AMRSP statement on the commemoration of the declaration of Martial Law

AMRSP statement on the commemoration of the declaration of Martial Law

“We wept when darkness fell upon our beloved land.”

Forty-eight years ago, Ferdinand E. Marcos declared martial on September 21, 1972. It ushered in an unprecedented reign of terror and unbridled greed.

Suddenly, the whole country was plunged into darkness and uncertainty. Organizations critical of the administration were suddenly declared illegal, thus many of them were forced to go underground. The myth of “Malakas” and “Maganda” as the saviors of this country who would lead us out from the darkness of poverty and start a new era of peace and prosperity reigned in mass media, losing the freedom of the press and the people’s right of access to credible information and politicizing the military and judiciary.

The public coffers were plundered resulting in economic collapse. According to the Presidential Commission on Good Governance, about $5 billion to $10 billion were plundered by Marcos and his cronies. Companies were seized and their ownership transferred to Marcos’ cronies. In the countryside, thousands of farmers’ and indigenous peoples’ communities were subjected to harassments, massacres, blockades, and forced evacuations, to give way to multi-million development projects.

We raised our voices when repression reared its ugly head.

Shuddering are the accounts of human rights violations committed by state forces during the dark era of martial law. According to the data of Amnesty International, about 34,000 Filipinos suffered torture in various forms, 77 “desaparecidos” (some of them are religious, like Fr. Rudy Romano, CSsR and Rev. Carlos Ma. Tayag, OSB), 70,000 were imprisoned for their political involvement, and 3,240 known cases of extrajudicial killings from 1974 to 1981.

In response, we in the AMRSP and our predecessors committed ourselves to be prophets and witnesses to a church of and for the poor.

Many Christians, especially Catholics, inspired by the Gospels, the development of Liberation Theology, and the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, began to participate in the anti-dictatorship struggle as an exercise of their faith in the saving and liberating power of God who actively works in history.

Many of us joined the mobilizations in the streets, organized discernment circles where national and sectoral situationers were discussed and analyzed using the lens of the faith. Some were found in the picket lines of workers’ strikes, calling for workers’ rights and assisting their families. They were even at the “barikadang bayan” of the urban poor fighting against the demolition of their communities to give way to projects both of local and multinational corporations.

Others actively participated in Fact-Finding Missions and prison visits to document human rights violations. Still others went to the rural communities, answering the challenge of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conference to “bring Christ to the rural poor” by establishing Basic Christian Communities (BCCs, the predecessor of BEC) and Community-Based Health Program (CBHP).

Many of them found the face of Christ in the suffering poor, reinvigorating their faith by actively upholding their prophetic witnessing in the society. Many would later testify that the period of their involvement in the anti-dictatorship struggle is some of the best years of their lives, deepening their commitment both as Christians and as consecrated women and men.

In the process, we were vilified, demonized, and many of our members arrested, tortured, and even killed. The church and its people were persecuted.

Yet to keep us going, we celebrated the courage and resistance of a people despite all the threats, arrests, detention, torture, disappearance and salvaging still stood their ground and defied the dictatorship until it was driven away.

Our fundamental rights and freedoms were somehow restored through the blood, sweat and tears of the unsung and nameless heroes and martyrs who burned light in the darkness of the night. We rejoiced when we saw the light. The whole world that was watching us change our situation without violence.

Today tyranny is on the rise again.

Now we weep again for the more than thirty thousand human beings arbitrarily killed in this war on drugs. The orphans and widows demand justice. We demand accountability and justice. There will be no peace until the blood spilled in our streets and our homes find justice.

We are appalled again by continuing attacks on human rights defenders and all those who serve the least, the last and the lost. They are the modern-day apostles of our times – mocked, harassed, and vilified. We are humbled by their courage and selfless service. Our democratic institutions, our freedom of expression, freedom of the press and other fundamental rights are muzzled.

The culture of death is being glorified, first with the continuing perpetration of the bloody “War on Drugs” which have claimed thousands of lives of people, especially from the urban poor sector, blamed to be “drug pushers or users” without the benefit of the judicial process.

And now, the death penalty is being sought to be re-imposed. Large-scale corruption committed by the administration’s allies is rampant, for example, the PhilHealth corruption issue.

Fake news is the norm, while critical thinking is met with branding as “communist” or “dilawan”. And now, even the already-narrowing democratic space in the land is being further stifled with the passage of the Anti-Terror Law of 2020, which we demand from Supreme Court to declare it unconstitutional.

We, as citizens of our country, strongly uphold that dissent and opposition are inextricably linked to a democracy however flawed it may be. A popular mandate is not a license to do as one pleases. It does not replace reason. Our social contract imposes check and balances for institutions of governance and accountability.

While it is true that EDSA 1 failed to emancipate our people from feudal bondage and exploitation, the drift towards tyranny is going to the other side of the pendulum. Now, the Marcoses are trying to re-write history to sanitize themselves.

On this day we pray to the God of liberation and renew our commitment to serve the voiceless and dehumanized, to a Faith that does justice and makes for peace. Today we declare, “Never Forget, Never Again to Dictatorship and Tyranny!”

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