President Rodrigo Duterte has no reason to declare military rule over the entire country, his spokesman said Friday, saying the conditions today are very different from what they were 46 years ago, when Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law.
“There’s a huge difference. The public will protest if there’s no democracy, and the President is a product of democracy,” said Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque.
Roque added that although martial law prevails in Mindanao because of a separatist threat, the rest of the country was under no such danger.
“There’s no reason to declare martial law in Luzon and Visayas,” Roque said in a radio interview Friday. “The public asked for a martial law in Mindanao, unlike in the past… when it was used to violate human rights,” Roque said.
“The people gave the President Duterte a mandate,” he added. “Unlike before, 40 plus years ago, when the President [Marcos] lost a mandate.”
Opposition senators, meanwhile, said martial law will never solve the country’s problems.
“It’s time that we wake up to the truth that martial law is not the answer to the problems of the country,” said Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV.
“What we need are unity and cooperation. Set aside politics and put the nation first,” he said.
Aquino noted that under martial law, there were over 3,000 alleged victims of extrajudicial killings, 34,000 cases of torture, 70,000 cases of illegal detention, and 75,730 cases of human rights violations.
The country was also buried under with a debt of about P395 billion or the equivalent of more than P3 trillion today, he said.
Senator Francis Pangilinan said the Marcos dictatorship legalized plunder and brought hunger and misery to the people.
He said a large part of Marcos’ downfall was how low the economy plunged.
Gross domestic product, the main measure of economic growth, averaged 3.8 percent during the Marcos years, and rose to 4.5 percent in the 2000s, and 6.3 percent from 2010 to the present, he said.
Under Marcos, in 1984 and 1985, the country was hit by the worst recession in the post-war period: A 7.3-percent contraction for two successive years.
Debt shot up from $4.1 billion in 1975 to almost six times or $24.4 billion in 1982.
“We, including our children and maybe even their children’s children, are still paying for those debts,” Pangilinan said.
The value of the peso against the US dollar fell from P3.92 to a dollar to P18.61 from 1969 to 1985.
Underemployment peaked at 33 percent in 1984, meaning about one in three people who had a job either wanted to work more hours or were looking for additional jobs but could not find any. The jobs available were not enough to meet the workers’ needs.
Prices rose sharply. In 1984, the rate of inflation shot up to a record 50 percent.
From 1966 to 1985, the real wage rate for unskilled workers plummeted to P23.21 from P86.02; for skilled workers, it dropped from P112.9 to P35.55. This meant that an unskilled worker’s P100 wage in 1966 could only buy him or her P27 worth of goods and services in 1985.
He said Marcos used his dictatorial powers to amass from $5 billion to $10 billion in ill-gotten wealth.
“The Marcos family and their cronies have deliberately blocked and delayed efforts to get all that back for the Filipino people,” he said.
“So, today, on the 46th year of martial law declaration, we must remember: the dictatorship almost destroyed our economy, and we are still paying the price for that catastrophe. We cannot let that happen again,” he said.
Detained Senator Leila de Lima vowed to fight any attempt to impose martial law under the administration of President Duterte.
“So, what do we do now? How do we ensure that the lessons under Marcos dictatorship will not be forgotten, and that the tragic experiences we are suffering under the current tyranny of Duterte will be stopped?” she asked.
“The simple answer: We fight! We fight with what’s remaining in our democracy. We fight with what’s intact in our dignity,” she said.
The Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing the New People’s Army expressed solidarity with the tens of thousands of protesters demonstrating across the country.
They noted that the rallies also serve to echo the clamor against burdensome taxes and sky-rocketing prices and press the people’s demand for wage increases, jobs and job security, land reform, state social subsidies and other urgent reforms for the people’s welfare.
“Duterte is desperately clinging to power amid a worsening economic and political crisis. His regime is being undermined from within by rising conflicts among allies over pork barrel and other bureaucratic perks. At the same time, it is increasingly isolated from the people who are made to suffer gravely from anti-people policies,” the communists said in a statement.
“The people persevere in waging various form of resistance despite all-out suppression by Duterte’s police and military. The revolutionary armed struggle in the countryside, in particular, continues to grow and advance nationwide,” they added.
The Commission on Human Rights on Friday gave special recognition to the victims of human rights abuses during the martial law era
“They [victims] are the motu propio cases handled by the former Human Rights Victims’ Claim Board, but they chose not to claim the financial reparation for the abuses and indignities they have suffered,” lawyer-spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said.
“They will be immortalized through the establishment of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Museum,” she added.
Civil society groups and human rights organizations joined the CHR in the commemoration of the 46th anniversary of the Martial Law rule dubbed “Never Again, Never Forget: A day of remembrance for democracy and freedom.” With Rio N. Araja
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