21 September 2023
Migrante-International is one with the Filipino people in commemorating the 51st anniversary of Ferdinand Marcos Sr’s declaration of Martial Law in 1972. Today, the Philippines’ president is Marcos’ junior, Bongbong, and Martial Law conditions persist under his term. We are therefore calling on the Filipino migrants and people: fight for our rights and interests and oppose the anti-migrant and anti-people policies of the Marcos Jr regime!
Martial Law meant the use of the military and the government to repress all voices that were independent and critical of Marcos. Without declaring Martial Law, Rodrigo Duterte, Marcos Jr’s ally and predecessor, did the same during his presidency. He killed thousands in his war on drugs and hundreds more in his war against the insurgency, attacked everyone from the Church and media to the elite opposition, and violated many human rights. Marcos Jr has rejected all efforts to hold Duterte accountable through the International Criminal Court and other means.
Marcos Jr is continuing the repressive policies of Duterte, from the Anti-Terrorism Law of 2020 to the functioning of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict or NTF-ELCAC. Enforced disappearance, which became rampant under Martial Law, has returned with a vengeance: eight activists have been disappeared since Marcos Jr became president. The revelations made by environmental activists Jonila Tamano and Jhed Castro last September 19 show that the NTF-ELCAC, a body headed by the president, is responsible for their abduction and momentary disappearance. At the same time, militarization and bombings of communities continue in Negros region and other parts of the countryside, together with a host of rights violations.
Martial Law means the handful few getting richer while the vast majority gets poorer. Filipinos are suffering from a cost-of-living crisis, and social media is full of shocked reactions to, and complains about, unheard-of-before prices of basic goods, partially an effect of rising oil prices. Rice importation continues, to the detriment of the country’s farmers and food security. Wages are so low that even the Senate is seeing moves towards a legislated significant hike in wages. Foreign direct investments are falling, which is bad news for an economy dependent on their meager job-creating capacity. Unemployment and underemployment continue to rise, and the regime’s only serious effort to provide jobs is promoting labor export. This, while denying OFWs and migrant Filipinos much-needed services and responding to migrant activism with the deployment of police attaches abroad.
Meanwhile, Marcos Jr and his vice president Sara Duterte are working to secure billions in confidential funds from the national budget for next year. They will surely use the funds to bolster the government’s repressive capacity, keep money for the next elections, and make themselves richer. The country’s oligarchs, supported by Duterte despite his rhetoric, continue to enjoy growing profits and wealth under Marcos Jr. Trying to rebrand his discredited family name, Marcos Jr is going on non-stop international trips and parties, trying to project a happy and #blessed persona, even while the Filipino people suffers from his anti-poor policies and repression.
Martial Law deepened so many structural problems of Philippine society. Apart from the military’s politicization and increased power in government, it created the legal framework for contractualization of labor and migration. It abolished all the gains of previous industrialization efforts and, despite its land reform program, concentrated lands in the hand of a few. Its plunder of government resources made state-owned social service institutions look like inefficient bastions of corruption, and plunged the country into so much crisis. It laid the foundation for the onslaught of neoliberal economic policies in succeeding periods. It therefore not only started but worsened the conditions that resulted in labor export to this day.
In this situation, the Filipino migrants and people have nothing to depend on except our collective strength and action. We have to defend our rights and interests against the attacks of the Marcos Jr regime. Let us draw inspiration from many decades of migrant activism that opposed Martial Law and responded to pressing issues in the Philippines. Let us unite and fight for our families and communities, whose present and futures continue to darken under the Marcos Jr regime. Our sufferings are unjust, especially in the face of what the government is capable doing and should be doing, but refuses to do because of narrow factional elite interests. ###