September 21, 2009 is the 37th year since the late president Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in the country. It was Marcos reaction to the growing insurgency and peoples’ protests that filled the streets during that time. For 14 years, the nation experienced and witnessed the gravest human rights violations such as arbitrary arrests, torture, disappearances, killings and massacres committed by his government either by omission or commission.
It was in 1974 when the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP) founded Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) as reaction to the growing number of political detentions and human rights violations committed by the dictatorship.
TFDP since then documented and assisted thousands of victims of atrocities of the Marcoses and its allies. People were arrested and detained for being members and suspected to be members of peoples’ organization claimed by government as communist legal fronts. Many known opposition leaders and members were detained and treated as enemies of the state. The late Ka Pepe Diokno and Ninoy Aquino among others who were known to be Marcos’ leading critic and opponent, suffered from these practices.
The use of torture as means to extract confession, information and or as punishment was a rampant practice of the military institution and/or its organized civilian volunteers then. Cases of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings, used as tools to silence political dissent, even reached alarming figures.
Twenty three years after the 1986 people power when the people decided to end Marcos rule and restore the dignity of our nation, we still face the same human rights violations despite the lessons from the past.
Political detention remains. TFDP accounted 231 political prisoners and detainees languishing in jails and detention centers around the country. Like during Martial law, these are people who were perceived as enemies of the state. Just the same, detention is the means to stop political dissent in the country.
Torture is still being applied by the state to extract information from the suspects, along with the practice of enforced disappearances and extra judicial killings. While cases continue to record significant figures perpetrators of the said human rights violations remain free and covered by a climate of impunity.
It has been a decade now since both anti-torture and anti-enforced disappearance bills were filed in congress, but up to now laws have not been enacted to criminalize both human rights violations.
For the past 37 years, victims of Martial law still wait for justice and compensation from the law suit they won from a Hawaii court. Some already passed away without receiving justice from the government.
Today as we commemorate the heroism of those who struggled for freedom and justice and those who risked their lives to fight against the dictatorship, let us join hands to call for justice for victims of Martial Law and for the victims of the continuing practices of human rights violations of the present government.
Let us unite to end impunity and don’t let the dark days of Martial Law persist in our society. We owe it to our heroes and martyrs.
ENACT ANTI TORTURE AND ANTI ENFORCED DISAPPEARANCE BILLS NOW!
MARTIAL LAW NEVER AGAIN!