Never again! This is our mantra every time we commemorate the declaration of Martial Law that started the dictatorial rule of Marcos, which lasted over thirteen years. Because of this, September 21 has become a significant date in our nation’s history. It is also personally memorable because on this date one year later, I was arrested, tortured and imprisoned for seven months. I commemorate not only the 47th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law but also the start of my personal suffering at the hands of the dictatorship 46 years ago. Never again! This was my mantra for many years. But now three years after Duterte became president, I can no longer say that. All I can say now is: Oh no, not again!
Well, he has declared martial law only in Mindanao, not the entire country. But what we have now is reminiscent of Marcos’ dictatorial rule – not the rule of law but the rule of one man who has hegemony over Philippine society. He is above the law and his word is law. He has dominion over the judiciary, over both houses of Congress, over the PNP and military. He gets away with murder – mass murder actually – surpassing the number of extrajudicial killings under Marcos so many times over (over 30,000 in three years). He has cracked down on the media, the opposition and the Church. Meanwhile, criminals are on the loose. Drugs continue to proliferate. The users who are mostly poor are being slaughtered while the drug lords continue to operate, and those imprisoned given preferential treatment or even set free – thanks to their friends in high places. This begs the question – have we become a narco-state? Corruption remains unchecked and has metastasized in all levels of society and government – from top to bottom. Majority of the people continue to wallow in poverty and there is no effective strategy for development. The environment continues to be destroyed and climate change is not being seriously addressed.
The external debt has ballooned and the country is facing debt servitude with the implementation of the “build-build-build” strategy that is dependent on China with high interest rates and onerous conditions. The armed conflict with CPP/NPA/NDF has escalated after the collapse of the peace talks and the worsening socio-economic and political conditions. The violence of the state is being countered by the violence of some of those who want to change it and thus, once again the spiral of violence is continuing and expanding in spite of the implementation of the peace agreement with the MILF. Extrajudicial killings are now being carried out not only against suspected drug users but also farmers, lumads, unarmed activists and human rights defenders.
Meanwhile, the former dictator has received a hero’s burial, the widow remains scot-free desspite the judgment of guilt for plunder by the courts, the daughter is in the Senate while the son is desperately trying to influence the Supreme Court to rule in his favor in his electoral protest after an unsuccessful attempt to win the vice-presidential elections.
While all this is happening, the possibility of me being arrested, tortured and imprisoned has been replaced by the possibility of being murdered by a death squad, which is not far-fetched since they almost got me over a year ago. Never again? How I wish or in my dreams. All I can say now is: Oh no, not again. I was 17 years old when Marcos declared Martial Law and celebrated my 19th birthday in prison. I never expected that history would repeat itself when I celebrate my 65th birthday. I just hope that it will repeat itself once more with a bloodless, non-violent end of an authoritarian and bloody rule, through the resistance of a people who have overcome the paralyzing apathy and fear. This is what I constantly pray for as I live a hidden and quiet life as a hermit.