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Clashes at martial law anniversary

Activists say rights abuses are still rampant under Aquino

Nuns join activists in a march to mark the 40th anniversary of martial law Nuns join activists in a march to mark the 40th anniversary of martial law
  • Joe Torres, Manila
  • Philippines
  • September 21, 2012
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Protesting activists and police clashed at events to mark the 40th anniversary of the declaration of martial law today.

In Quezon City, police clashed with slum dwellers who tried to march near the site where President Benigno Aquino honored those who died during the 20-year rule of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Marcos declared martial law in 1972, a move his critics claimed was meant to tighten his grip on power. The period was marked by widespread reports of human rights violations and extrajudicial killings.

The protesters shouted slogans calling Aquino "butcher of the urban poor" for allowing the demolition of their shanties to make way for development projects.

Elsewhere in Manila, anti-riot police secured roads to the presidential palace and the United States embassy to prevent protesters from approaching.

Leftist groups had earlier announced plans to march on both locations today.

In Mindanao, martial law survivors said they still see "remnants" of the past in the present government.

Rosalio Llanto, 80, a Church worker in the Kidapawan diocese , said "there is still no peace and people live in abject poverty."

Llanto, a former Basic Ecclesial Community organizer, survived two attempts on his life in 1972.

Father Peter Geremiah, of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Mission, recalled how government forces arrested and even killed Church workers during the time of Marcos.

Fr. Geremiah arrived in the Philippines a month before Marcos declared martial law. In 1985, his colleague, Fr. Tulio Favali was killed by a group of government militiamen. Two decades after Fr. Favali's death, Fr. Geremiah said the remnants of martial law are still "very glaring."

He said the killing of another Italian missionary, Fausto Tentorio, last year was a "clear indication that rights are still violated."

In the Visayas, priests and bishops issued a statement urging Aquino to "meaningfully honor" his parents’ struggle against martial law by ending human rights violations under his administration.

The Visayas Clergy Discernment Group said in a statement that rights abuses continue despite Aquino’s claim of treading the “straight path.”

The group said it has recorded 99 cases of extrajudicial killings, 11 enforced disappearances and 60 attacks on activists since Aquino came into power in 2010.

Human rights group Karapatan said in a statement: "It is a shame how Aquino criticized Marcos and martial law when the same [violations]... are happening under his government."

Karapatan said there are currently 385 political prisoners in the country, 170 of them arrested and detained under the Aquino government.

"No amount of wreath laying and praises to the martyrs of martial law could give justice to those who offered their lives to fight the dictatorship, including his father, if [Aquino] could not even work on the passage of the indemnification bill for the martial law victims," said Cristina Palabay of Karapatan.

Related reports

Minorities protest rights violations

Aquino told to make good on rights promise
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