09/21/2022, 00.00
PHILIPPINES
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Fifty years after martial law, Philippine President Marcos Jr addresses the United Nations

At the UN General Assembly, the Philippine president expressed respect for international law, while at home advocacy groups urge the country to remember his father’s dictatorship. While disinformation is rampant on social media about that period, Amnesty International noted that at least 70,000 people were jailed under martial law. The Archbishop of Manila urges fellow Filipinos “not go back to the darkness”.

Manila (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Fifty years after the imposition of martial law and 36 years after dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr fled the Philippines, his son, Ferdinand Marcos Jr, delivered his first speech at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

While Philippine activists demonstrated against the abuses documented by Amnesty International back in the 1970s, Marcos Jr addressed the UN General Assembly citing his country’s contributions to the “predictability and stability of international law, particularly the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea," a clear reference to the dispute with China over the South China Sea.

The Philippine president also called on industrialised countries to correct "historical injustices” in addressing climate change, which he described as "the greatest threat affecting our nations and peoples."

With respect to the war in Ukraine, he echoed the UN Security Council's calls for reform.

While Marcos Jr praised the rule of law and the principles of fairness and justice at the international level, the same cannot be said about his views of martial law that his father imposed in 1972, which led to the imprisonment, torture, killing and disappearance of tens of thousands of people. Neither survivors nor victims’ families were ever compensated.

According to Amnesty, some 3,275 extrajudicial killings took place under martial law between 1972 and 1981, while 35,000 more were tortured, and at least 70,000 were detained.

Yet, social media in the Philippines continue to spread misinformation about the Marcos dictatorship, depicted as a “golden age” in this year’s election.

Several videos showing Marcos Sr speaking to the international media in 1982 were recently posted on TikTok and Facebook. In them the dictator claims that no one from Amnesty ever visited the Philippines and so their investigations were based on “hearsay”.

In reality, in an interview with Amnesty in 1975, Marcos himself said that he had imprisoned 50,000 political opponents, including members of the clergy, activists, lawyers and journalists.

Martial law, imposed to counter “communist and Muslim insurgencies” according to the Marcos family, was lifted in 1982, and the dictatorship collapsed only five years later thanks to the pro-democracy people power movement.

“The Marcoses need to at least acknowledge their role in those dark days,” said Carlos Conde, a researcher for Human Rights Watch. “Without truth-telling, without the space for Filipinos to understand and accept what happened during martial law, we can never find closure, we can never move forward.”

Just over 11,000 people have been officially recognised as victims of the regime, while several politicians at the time involved with the repression have ties to the current administration.

“May we not forget the lessons of martial law. We already saw the light. Let us not go back to the darkness,” Card Jose Advincula, archbishop of Manila, said today.

“We learned that genuine development is based on justice and peace,” he added. “We learned to fight for the truth. But we will never learn these valuable lessons if we insist on refusing to acknowledge or forgetting the darkness of history.”

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