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Martial Law then and now: BAYAN USA continues to build people power resistance against Duterte’s U.S.-backed dictatorship

BAYAN USA commemorates September 21 as the day that the U.S.-backed dictator Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in the Philippines, plunging the country into nearly 20 years of violent fascism. Forty-eight years later, martial law stands not just as a historical event; rather, it is a violent reality once more under the U.S.-Duterte regime. With Executive 70, Memorandum Order 32, and Proclamation 1021, Duterte has imposed de facto Martial Law on the whole of the Philippines, repressing the toiling masses, much like his predecessor Marcos did.

“As a multi-sectoral alliance, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) was born during an era of people’s uprising against poverty and fascism, determined to address the semi-feudal, semi-colonial conditions at the root of our country’s suffering for decades,” emphasized Rhonda Ramiro, chairperson of BAYAN USA. “More than 30 years after the ouster of Marcos, we continue to fight for genuine sovereignty, agrarian reform and national industrialization as lasting solutions to the fundamental problems of the Philippines.” 

Under Marcos, the Philippines accrued billions of dollars in foreign debt on the backs of the Filipino people who could not afford basic necessities such as food, especially peasant farmers who made up the majority of the population living under worsening feudal exploitation. Duterte’s regime will be remembered similarly to Marcos’: one of poverty and anti-people policies. 

During the global pandemic, Duterte has exploited the situation for his own benefit while neglecting the economic and health needs of the people, with an estimated 14 million people facing unemployment or underemployment, over 280,000 COVID-19 positive cases, and nearly 5,000 related deaths. For overseas Filipino workers, Duterte has made the labor export policies that Marcos started even worse. “About half a million Filipino migrant workers have been forced to go back home without livelihood,” explained Bernadette Herrera, chairperson of Migrante USA. “The labor export policy, contractualization and other anti-people policies have now brought us unemployment and poverty in historic proportions.”

Like Marcos, Duterte’s hunger for power has also resulted in countless arrests, torture, and acts of terror committed on the Filipino people. Since 2016, there have been over 183 killings of human rights activists and over 600 political prisoners, according to reports by Karapatan, a human rights organization. This does not include the over 30,000 killed, mostly from the urban poor, as a result of Duterte’s bloody drug war. Altermidya affiliate Paghimutad Negros stated that Negros Island has seen upwards of 90 killings of farmers, lawyers, academics, politicians, and ordinary Filipinos since 2018 and under Memorandum Order 32. With the passage of the Anti-Terror Law, attacks on activists have intensified, including the murders of human rights defender Zara Alvarez, who was shot multiple times on August 17, as well as NDF peace consultant and peasant leader Randall Echanis on August 10, who suffered from 40 stab wounds. 

The heightening fascism and counterinsurgency have also reached the shores of the U.S., with Philippine National Police outposts being set up in the U.S. to surveil activists, coupled with online terror-tagging of U.S.-based organizations. “Even as the GABRIELA USA national executive committee members face terror-tagging by the undersecretary of the Presidential Communications Operations Office, Lorraine Badoy, we will not be silenced,” stated Irma Shauf-Bajar, GABRIELA USA chairperson. “Instead, we remain steadfast in our fight for the liberation of all Filipinos and advancing the militant women’s movement.”

All the while, U.S. imperialism continues to benefit as an economic and military power in the Asia Pacific region by helping to suppress the people’s resistance in the Philippines, pouring millions of dollars into the nation and sponsoring Duterte’s bloodshed and repression. BAYAN USA urges the support of the Philippines Human Rights Act, a people’s bill that was introduced into Congress this week that aims to cut off the lifeline of funding that bankrolls the harassment and murder of Filipinos who dare to dissent. 

On September 21, BAYAN USA joins the global day of action to mobilize Filipinos into the streets to call for Duterte’s ouster. “Just as the Filipino people were faced with the decision to side with Marcos’ dictatorship or join the people’s struggle in the 1970s, we, too, are now faced with a similar choice,” emphasized Adrian Bonifacio, chairperson of Anakbayan-USA. “It was the collective people’s resistance that defeated Marcos in the 1980s, and it will be through another people-powered movement that will take down Duterte.” 

Never again to martial law!

Junk the Anti-Terror Law!

Pass the Philippines Human Rights Act!

Healthcare, not militarism!

Oust Duterte now!