For Immediate Release
Sept. 23, 2019
Reference: Louie Sawi, Chairperson, New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP), email@example.com
September 21st, 2019 marks the 47th anniversary of when then President Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law over the Philippines in 1972 by issuing Proclamation No. 1081. Martial Law granted Marcos absolute control of the Philippines through military rule. Considered one of the most gruesome periods in all of Philippine history, scores of human rights violations were committed under Marcos. According to Amnesty International, about 70,000 people were imprisoned while 34,000 were tortured, 77 disappeared, and over 3,200 were killed during Martial Law from 1972 to 1981. These included activists and oppressed people, protesting about the rising national debt, underdevelopment of industries, government corruption, privatization of basic services, and landlessness of peasant farmers who made up the majority of the population.
We must never forget the legacy Marcos’ Martial Law left behind. And when we talk about legacy, we’re talking about the lived experiences from survivors of the abduction, detainment, torture, beatings, and rape. Philippine history books in schools do not mention any of this, so we must combat this revisionism and ensure that the over 3,200 that were killed under Martial Law are not forgotten. We are living in dangerous times where the truth is being distorted and lies become facts. History has a tendency to repeat itself.
In 1981, Proclamation 2045 announced an end to martial law under Marcos, but it was not until the People Power Revolution in 1986 that martial law under Marcos truly ended. Today, under the President Duterte, we see many of the same kinds of human rights abuses that were carried out by the Marcos administration. Since 2017, Senator Leila de Lima, an outspoken critic of Duterte’s war on drugs, has been imprisoned after falsified drug charges were brought against her by the Duterte administration; among the first arrests under martial law under Marcos were those of Senators Benigno Aquino Jr. and Jose W. Diokno. In February of this year, Maria Ressa, journalist and founder of Rappler, a news site that has been critical of Duterte, was arrested on trumped up charges of cyberlibel. Marcos not only ordered the takeover of some of the largest news outlets, but also arrested those working for independent publications, including Teodoro Locsin, Sr. of the Philippines Free Press and Jose Burgos of We Forum. Last year, the Philippine National Police set up outposts in several large cities in the US, claiming they would respond to the needs of overseas Filipinos, but in actuality are another form of surveilling the movement against Duterte. We are reminded of Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes, two Filipino- American cannery workers and anti-Marcos activists who were murdered in 1981; both Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos were found by a US District Court jury to be liable for their deaths.
Under Duterte, martial law is in effect in the Philippines, through Proclamation No. 216 on May 23, 2017, which placed the entirety of Mindanao under martial law. The Congress of the Philippines has since voted to extend martial law three times, through the end of this year; a fourth vote is due later this year, to extend martial law in Mindanao and possibly place other regions of the country under martial law as well. In the two years since martial law was enacted in Mindanao, human rights group Karapatan has estimated that over 800,000 instances of human rights violations have taken place, including 93 extrajudicial killings, over 400,000 forced evacuations, and the closures of 79 Lumad schools. No formal of declaration of martial law throughout the country has been made, but none would be needed, as the Philippines remains in a state of de facto martial law.
As our kababayans continue to fight the killing machine of the Duterte government, we must do our part to support them, especially here in the belly of the beast. In July, the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution to investigate the Philippines on the human rights crisis. While the United Nations General Assembly is taking place right now in New York until next week, we must take advantage of the opportunity to lobby the UN member states that voted on the resolution to ensure that the investigation actually happens. Last year, the U.S. government sent hundreds of millions of dollars to the Philippine government. Our tax dollars funded the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to perpetuate the human rights violations in Mindanao, as well as the drug war killings that has plagued the entire nation. We must act now to demand that Congress cuts U.S. aid to the Philippines before October 1st, the deadline to pass the Appropriations bill.
Finally, we ask you to support our friend, fellow Philippine-based American human rights activist Brandon Lee, who was shot multiple times in front of his home in Lagawe, Ifugao by agents of the Philippine military. Brandon had been targeted by the Duterte Administration because he had raised awareness about the human rights abuses in the Philippines. He was also a climate justice advocate in a nation that was listed by Global Witness as the deadliest country for environmental and land activists in 2018. Brandon is recovering from an operation in a hospital, but needs to be airlifted to the U.S. for proper medical treatment and safety. The airlift costs $200,000. We demand House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to fund his airlift, but we also ask of you to donate what you can. You can help Brandon Lee by donating to https://www.gofundme.com/f/save-brandon-lee.
As we look back to the dark times of the Philippines and continue the fight today, let us remember that NO DICTATOR has succeeded in ruling over the Philippines. THE PEOPLE have and will always rise up to overthrow the dictators into the dustbin of history.
Never Again to Martial Law!
Stop the Killings in the Philippines!
Rise, Resist, Unite Against Duterte’s Tyranny!
Amnesty International (2019, Sept. 16) https://www.amnesty.org/download/Documents/ASA3591392018ENGLISH.pdf
Chua, M (2019, Sept. 12) https://www.academia.edu/7968581/TORTYUR_Human_Rights_Violations_During_The_Marcos_Regime
Rappler (2019, Sept. 10) https://www.rappler.com/newsbreak/iq/142723-martial-law-declaration-philippines
Robles, Raissa (2016). Marcos Martial Law: Never Again. Filipinos for a Better Philippines, Inc.