Community GroupsNews

45 years since martial law first imposed in the Philippines

As people in the Philippines rallied on September 21 to commemorate the 45th anniversary of martial law in the Philippines a group of Sydney-siders held a silent vigil outside the Pitt Street Uniting Church in Sydney.

Suganthi Singarayar

Vigil to commemorate 45th anniversary of martial law in Philippines Photo Suganthi Singarayar

Drawn from overseas Filipino groups such as Migrante, an organisation that looks after the rights of overseas Filipino workers, Australian Action for Peace and Development in the Philippines (APDP) and the Australian arm of the International Coalition of Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP), the group wanted Australians to be aware of the current political situation in the Philippines and their strong fear that President Duterte was setting the stage for a dictatorship.

In the Philippines September 21 was declared a National Day of Protest by President Duterte, who said that it was not a holiday but a day when those who wanted to could protest against the government and the police. He said that even those who worked in the government would protest about low salaries and lack of equipment. He also said that communist rebels who participated in the protest would not be arrested, as long as they did not violate any laws.

At the Sydney vigil, Boyan Mallary, a member of Migrante, APDP and ICHRP, said the group had come together to draw attention to the thousands of people who were killed, incarcerated and tortured during the years of martial law in the Philippines.

Lina Cabaero from Migrante said, “Today is the 45th anniversary of the declaration of martial law. Forty-five years ago, when Marcos declared martial law, a lot of people were detained, a lot of people were killed, a lot of people were disenfranchised. Fast forward to 2017, what he [Duterte] has been doing is exactly what Marcos did before martial law 45 years ago.”

Ms Cabaero said the vigil was to “remind people that things have not changed in the Philippines. We as migrants in Australia or other places in the world, we have a responsibility to talk about what has happened in the past. We have to do something.”

The groups’ demands include an end to the extrajudicial killings being carried out in the name of a “war on drugs” and a “war on terror” and a stop to the indiscriminate aerial bombing and artillery fire that has targeted indigenous Lumad and Moro communities in Mindanao, which was placed under martial law in May.

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