On the 49th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law, we are met with a reminder that our efforts to fight for our rights, and the freedom to do so, are still being curtailed. On Sept. 21, several groups across the country organized protests in commemoration of lives lost during Martial Law and to criticize the Duterte administration for its own record of state violence and red-tagging.
Some of these protests were dispersed and a number of activists were taken to a police station—grim reminders of how our fight for our democracy continues. Oddly enough, the police were able to exercise “maximum tolerance” during a protest by anti-vaxx group Gising Maharlika in Liwasang Bonifacio on Sept. 19, even if protesters refused to follow safety protocol like wearing face masks and face shields.
Dispersal in Manila
One group of protesters was barred from reaching Liwasang Bonifacio. The group was confronted in Sta. Cruz, Manila by police officers with riot shields led by Lt. Col. Rollyfer Capoquian of Manila Police District Station 11. According to the police, the group was dispersed due to health protocol violations. In the videos taken, protesters were forcefully pushed back by a throng of officers. How that approach could possibly help enforce social distancing is a mystery.
According to protesters, they were also attacked with water cannons even after pleading with the officers to let them through. Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) Secretary-General Renato Reyes stated that there were other groups blocked at the Welcome Rotonda and on Rizal Avenue.
“Even I was threatened by police who were preventing me from crossing the street in Liwasang Bonifacio. Underpass exits [were] blocked by the police,” said Reyes. “This is the 49th anniversary of Martial Law. Naked fascism suppressing the people. Liwasang Bonifacio is a freedom park. The people merely wish to express themselves while observing the minimum health protocols. What we are seeing is a reminder that the remnants of Marcosian rule are very much alive today.”
Protesters brought to a police station in Batangas
In Sto. Tomas, Batangas, 14 youth activists were taken to the Sto. Tomas Police Station after conducting a protest. Police said that they were taken in because they didn’t secure a permit to hold the protest. Anakbayan Batangas has since posted a video of its dialogue with the police to arrange for their release.
Protesters in Dasmariñas were confronted by uniformed officers during their program as well. Panday Sining Dasmariñas said in a post, “Batid ng mga mamamayan na namamayani pa rin ang bangungot na dala ng Martial Law. Sa simula ng pagdaloy ng programa hanggang sa matapos ito, iba’t ibang atake ang naranasan ng dumalo sa kilos protesta.”
Dinaraan na lamang sa dahas ang hinaing ng sambayanan, imbes na tugunan ito dahil humaharap tayo sa isang malawak na krisis pangkalusugan.
Patuloy nating gamitin ang sining sa pagmumulat ng katotohanan sa mga mamamayan, upang patuloy nating magapi ang rebisyunismo. pic.twitter.com/wtbYsOwEec
These are horrific displays of the suppression that activists today continue to face. While enforcing health protocols isn’t wrong, we condemn the police’s use of excessive force against protesters critical of the government.