A mass mobilization was held on September 20 to commemorate the 47th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law by Former President Ferdinand Marcos on September 21, 1972. Despite soaking rains, protesters from various sectors—including youth groups, clergy, workers, and farmers—marched to Quirino Grandstand to not only memorialize the victims of the Marcos regime, but to also protest the injustices of the current administration.

After a brief ceremony inside campus, delegates from the University met up with delegates from De La Salle-College of St. Benilde to march onward to Quirino Grandstand. There, demonstrators converged for a program where representatives from the different aforementioned sectors spoke out against human rights abuses and attacks on civil rights.

DLSU freedom advocates

During a candle lighting ceremony held inside DLSU, representatives from student organizations and political parties called for the remembrance of the hardships of the era and denounced some of the policies enacted by the Duterte presidency which they claim mirrors those of the Marcos regime. 

James Carwyn Candila (Grade 12, HUMSS) said that his participation in rallies serves as a way for him to express his stand against Martial Law—not only under Marcos but also the “de facto martial law” that is looming over the current administration. “There might be people who won’t agree, but there’s that concept of tireless persuasion where you need to continue to show the truth and [to uphold] democracy and human rights,” he declared.

Jericho Quiro (II, AB-DSM) of Kapatiran ng mga Kabataan para sa Kaunlaran, the professional organization of Development Studies students in the University, denounced the administration’s mode of pursuing development through violent means without concern for native populations. “Development made through the blood of innocents is not development at all,” he asserted.

Marga Dela Cruz, President of Santugon sa Tawag ng Panahon, urged the student body to be alert.“We can forgive but never forget,” she proclaimed, emphasizing the importance of remaining witness to the Martial Law era as a dark period in Philippine History.

Paolo Driz, Vice President for Externals of Alyansang Tapat sa Lasallista, recalled their party’s roots of resistance during the years of the Marcos dictatorship, proclaiming their determination to honor Tapat’s legacy now more than ever. He said that mobilizations such as this one help in applying political pressure, “Basically, sinasabi natin sa gobyerno ang gusto natin mangyari, for them to make the necessary changes.”

(We are telling the government what we want to happen.)

Intersectional fight

With the glint of different colored flags rippling in the late afternoon wind, there is no doubt that that the crowd gathered in Quirino Grandstand were diverse. From youth groups such as the Christian Student movement, to partylist groups like Kabataan and Gabriela, several advocacies were prominently represented throughout the event. 

Bernadette Neri, chairperson of Bahaghari, pronounced that the struggle of LGBTQ+ people also encompassed socio-economic issues like contractualization and the de facto or “undeclared” martial law, “Ang ating struggle ay hindi lang naman ang pakikibaka sa pagkapantay-pantay ng kasarian.” 

(Our struggle is not only confined to the fight for gender equality.)

Also making rounds around the park was Gary Buticarlo, a worker of NutriAsia, Inc.. Despite being weary from the already months-long battle with the corporation for regularization, Buticarlo is still determined to make the plight of the workers heard, “Malakas pa rin ang aming diwa, at hindi kami susuko sa laban.”

(Our will is still strong, and we will not give up this fight.)

Visible in their vibrant garb, Inday and Mitch from the Lumad Bakwit school were also present to tell their story. Marcos’ Martial Law may be a thing of the past, but the rampant militarization brought by Duterte’s martial law has similarly driven them away from their ancestral lands. 

Never again, never today

Across the sea of warm bodies, past and present intermingled in their united cry against dictatorship. There are those who have aged but have not forgotten, and there are those who have grown to join their predecessors. 

For Edgar Villoria, the ghosts of the past are alive and well. Having been a student activist in the University of the Philippines-Los Baños during the Marcos regime, today’s political situation drove him to the rally with as much fervor as he had during the rallies of his youth, despite his current age.

Sr. Mary John Mananzan of St. Scholastica’s College implored the youth to remain cognizant of the atrocities committed during the Martial Law era. As a veteran of the dark and horrific time, she wants “to hand out to [the youth the veteran activists’] legacy of really fighting against dictatorship.” Despite not having been directly affected by the vicious attacks against freedom, Mananzan was unable to rid from her memory the indignity done to and the tragic fates that befell her Catholic peers.

Meanwhile, for John Lazaro, national spokesperson for Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan, the rally is a response to the efforts of the Duterte administration to quell activism in schools. He joined the rally to push back against the administration’s anti-free speech policies and seeks to spark a change in our society—a change that leads to a society where “violent” and “greedy” are no longer words used to describe the actions of people in power. 

“We need a world where the dignity of each and every person is respected, where the wealth of the economy benefits us all, and where education is treated as a right rather than an industry.” 

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