UniversityYouth in Activism: On the 46th Martial Law anniversary protest
Youth in Activism: On the 46th Martial Law anniversary protest

As part of the commemoration of the 46th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law, a mob dubbed the “United People’s Action: Labanan ang Diktadura” was organized and held last September 21 in front of Luneta Park. The event aimed to unite various sectors of the Filipino society, to address the aftereffects of the Marcos regime, and to highlight the similar issues being faced under the Duterte administration.

Testimonies from mothers of anti-illegal drugs campaign victims, pleas from representatives of youth activist organizations and religious groups, and speeches from former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and detained Senator Leila De Lima, whose words were delivered by a representative through a letter, were among the highlights during the event.



Unifying Filipinos’ interests

Similar to previous rallies targeted against the current administration under President Rodrigo Duterte, the mobilization highlighted the pleas of the people through performances by musical groups and through statements delivered by student representatives from universities and sector representatives, such as those from the Lumad communities, among others.

Sereno shared with The LaSallian her insights regarding the lessons that Filipinos must learn from the Duterte administration. According to the former chief justice, the nation is already going through a “virtual Martial Law”. “We must stop this…stop the culture of persecution, stop the culture of impunity, stop the climate of fear. [We] tell him repeatedly, incessantly; we must never stop telling him,” she emphasized.

Rallyists that came from different sectors of Filipino society also shared their insights in line with the social issues and causes they advocated. For ACT Teachers Partylist Representative Antonio Tinio, current attempts under the current administration to “whitewash, rehabilitate, and to falsify the bloody history of the Martial Law regime” is comparable to the events which transpired under the dictatorship of Former President Ferdinand Marcos. Tinio cited that these similarities range from extrajudicial killings of the youth and of the poor to budget cuts on education for public schools, state universities, and colleges.



Anthony Jerusalem*, a member of Anakbayan – University of the Philippines Chapter, voiced out his stance that the youth is not afraid of the current administration. “Nananawagan ako sa lahat ng mga mamamayan na buksan ang kanilang mga mata at isipan na ang kasalukuyang administrasyon ay mayroon mga pagkakamaling nararapat gawin tama,” he stated.

(I am calling on everyone to open their eyes and minds to the wrongdoings of the government that must be set right.)

Tinio assured that the youth today are indeed not “afraid” to participate in nation building, despite the incidents of executions and attributed crimes involving the youth. “They are out in the streets, they are speaking up against dictatorship. I think this is positive, and I think that this will inspire more young people to become active as well; not only on social media, but also out here on the streets altogether,” affirmed the congressman.

For Kilusang Mayo Uno member Gaudencio Rosales*, nothing much has changed with the condition of Filipino workers ever since the Marcos regime. Under the Duterte administration, he contended that workers are continuously experiencing a “martial law of their own”. “Ang mga manggagawa ay walang natatanaw na pag-asa doon sa dagdag sahod man lang [upang] makaagapay sana sa pagtaas ng ating mga bilihin. [Dahil dito], nakikiisa kami para igiit [at] itigil yung karahasan,” Rosales added.

(The workers see no hope in terms of increasing the minimum wage. This could have been additional help to meet the increasing prices of our daily needs. Because of this, we are one in helping to stop this injustice.)


Value of mass assembly

Civil society groups and sectoral organizations across the nation emphasized that unity is crucial not only in marking the anniversary of the Martial Law declaration, but also in making a stand against the human rights abuses under the Duterte administration. This was further stressed as Sereno labeled the Martial Law regime as “the most horrible period of the Filipinos’ lives.”

Dominican Province of the Philippines Prior Provincial Rev. Fr. Napoleon B. Sipalay, O.P. cited that the Catholic Church believes that history is being revised with another leader of a fascist regime, and that civil rights are dominated by military power. “Ang karapatan ng tao ay naisasantabi kahit na alam naman natin na hindi iyon ang solusyon,” he stated.

(Human rights are being overruled even though we know that that is not the solution.)

Sharing the same views in a socialist perspective, Rasti Delizo, Vice President of Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino and National Coordinator of Laban ng Masa, stressed the urgency to fight and resist the emerging new type of dictatorship being imposed upon the land.



“The Marcos-Arroyo-Duterte or the MAD dictatorship is not only undermining our basic democratic freedom and human rights, but it wants to continue enslaving the working class majority of our society in order to ensure the capitalist system in the Philippines,” he expounded.

Apart from advocating for freedom against women oppression, Oriang Women’s Movement Secretary-General Oyette Zacate asserted that there is nationwide assault in the form of inflation. “Ang totoong problema ngayon ay ang kawalang laman ng sikmura ng mga mamamayan,” she elaborated.

