It’s a different military, the Armed Forces of the Philippines assured the public yesterday as the nation prepared to mark 45 years since Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law. For the most part, the AFP is right. In Marawi, which is under martial law together with the rest of Mindanao, businessmen are contributing supplies and children are writing letters of encouragement to the troops fighting Islamic State-inspired Maute terrorists.
This new appreciation of the role of the military, however, contrasts with a growing public distrust of the Philippine National Police. Teenagers and even young children aren’t writing to their police officers but fleeing from them. The PNP is becoming a symbol of the gross abuse of state power, which became systematic under military rule during the Marcos dictatorship.
President Duterte appears to be sensing the distrust and its negative impact on his continuing war against illegal drugs and criminality. In public, he has warned police anti-drug units against abuses. The PNP is said to be procuring body cameras for use during anti-drug raids, with media and human rights officials invited to embed themselves as observers. Yesterday, the President warned abusive cops that he would “slaughter” them.
The President also said he recognized gross human rights violations committed during Marcos’ martial law. Yet protesters remember that the dictator was finally buried in the heroes’ cemetery with the approval of President Duterte. He is also pitching a settlement with the Marcos clan, which critics see as a get-out-of-jail pass in exchange for returning to the government a fraction of the estimated billions stolen from the nation during the dictatorship.
That the Marcoses are fully rehabilitated is one of the subjects of today’s mass protests. It’s a different martial law in Mindanao, and dictatorship has not returned. But the wounds of Marcos’ authoritarian rule have not fully healed and are now being constantly reopened. There is no closure; today’s mass protests show the difficulty of moving on.
Updated September 21, 2017 – 12:00am
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