Protest rallies held on martial law anniversary

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 21) — Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. People have yet to forget the atrocities done during the martial law rule of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos.

They vow to never forget.

Protest rallies were held all over the Philippines on the 46th anniversary of the signing of Proclamation 1081 which put the entire nation under a state of martial law. 

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Luzon

Protesters in Luzon flocked to Luneta in Manila. Police estimate that there were 6,000 people who attended the all-day rally, protesters insist that they were 15,000-strong.

Rallyists include students, workers, religious organizations, LGBT groups, farmers and victims of alleged extrajudicial killings.

Prominent opposition figures like former solicitor general Florin Hilbay, former Congressman Erin Tanada, and ousted Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno joined the protesters.

Sereno said that history can not be revised no matter how much people try, a jab at a viral video starring former martial law administrator Juan Ponce Enrile and former Senator Bongbong Marcos, son of the late strongman.

"Malinaw po ang kasaysayan, nasa Supreme Court, nasa international records. Hindi po pwede i-revise ang history," Sereno said.

[Translation: History is clear. It's in the Supreme Court and international records. You can not revise history.]

For Evangeline Hernandez, mother of a human rights worker slain during the administration of former President and now House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, martial law need not return for people to understand its horrors.

"Hindi na nila kailangan na bumalik sa panahon ng martial law para malaman ang tunay na kasaysayan ng martial law," Hernadez said.

[Translation: We do not need to return to the time of martial law to understand its history.]

Effigies depicting President Rodrigo Duterte, whose violent anti-drug campaign and harsh rhetoric has earned him criticism from human rights advocates, placed side by side with former Senator Marcos and House Speaker Arroyo were displayed in the rally.

Still, there were no major flare ups from the police or from the rallyists, even if there were also supporters of Duterte and former President Erap Estrada in another rally in the same venue. 

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Visayas

Two major protests were held in the Visayas: in Escalante, Negros Occidental, and in Cebu City. 

It's been 33 years since paramilitary troops slaughtered civilians who protested against martial law in September 20, 1985 in Escalante. The victims were ordinary citizens: sugar workers, farmers, fisherfolk, students, professionals, and some members of the clergy. Twenty-one people died, and more were injured in the attack, which became known as the Escalante massacre.

Now the citizens of Escalante yell "never again to martial law" and oppose further dictatorship. The group Mothers and Relatives against Tyranny and Repression-Negros (MARTYR-Negros) say that around 500 of their members have yet to receive non-monetary reparations for their suffering during martial law, which is provided for in the law.

They also call for genuine land reform, an end to state-sponsored killings, and the suspension of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law.

In Cebu City, close to a hundred people joined the protest march from Fuente Osmena Circle to Camp Sergio Osmena, where a short program was staged.

The protestors called for the city police to uphold their obligation to serve and protect the citizens, and not become "berdugos" of the Duterte administration.

The protest also likened the alleged human rights violations of the Duterte administration to that of the Marcos regime.

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Mindanao

Cagayan de Oro City was the hotspot for protest action in Mindanao, where over a thousand rallyists took to the streets to protest human rights violations not only during the Marcos administration but also during the current administration of Mindanao-born President Rodrigo Duterte.

The protest was led by the Movement Against Tyranny-Northern Mindanao Region (MAT-NMR), that includes farmers, lumads, urban poor and the church.

They called for an end to martial law in Mindanao.

"The Filipino people are outraged with the anti-poor campaign under the guise of Martial Law declaration of the Duterte administration in Mindanao," said Father Roland Abejo, spokesperson for MAT-NMR.

Abejo said that martial law in Mindanao has been used to silence critics of the President and to oppress the urban poor and the indigenous peoples.

"We adamantly reiterate that the Martial Law of Duterte is a tool of suppression against the rights and liberties of the people and being such, it has no difference with the Martial Law of Marcos era. Let us not stay fence-sitting while the killings, tyranny, oppression, exploitation and social turmoil continue to damage our nation," Abejo said.

It has been more than a year since Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao.

CNN Philippines' Paolo Barcelon, David Santos and Rex Remitio contributed to this report.

Cebu-based journalist Dale Israel, Cagayan de Oro-based journalist Alwen Saliring and Negros-based journalist Sheila Galera contributed to this report.