(The real problem at present is hunger in society.)

Chriztina Madlangbayan, Deputy Secretary-General for Externals of Gabriela Youth, compared the abuses done against women during the Marcos regime with the remarks made by Duterte regarding women, “Sinasabi niya nga na yung mga babae sa Davao kaya nare-rape kasi magaganda tapos yung mga remarks niya pa na ‘shoot the women rebels in the vagina’.”

(He says that the reason why women in Davao get raped is because they are beautiful, and then he makes remarks like ‘shoot the women rebels in the vagina’.)

She also urged those who are not able to join the rally to learn about the real facts of the Marcos regime and urged them to know their rights, Hihintayin pa ba natin na mangyari yung Martial Law sa panahon natin ngayon bago tayo kumilos?”

(Are we going to wait until Martial Law is declared in our time before we act?)


Campus journalists in nation building

According to the Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses and of Martial Law (CARMMA) Convenor and Former Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, the target of the current administration is “to intimidate people, to just let them shut up, to close their eyes to the widespread injustices and poverty.”

“If the youth does not speak up, then they are already successful,” Taguiwalo pointed out.

Taguiwalo also stressed the different roles the media, campus journalists, student organizations, teachers, and communities should play in “propagating the truth, and fighting against the spread of fake news”. “We should reiterate once again that there are no tyrants when there are no slaves,” the CARMMA convenor further explained.



In addressing the importance of the presence of campus journalists in Filipino society, Sereno also cited the case of Filipino activist Archimedes Trajano, whose death was linked to Imee Marcos. “Ang theory noon, Marcos is such a dictator that pati love life ng anak niya ginamitan niya ng ‘repressive powers’,” said Sereno in reference to the period when the former dictator’s daughter’s affair with Tommy Manoto was exposed by a student media practitioner.

(The theory at the time was Marcos was such a dictator that even in his child’s love life, he exerted his “repressive powers”.)


For the youth, from the youth

Commenting on the youth’s lack of regard towards feeling the “suppression and intimidation” brought about by the governance of President Duterte, Taguiwalo indicated that such may be due to entitlement and privilege. “That privilege, that entitlement, not only [instills] fear, [but also] prevents the [youth] from acting; what is important now is [for them] to go beyond themselves. Walk the talk, but learn from the people first,” she mentioned.

The former DSWD secretary also encouraged the youth to learn from the families of the victims of the government’s campaign against illegal drugs, and refer to other materials in order to fully grasp the need to understand the Philippines’ history.

“Get out from that very comfortable zone that you have, and be part of everything that is going on. Talk to them, ask [those victims’ mothers] where that wellspring of courage comes from, and learn from them,” she asserted.

However, the rally still saw a fair share of participants from the youth. James Carwyn Candila (Grade 11, HUMSS), who narrated that he has been actively participating in these kinds of demonstrations, said that the continuous killings and abuses he was made aware of was what initially pushed him to join.

Para sa akin, pakiramdam ko at nararapat nga lamang na tumungo tayo sa lansangan at labanan [ang] ganitong mga uri ng pangaabuso ng isang rehimen,” he explained.

(For me, I feel that it is only right that we go out on the streets and fight these kinds of abuses in a regime.)

As an activist, he shared his belief that it is his mission to show his fellow youth the events that are unfolding in society, adding that “dapat natin silang samahan o kumbinsihin natin sila na pag-aralan ang lipunan, na pag-aralan ang iba’t ibang mga teorya na makapagpapalaya sa ating mga Pilipino.”

(We should join them or convince them to study society, [and] to learn about the different theories that will free us Filipinos.)



Windy Jarloc, a graduate of Interior Design from the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, and a member of Panday-Sining, a cultural organization focused in producing art “that mirrors current society that we are now in”, called on Lasallians to voice out the problems in society as its privileged members and to refrain from being silent on social issues, stressing the need to make art that will awaken the youth.

Hindi siya gusto lang natin pero kailangan natin. Merong necessity na gumawa tayo ng mga likhang sining na talagang magpapamulat sa malawak na hanay ng mga kabataan,” she furthered.

(It’s not something we just want but something we need. There is a need to make artworks that will really awaken a big portion of the youth.)

Rabin Bote, a member of Anakbayan-University of Santo Tomas (UST) Chapter, recalled watching protests during his highschool years as the first time that he became curious about the goals of rallies. He became more curious when he entered college, which is when he began to ponder why rallies seem to never cease.

He also urged for his fellow youth put themselves in the place of those suffering, concluding “Malamang at sa malamang, maiinis din tayo, lalaban din tayo”.

(For sure, we will be frustrated; we will end up fighting.)


*Names changed for anonymity