Mhafe del Mundo, Advocacy officer at CODE-NGO

Caucus of Development NGO Networks
Statement in Remembrance of our Darkest Years under Martial Law
No to Revolutionary Government! Never Again to Martial Law! Never Forget!

The declaration of Martial Law by former president and dictator Ferdinand Marcos last September 21, 1972 and the proceeding human right violations, corruption, economic disruption and widespread poverty under his regime were the darkest years in recent Philippine history. We cannot afford this part of our history to repeat itself.

However, recent political developments which attack the Constitution and the Filipino people’s rights and freedoms alarmingly point to a creeping authoritarianism. The government’s campaign against illegal drugs which has led to the killing of 23,000 suspected drug users and traders, has blatantly disregarded human rights and due process, and has yet to lead to a single conviction of perpetrators. The declaration and extension of Martial Law in Mindanao until the end of the year to fight terrorism following the Marawi incident which did not improve the peace and order situation in Mindanao is perceived by many as a precursor to a nationwide Martial Law. The president demonstrates dictatorial tendencies as he and his allies continue to persecute those who criticize government policies, including government officials, members of the media, foreign dignitaries, and democracy and human rights advocates. Senator Leila de Lima, who was investigating the killings related to the campaign against drugs, was incarcerated in February last year after then Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre filed drug charges against her. An impeachment case was filed against Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, whose agency was investigating the president’s hidden bank accounts. Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno was forced out of the Supreme Court through a quo warranto petition by Solicitor General Jose Calida questioning her qualifications after she ruled against some of the president’s policies that impinge on human rights and rule of law, such as the declaration of martial law in Mindanao and baseless allegations of involvement of judges in illegal drugs. The president and his social media followers also verbally attacked leading media firms ABS-CBN and Philippine Daily Inquirer and social media news outfit Rappler for their perceived bias in covering the president’s actions. Most recently, the president revoked the amnesty granted to his known antagonist Senator Antonio Trillanes Jr. and ordered his arrest on the grounds that Trillanes allegedly did not apply for amnesty in the first place.  Moreover, the threat of the administration declaring a revolutionary government, which meant a suspension of the 1987 Constitution, resurfaced as the President and his allies strongly believed that it is the only means to install a federal system of government.

In remembering the 46th year of the declaration of Martial Law, the Caucus of Development NGO Networks (CODE-NGO), the country’s largest coalition of CSOs working for social development with its 6 national and 6 regional member networks, representing nearly 2,000 development NGOs, cooperatives and people’s organizations nationwide, reiterate its call to lift Martial Law in Mindanao and strongly denounce any and all moves toward authoritarianism and the declaration of a nationwide Martial Law.

Instead, the government should focus on developing and implementing effective strategies to solve more pressing issues that impact heavily on the poor such as the weakening of the peso, rising inequality, rice shortage, rising prices of basic commodities, the long and slow process of emergency response and disaster recovery to the recent calamities, the spread of fake news and propaganda and the undermining of the country’s territorial claims.

Amidst the cited threats to democracy, we commit to continue safeguarding the fundamental freedoms and human rights of all and to promote, protect, and assert the right to the development of the people as enshrined in CODE-NGO’s Covenant on Philippine Development principles. We further declare our commitment to the growth of an informed citizenry and their involvement in national and local issues.

Thus, we call on CSOs and the public to continue opposing any actions related to the plans of the government to declare a revolutionary form of government and Martial Law, and to continue to be vigilant in the face of troubling signs pointing to authoritarianism.

We urge President Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to faithfully exercise their mandate of upholding human rights and safeguarding the freedoms of all in accordance with the Philippine Constitution, the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and other international laws and legal instruments.

No to Revolutionary Government!  Never again to Martial Law!  Never Forget!