By Marivir R. Montebon
New York City – The 45th year of the commemoration of Martial Law in the Philippines has gotten more skeletons out of the closet. A US-based human rights group said that “vigilance is the price of democracy” and lambasted human rights groups in the US and the Philippines who allied with President Duterte, now accused of gross human rights violations on the account of his war against illegal drugs.
“We did not keep quiet for the sake of the so-called tactical alliances,” said LA-based Arturo Garcia of the nationwide Filipino American Human Rights Alliance (FAHRA) in a press release.
Duterte, a staunch ally and family friend of the Marcoses, has waged a vigorous campaign against illegal drugs as a government platform. Summary executions have become rampant, carried out by police enforcers and unidentified armed groups.
The FAHRA statement said, “We kept a watchful eye on his (Duterte’s) deception and pretensions as a progressive person from day 1 as president. And when the extra-judicial killings started, we raised our voices and acted militantly.”
“They should have self-criticized and not cower over principles and act as if they were immune to criticism. Now we should unite against the imminent threat of martial law in the country,” Garcia added, pointing at BAYAN and its allied organizations which campaigned for Duterte as president.
FAHRA warned of deeper malaise that Duterte is paving the way for the return of the Marcoses to power, a major indicator of which was the president’s allowing of the Marcos burial in the national cemetery of heroes.
For FAHRA, it was a sign “and the final insult to the collective memory of all those who sacrificed their life and limbs in the 14 years of our struggle against the Marcos dictatorship.”
Pres. Ferdinand Marcos declared the Philippines under Martial Law in a fight against communist insurgency on September 21, 1972. He was deposed in a non-violent People’s Uprising in 1986 and lived in exile in Hawaii until his death on September 28, 1989. The Philippine government however failed to fully recover his alleged ‘ill-gotten wealth’.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, in a press conference at the Philippine Consulate on September 20, said that Duterte would not declare Martial Law on a national scale. With Duterte’s age and (the power) of social media, Cayetano said he believes “he would not be able to do that.”
Cayetano, who is on a state visit to represent the Philippines at the UN General Assembly, also said that the public has been deceived into believing that there is a wave of state-sponsored extra-judicial killings in the Philippines.
Asked as to how the government may prosecute police who are protecting drug syndicates, Cayetano quoted Duterte as saying, “police who are abusive are worse than criminals and they are accountable and have to be investigated.”
Philippine police records accounted for 12,833 homicide cases from July 2016 to June 2017, and 3,451 deaths were a result of presumed legitimate law enforcement operations.
“Any death or killing is one too much. There is a deliberate attempt to include all homicides as EJKs that are related against the campaign against criminality and illegal drugs, and that these are state-sponsored, which is simply not true,” said Cayetano, quoting his own opening statement at the 3rd Cycle of the Philippine Universal Periodic Review at the UN Geneva in May this year.
The Cayetano document titled “The Real Numbers” said that the Duterte administration had conducted 68,214 anti-illegal drug operations since he sat in office that resulted to the voluntary surrender of 1.3 million persons, with 64,917 persons apprehended, not killed.
Critics of the one-year-old Duterte administration here said that his war against drugs has been aimed against the small-time pushers and users while failing to curb the big illegal drug syndicates that produce and supply illegal drugs. (Featured photo by Sid Balatan)