Various progressive groups and personalities gathered to form the Movement Against Tyranny (MAT) in a forum inside a packed hall at the Maryhill School of Theology on August 28, in response to the Duterte government’s fascist and militarist rule, as manifested in its brutal war on drugs and the extension of Martial Law in Mindanao.
The convenors of the alliance are composed of lawmakers, church people, artists, cultural workers, health professionals, journalists, lawyers, writers, university professors, and student leaders. They included former senator Rene Saguisag, former congressmen Erin Tañada and Neri Colmenares, Rep. Antonio Tinio of the Makabayan bloc, University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman Chancellor Michael Tan, journalist Inday Espina-Varona, and artist Mae Paner.
Sr. Mary John Mananzan of St. Scholastica’s College warned of the moral damage the Duterte government is creating.
“This murderous regime has not only destroyed lives, but has also destroyed our dignity,” she said.
In its manifesto, MAT condemned Duterte’s strongman approach to drug abuse and armed conflict, saying that Duterte has “dismissed human rights as a needless obstacle to his administration’s law and order drive and continues to goad the police, military, and paramilitary groups to violate those rights”.
Duterte’s bloody war on drugs
Human rights groups reported that 13,000 people have been killed since President Duterte launched ‘Oplan Tokhang’ last year, with a recent resurgence in killings that drew controversy to the police after the murder of 17-year-old Kian delos Santos.
In the forum, Marian (not her real name) testified to the killing of her father and brother during a drug raid. Her husband is currently in hiding after sustaining gunshot wounds when police officers stormed their home only a month after the two of them surrendered. Marian herself is a victim of Oplan Tokhang, having been arrested inside a secret cell at the Manila Police District Station 1.
“Dapat itigil na ang gera kontra-droga. Marami pa pong katulad ko na nawalan ng ama, nawalan ng kapatid, na hanggang ngayon, isang taon na ang nakalilipas, wala pa ring hustisya (The war on drugs must end. There are a lot others like me who lost their father, sibling and until now, even a year after, there is still no justice),” she said in between sobs.
UP Diliman Chancellor Michael Tan also raised concern over the drug war, saying that seven people in and around the campus have also been gunned down and killed.
Intensified militarization under Mindanao Martial Law
Jong Monzon of the PASAKA Confederation of Lumad Organizations in Southern Mindanao gave updates on the extrajudicial killings perpetrated by state forces in the region. According to Monzon, 64 Lumad and farmer activists have been killed under the Duterte government, 20 in Southern Mindanao alone. Only last night, a member of PASAKA was gunned down by unidentified men.
As of July 31, 2017, human rights monitor Karapatan has documented 360,000 victims of indiscriminate firing and aerial bombardments in Lumad and Moro communities; 400,000 victims of forced evacuation; and 32,000 affected residents by the military’s use of schools and other public structures.
Monzon added that while Lumad schools are an expression of their right to self-determination, Duterte continues to embolden the military by declaring Martial Law in Mindanao and even threatening to bomb Lumad schools which the military say are training camps for the New People’s Army.
Shattering the silence
MAT’s manifesto also denounced the Duterte government’s outright expressions of fascism, and urges citizens to “take a stand, speak out, and act”.
Chito Gascon of the Commission on Human Rights gave assurances that the CHR will continue to documentS rights abuses done under the current administration. “Hindi dapat na maiwang numero ang mga nadokumentong pagyurak ng karapatang pantao. Gagawin natin ang pagdokumento ng mga paglabag sa karapatang pantao nang sa gayon ay sa sukdulan, mayroong dapat managot,” said Gascon.
“Kung matapang ka ngunit mag-isa ka lang, madali kang mapatumba. Kailangan nating magpalakas at magparami (If you are alone, even if your are brave you will be easily bowed. We need strengthen our ranks, and we need multiply). With the Movement Against Tyranny, we will have each other’s backs covered. Nakakahawa ang takot, pero sa tingin ko nakakahawa rin ang tapang (Fear is contagious, but as I see it, courage is also contagious),” artist Mae Paner said in her speech.
Never again to Martial Law
On the 45th anniversary of Marcos’ declaration of Martial Law, MAT called on the public to gather at Luneta Park on September 21 as a show of unity against human rights violations and the worsening climate of fascism and impunity.
MAT also enjoined organizations and individuals to join the movement. These include but are not limited to people’s organizations, human rights advocates, victims of human rights violations and their organizations, media organizations and practitioners, anti-Martial Law veterans and activists, lawyers’ associations and other professional organizations, organizations of the Bangsamoro and indigenous peoples, faith-based groups, civic organizations and concerned individuals.