Martial Law persists where environmental defenders resist

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By LEON DULCE

We write on the occasion of the International Human Rights Day, when the next massive protest mobilization against the brazen and clandestine railroading of the hero’s burial for former fascist dictator Ferdinand Marcos is set. Despite the dismissive demeanor of President Rodrigo Duterte towards the protests and the prayers of police chief Ronald Dela Rosa for rainfall on the parade, thousands upon thousands came out over the past actions to decry the selective amnesia of the Supreme Court and the Duterte administration over the grave injustices of the Marcos regime.

More than an unprecedented struggle against historical revisionism, the dissent has been directed at persisting wounds of Martial rule so deep and festering that its effects are still felt to date. Massive debts taxpayers are still paying off, billions of dollars in ill-gotten wealth still hidden away, and thousands of cases of human rights violations still denied justice are just some of them.

University of the Philippines students know the nation's history. (Photo by Loi Manalansan / Bulatlat)
University of the Philippines students know the nation’s history. (Photo by Loi Manalansan / Bulatlat)

Protesters have spared no quarter to all post-Marcos regimes for doing nothing to prevent the full political rehabilitation of the Marcos dictatorship and dynasty, and even perpetuating Marcosian policies and programs that attack the democratic rights of the people.

The Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment helped mobilize hundreds of environmental advocates during the November 25 Luneta rally precisely because of the continuing Marcosian attacks especially against environmental defenders. Martial Law never really went away as it persists wherever the people are resisting environmental plunder and destruction.

Since 2001, Kalikasan PNE has recorded at least 101 cases of political killings of environmental defenders. Mining is the main motive to the mayhem, accounting for 75.2 percent of all recorded cases. Military, paramilitary, and police forces were suspected to be the culprits of extrajudicial killings in 54.5 percent of the cases.

Killings of environmental defenders have not ceased under Duterte, with seven cases already recorded during the first few months of his presidency. The counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan, implemented during the Aquino administration and responsible for the bloodiest years for environmental defenders, remains in effect.

It is thus hard to take Duterte’s penchant for fascist talk as simply of jest or merely taken out of context. The ‘infallibility’ of Duterte’s drug war rhetoric has become a convenient front for politically motivated killings, as in the case of Joselito Pasaporte, a 32 year-old environmental youth advocate opposing mining exploration activities in Compostela Valley province who was allegedly in the provincial police’s drug watch list.

Duterte has also defended the deployment of army troops in rural areas even as communities in the countryside vehemently reject the brutal militarization they experience at the hands of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Many military operations are situated in areas such as big mines and plantations to secure these supposed vital installations.

Tindog Visayas, a protest caravan mounted by hundreds of disaster survivors, farmers and agricultural workers across the ‘Yolanda Corridor’ in Visayas, have been scouring the streets of the national capital this week to call out this undeclared Martial Law pervading in their communities. The systematic harassment, indiscriminate firing, village occupation and hamletting by the AFP have been directed at communities across Visayas that have risen up to demand justice and accountability over the various disasters and other crises that have devastated their lands and livelihood. What they need is food and aid, not bullets. But the AFP’s unceasing militarization seems to disagree.

State security forces have consistently viewed the people’s resistance as a criminal activity. There are currently 400 political prisoners languishing in the harshest conditions in jail, many of them imprisoned by the police and military for their activism against landlessness, poverty, and corruption. Bernabe Ocasla, a 66 year-old peasant organizer from Samar, died recently because of various ailments he contracted during his seven years in detention.

To us environmental activists, the Samar peasant movement to which Ocasla belonged to was legendary for leading the campaigns and protests around 2003 that led to the declaration of a province-wide moratorium on large-scale mining projects. They continue to struggle for genuine land reform against long-standing private land monopolies across the island. In the eyes of the AFP, are these criminal acts the way the old dictatorship viewed it?

These are dark times when Marcosian ghosts of past and present are haunting our country once again. Duterte may have recently backed down on his Martial Law throwbacks by declaring that Martial Law never did anything good for the country, but the bloody actions of his administration talk louder than his usual bluster of words.

To walk this talk, Duterte should repudiate all vestiges of Marcosian rule. The hero’s burial accorded to the tyrant must be reversed. The Duterte-Marcos alliance must be dismantled, and concrete steps must be taken to hold the dictator’s dynasty to account. Duterte must rein in the attack dogs in the police and military that continue to perpetrate extrajudicial killings, the systematic militarization through Oplan Bayanihan, and other fascist attacks directed at the people’s democratic rights.

We will continue to protest this climate of impunity under Duterte. Let this be a fair warning to the President: from Kalinga chieftain Macliing Dulag to Joselito Pasaporte, we environmental defenders have never backed down, and will never back down from injustice.

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Leon Dulce is the campaign coordinator of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment.

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