changed?”), she asked.

Tess Batacan, representing Filipina Riders, said price hikes on food, particularly onions, meant people could not afford a lot of basics. She said the government was labelling some indigenous groups, such as Cordillera People’s Alliance, as “terrorists”.

The government has also “red tagged” church groups, leading to 15 people facing unfounded criminal charges.

Len Cruz from the Promotion of Church People’s Response’s said the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, United Church of Christ in the Philippines and other individuals have had their bank accounts frozen by the finance of terrorism law.

Chairperson of Migrante North Manuel “Bebot” Del Rosario read his poem Ka Obet about the torture and murder of Comrade Obet.

“You chose to die for the revolution, together with all the martyrs of the people; You are the angel of this revolution; The principles you left behind, Are our guide towards the path we will take which will lead us to genuine freedom and equality.” 

Melodie Grafton from Anakbayan Sydney, a national democratic youth organisation based in Gadi/Sydney, expressed her solidarity with the past and current victims of the Marcos administrations. 

Claude Mostowik, President of PAX Christi Australia, said federal Labor should not be providing military aid to the Philippines, which is then used to attack human rights. 

Professor Ka Ed Escultura, active during the 1980s uprisings against Marcos, noted the current administration’s ties to United States imperialism.

Escultura from Movement Against Tyranny Australia called on the community to be vigilant against repression.

Ayah Buenaflor from Gabriela NSW spoke about the attacks on women, migrant workers and their families in the Philippines.

Dante Sta. Ana called on the Marcos Jnr administration to stop harassing Sen. Leila Delima – a whistleblower who has been charged by the government. 

Edwin Subijano, from MIGRANTE Australia NSW and BAYAN Australia, said the anti-terror laws are being weaponised to silence dissent and he called for the abolition of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict.

Filipino organisations across the Philippines will be protesting on September 21 to mark the 51 year since Ferdinand Marcos Sr. declared martial law.

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