Breaking Impunity will end the Legacy of Martial Law: AFAD Statement on the 39th Anniversary of Martial law
21 September 2011
Breaking Impunity will end the Legacy of Martial Law
AFAD Statement on the 39th Anniversary of Martial law
Today, the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) joins the whole nation in commemorating of the 39th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law.
Our manner of commemorating the event is the reiteration of our call to Pres. Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III to learn from the lessons of our history by making human rights its top priority and breaking impunity.
Thirty-nine years since President Ferdinand E. Marcos placed the Philippines under Martial Law through Proclamation No. 1081 which suspended the civil rights and liberties of the Filipino people by imposing military authority in the country. The chilling effects of these dark pages of our history are still felt until today.
Human rights are continuously being violated. What makes it more disturbing is that violations persist with complete impunity. The Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND) has documented 2,160 victims of enforced disappearance since martial law. Ten cases have been reported under the present Aquino administration with the military involvement. Unfortunately until now not a single perpetrator has been punished.
The scenarios of warrantless arrests, arbitrary detentions and illegal searches which were common practices during Martial Law are still in effect until today. While the military claims that it already adopted a new security policy called the Oplan Bayanihan, said to be a paradigm shift from the combat-focused approach to a human security or “people-centered” approach, the primacy of military solution is still deeply embedded in the whole institution. It allows security forces to ignore the fundamental rules of law and due process in the conduct of military operations. The Oplan Bayanihan is just another name of Oplan Bantay Laya (Operation Freedom Watch), the counter-insurgency program of the previous administration which led the military to deliberately target and systematically hunt down leaders of leftist organizations, resulting in hundreds of cases of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances in the country.
The disappearance case of a teenager from the Dumagat tribe of the Burdeous Municipality in Quezon province, who was abducted on 23 August 2011 by six armed men pretending to be members of New People’s Army but later revealed to be members of the 202nd Infantry Brigade of the Armed forces of the Philippines and Civilian Volunteers Organization is but one of the recent examples of red hunting. The teenager was held in custody against his will for almost two weeks in the military camp where he was repeatedly interrogated and intimidated. He was later released when his family, with the help of Franciscan missionaries, sought the help of the public to search for him. The military denied abducting the teenager and claimed that he merely availed himself of the government’s social integration program for rebel returnees.
If indeed, the military believes that ‘winning peace” could be achieved through the continuing attack against any individuals or groups perceived to be supporters or members of the insurgent groups through political harassment, vilification campaign and criminalization of political offense, it is doomed to repeat the mistakes of history.
It is a historical truth that when people are suppressed, they learn to fight back. This reality was what ignited the people to struggle against the dictator which inevitably paved the road to EDSA, including the martyrdom of the late Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino and assumption to power of the late Pres. Corazon C. Aquino.
PNoy should keep his name as a symbol of democracy. As the new commander-in-chief, he is duty bound to lead his Armed Forces in performing its inherent obligation as the protector of the people. He has in his hands the opportunity to learn from the difficult lessons of the dark years of martial rule by guaranteeing human rights protection and accountability.
When he said during his State of the Nation Address (SONA) that reconciliation can only be achieved when justice is rendered, this should not mean buying to the idea of giving military honor to the late dictator and promising the compensation for victims of Martial Law. The Marcoses should continue to be held responsible for their crimes against the Filipino people and all others who followed the sinister means to keep themselves in power.
Today, we pay tribute to those who sacrificed their lives in fighting against the dictator in order for freedom and democracy to live. We will keep their memory alive in our hearts and minds as we continue the struggle for truth, justice, and redress with the resounding voice of commitment, chanting: “Nunca Mas!” (Never Again!)
Signed and authenticated by:
MARY AILEEN DIEZ-BACALSO