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Protests mark 50th anniversary of Martial Law declaration in the Philippines

Protesters hounded Marcos in New York on September 21

Protest banner which reads “Never Again, Never Forget Martial Law. Marcos, Dictator, Thief”. Photo from Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, used with permission

Martial Law was declared on September 21, 1972, by former President Ferdinand Marcos Sr., and it lasted until 1981. During this period, Marcos ruled as a strongman who relied on the police and military to govern the country. Thousands went hungry and were killed through violent crackdowns.

How “peaceful” was the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr.'s Martial Law?

Those were the dangers and the perils that the country was facing. Most people do not realize, I’d say the rebels…the communist rebels, how close they came to Manila and how close they came to large urban centers and slowly gained control.

And that’s why it was necessary to — in my father’s view at the time — to declare martial law.

What Marcos Jr. didn’t mention was that the armed rebels were mostly based in remote provinces and that this army was only formed in 1969. He also failed to mention that his father's presidential term was supposed to end in 1973 if Martial Law had not been declared. Nor did he mention the millions of dollars his family pilfered from the treasury during this period.

From a son who had seen his father suffer from the abuses of martial law and had witnessed his father imprisoned four times, I tell you this: the atrocities and abuses that transpired during this period were real – no amount of disinformation can change that.

We are the living testament to the atrocities committed by the Marcoses and their cronies against the Filipino people. We are among those who endured and survived to tell our gruesome tales under martial law and to pass the torch of struggle of those who sacrificed their lives to fight for our basic rights and freedoms.

While our physical scars may have already healed years ago, our trauma and pain brought by such dark times remain. And now, with the return of the Marcoses in Malacañang [presidential palace] and the absence of justice for those whom they had victimized over the years, it feels like we are walking in another nightmare.

Activist leader Renato Reyes Jr. compares the situation in 1972 and the present political situation:

Today feels very much like 1972. Books are being banned. Media outlets are being blocked on the internet. Activists and revolutionaries are demonized as “terrorists”. Freedom of expression is suppressed. Peaceful protests are violently dispersed. Communities are militarized.

Aside from the protest in Quezon City in Metro Manila, rallies were also held in the rural provinces. In Cagayan de Oro, students commemorated Martial Law by joining a prayer rally

In Cebu, various groups organized a rally in the city. One of the placards reads “Marcos Itakwil” which means “Reject Marcos” in the Filipino language.

IN PHOTOS: Progressive groups in Cebu called for justice for Martial Law victims in a commemorative protest march along Osmeña Boulevard on the 50th anniversary of the declaration of martial law under the Marcos Sr. dictatorship. (1/2)

Back in Manila, candles were offered to all those who suffered and fought the dictatorship.

The following mural is a collaboration between veteran and young artists, which symbolizes five decades of resisting tyranny and the continuing demand to hold the Marcoses accountable for the excesses of the Martial Law era.

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