NEVER AGAIN: Former president Benigno Aquino III and Vice President Leni Robredo pray with Senators Franklin Drilon, Francis Pangilinan, Bam Aquino and former interior secretary Mar Roxas during a mass at the UP Church of the Holy Sacrifice to mark the 45th anniversary of Marcos’ declaration of martial law yesterday.
MANILA, Philippines — Yellow ribbons were replaced with red and black as colors of protest, but the issues remained the same: the protection of democracy and civil liberties.
Thousands of protesters gathered in Manila’s Rizal Park and other areas all over the country yesterday, vowing that the nation would “never again” return to the dark days of martial law under dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
Vice President Leni Robredo, the highest ranking incumbent official to participate in the mass actions, together with former president Benigno Aquino III and other stalwarts of the Liberal Party stressed that history must not repeat itself as the country marked the 45th anniversary of the declaration of martial law during the Marcos regime.
“It is unfortunate that 45 years since the declaration of martial law, after 14 years of suffering under military rule, it seems that we have not learned,” the Vice President said during a mass for the victims of the dictatorship and the recent spate of extrajudicial killings at the University of the Philippines in Quezon City.
Robredo noted what appeared to be a recurring culture of violence, apparently in reference to the deadly war on drugs of the current administration.
“The victims are not just those who are against the government, but also children who suffer because of this culture of violence,” she added.
For his part, Aquino said “the good part about this (gathering) is that there are so many people concerned from different ages… The sad part is… when we were first doing this, we were the young ones, now we’re nearing old age (and) we’re still here. Sana malaki na inabante natin (We should have moved forward significantly).”
Speaking to reporters after the Mass for Justice, Aquino dismissed criticisms that the activities were organized by their party to regain leadership.
“There are so many people here, not just the party. This is a common concern for all of us,” Aquino said.
“Before they look at the color, they should see whether the message got any sense. Is there a reason to protest against the killings that are happening?” the former president replied when asked about criticisms that the “yellows” were against President Duterte.
Asked for his message to Duterte, Aquino said his successor seems to be listening to the clamor of the public.
“I think he is listening. I believe he doesn’t want unsolicited comments and advice,” he said.
No ‘I told you so’
Meanwhile, former interior secretary Manuel Roxas II – whom Duterte defeated in the May 2016 presidential elections – recalled his warning during the campaign that the former Davao City mayor would lead the country like it was martial law.
He said he does not intend to blame those who voted for Duterte after thousands died in the bloody war against illegal drugs.
“Wala namang tuwa ng ‘I told you so’ dahil mga buhay ito,” Roxas said, referring to the lives lost in the past year.
Robredo said Filipinos must learn from the past as she called on Filipinos to unite despite differences in beliefs and political ideologies.
In an earlier statement, Robredo also lamented efforts to revise history and fabricate stories about the dictatorship.
“These fabrications are dangerous for our people. If we do not remember the past, we are condemned to repeat it. Sadly, those who are deceived do not even know that they are walking a doomed path,” Robredo said.
“This is where our struggle lies today. Remembering the dark past helps our people prevent the same perils from ensnaring our nation once more,” the Vice President added.
Robredo won by a slim margin over the late dictator’s son, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in last year’s vice presidential elections.
Robredo, Aquino, Roxas and other leaders and members of LP joined the candlelighting for the victims of martial law and other injustices.
They also marched to the Commission on Human Rights to attend the unveiling of the monument of former senator and human rights icon Jose Diokno.
Like Robredo and Aquino, Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno also said the fight to protect human rights in the country continues 45 years since martial law was declared.
In her keynote address during the unveiling of Diokno’s monument, Sereno bewailed that the people have the same fear for their safety and security just like during martial law.
“The same old problems remain prevalent. There is still that deep fear among mothers and fathers whenever darkness falls,” Sereno, who is facing an impeachment complaint at the House of Representatives, said.
Amid moves to have CHR abolished, Sereno said “human rights are the foundation of our Constitution” and that those violating these would have to pay in the end.
Never again to one-man rule
During the mass, Bro. JJ Jimenez, former president of De La Salle Philippines, called on the public to denounce the possibility of a creeping martial law.
Jimenez warned against the dangers of putting back power into the hands of one man as he condemned the extrajudicial killings happening in the course of the drug war.
“We should not be swayed by fear because in the end, this is the only thing they can do,” Jimenez said.
Former education secretary Armin Luistro said the Filipinos could not just move on from the atrocities committed during martial law, noting that the former dictator was even made a hero after what he did to the people.
‘Culture of lies’
Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said martial law must not be repeated as it destroyed national values and integrity.
“Martial law was sustained by a culture of lies. Martial law stayed afloat by murders in the dark of night and in the light of day,” Villegas said in a mass held coinciding with the day of protests against a rebooted martial law.
Villegas lamented “that killing the poor and the poorest is the only solution they know to stop crime” and bewailed fake news and liars who are succeeding to mislead and confuse the public.
“Decency has given way to cuss words. The respectful and the polite are ridiculed and the rude and ill-mannered are the new saints. Human rights and the indigenous peoples are worth one thousand pesos,” Villegas said, urging the Catholic faithful to stand up for the real Filipino.
“We are decent. We are respectful. We are pro-life. We are honest. We are brave,” he said.
Although he did not name names, Villegas said, “We are losing our national soul to the Father of Lies and Prince of Darkness. They are killing the poor and poisoning our consciences. We must return to the Lord and regain our national soul.”
He said the people should pray to stay free, ring bells every night, light candles, help the orphans of the killings but also do more by demanding real change. “We voted for change and we want to see it. Keep on demanding for it. Do not relent. Do not tolerate excuses and jokes. Demand for the change promised. Bayan gumising!” he said.
“Wrong is wrong and right is right. When they confuse one for the other, stand up and correct the wrong with courage but with love. Stand up. To keep quiet in the face of evil is a sin,” Villegas stressed.
At the San Agustin Church in Intramuros, Manila, Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David also assailed the extrajudicial killings and called them “termites that eat at the collective conscience of the nation.”
David said Navotas could be considered the “biggest killing field” in the country because “almost every house” in an area called Market 3 “lost a family member to the drug war – either through a police operation or by the bonnet gangs.”
In Rizal Park in Manila, veteran movie director Joel Lamangan said it was about time Duterte step down as his administration was worse than that of Marcos due to the violence and killings now happening.
Sr. Mary John Mananzan of the Movement Against Tyranny said the protests against Duterte should not stop because of these incidents of impunity. – With Edu Punay, Eva Visperas, Evelyn Macairan, Pia Lee-Brago, Jose Rodel Clapano, Robertzon Ramirez
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