By John Noel E. Herrera
As the Philippines marked the 50th year of the declaration of Martial Law by late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos Sr., progressive groups led by Bayan Panay, students from different universities, and Martial Law survivors staged a protest in front of the Iloilo Provincial Capitol on Wednesday, Sept 21, 2022.
The demonstrators said that aside from remembering the 50th year of Martial Law and all the human rights violations during that time, the protest also aimed to awaken people’s consciousness of Philippine history as it is now likely to be distorted and forgotten.
Activists also held out placards with messages like “Never Again”, “Never Forget”, and “Reject and Resist” to show their strong condemnation of the crimes that happened during Martial Law, and to remind the public of the crimes that happened during the dictatorial regime and for the “possible return of dictatorship as another Marcos is currently ruling the country.”
The protest also included calls to stop attacks and red-tagging against progressive groups, resuming the peace talks, safer schools, and an increased budget for education, as well as a call to stop historical distortion and other social issues.
Martial Law survivor Jose Ely Garachico also said that remembering Martial Law is important as it is already part of history being the “worst times” of the country.
He also emphasized the corruption and human rights abuses during the dictatorial regime as he hoped that Filipinos already learned their lessons to avoid it from happening again.
“Tani indi na maliwat. Makita naton kag madumduman naton ang mga kasakitan sang mga human rights victims sang amo to nga tiyempo. Ang dako nga kautangan sang Pilipinas tungod sang pag-gutgot sang kaban sang Pilipinas nga wala man nagkadto sa proyekto nga magapaayo sang aton pangabuhi-an, kundi gin sulod sa Swiss bank kag pinakal sang mga jewelry. So tani tandaan naton ang amo to nga panahon,” Garachico said.
Donne Sodusta, an assistant professor from the University of the Philippines Visayas also said that remembering the 50th year of Martial Law is a reflection on how people should value the history and truth and feel the realities of the people on the ground.
“As educators, as researchers, as public servants, we all have the task to be here and feel the pressure on us as a nation,” he added.
Aside from activists from different progressive groups, students coming from different schools such as West Visayas State University (WVSU) and UP-Visayas also participated in the protest to show a strong message of support for the Martial Law victims and that they will not let it happen again in this generation.
In a video posted by the Forum Dimensions, several members of the National Democratic Mass Organizations from WVSU were seen chanting “Never again, never again, never again to Martial Law” as they marched towards the Iloilo Provincial Capitol.
UP Visayas College of Arts and Sciences Student Council Vice President Thea Kryshna Dayata also said that the youth should give their combined forces to condemn the tyranny under the Marcos-Duterte administration and protect their rights as the fight for human rights and social justice continues even up to this day.
The PHINMA University of Iloilo also conducted a talk and a video presentation of what happened during Martial Law in the school’s main lobby to inform the students about what happened during that time.
They also had a free film showing of Kip Oebanda’s Liway, an independent film about the experience of a young boy who grew up in a prison as the son of anti-Marcos dissidents during the days of the Marcos dictatorship.
On Tuesday, Sept 20, the League of Filipino Students-WVSU also conducted a talk with Martial Law victims which aimed to tackle social realities in the country, especially during the “dark years” under the Marcos dictatorship.