By KYLE EDWARD FRANCISCO
VIGAN CITY — Church leaders and human rights advocates gathered today, September 21 at the Heritage City of Vigan to commemorate the 45th anniversary of Martial Law and launch the Movement Against Tyranny (MAT) in Ilocos Sur.
An ecumenical service was held at the United Church of Christ in the Philippine to remember the heroes and martyrs who fought the dictatorial rule of Ferdinand Marcos; followed by the launching of MAT. The Ilocos Sur Ecumenical Movement and the Ilocos Human Rights Alliance led the activity.
“Today is a sad day. It is the 45th birthday of the death of democracy in the Philippines, the declaration of martial law,” opens Abbot Santos Rabang, Director of the Catechetical Ministry of the Archdiocese of Nueva Segovia and the one who delivered the Biblico-Theological Reflection.
Rabang was one of the familiar names in the province during the struggle against the dictatorship and among the first 88 individuals arrested upon the declaration of Martial Law.
Be guided by the right reason
The Abbot’s talks focused on the material bases of the two opposing views on extra-judicial killings and the human rights situation under President Rodrigo Duterte.
“People who are protesting the war on drugs and human rights abuses accuses the Duterte administration of being complicit to the murders committed by the police and the military. They say that these are against the rule of law and the common good,” explains Rabang. He said that on the other hand, those who support the killings are exploiting the negative social impacts of drug use and addiction, and the flawed justice system.
He concluded his talk by emphasizing that every Filipino must decide as “dictated by the right reason and faith” and to never again allow a tyrant overshadow the pursuit of good life of the people.
Worsening rights violation
Human rights group also presented a briefer on the human rights situation in the province. IHRA said that people in Ilocos Sur suffers from widespread poverty “compounded by corporate plunder, widespread corruption, warlordism and militarization.” The organization blamed Duterte’s Oplan Kapayapaan for the worsening human rights situation.
“The 81st Infantry Battalion under the 7th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army and Philippine National Police have wantonly violated the rights of the people, targeting leaders and members of progressive organizations,” shares Zoilo Baladad, Secretary General of the group.
Based on its records, two cases of extra-judicial killings excluding those who fell victim of Duterte’s war on drugs; 18 cases of threat, harassment and intimidation; 12 cases of encampment in communities; and four cases of trumped-up charges under Duterte’s administration.
Never again to Martial Law
The ecumenical service culminated with the formation of MAT. Abbot Rabang was joined by Rev. Israel Bangsil, Chairperson of the Ilocos Region Ecumenical Council, Rev. Joel Bengbeng, District Superintendent of the United Methodist Church’s Ilocos South District and Rev. June Paplonot, Conferenence Minister of the UCCP’s North Luzon Amburayan Conference in leading the signing of the Manifesto Against Tyranny and Fascism. The clergy also voiced their unity to serve as beacon against tyranny and efforts to reimpose martial law in the country.
IHRA on its message said that the activity and gathering across the country to protest the rising dictatorial rule of Duterte “are testaments that we refuse to be cowed, silenced and coerced by a blood thirsty madman.”
“We are gathered here today because never again will we allow that tyrants reign in this country. We will never forget, we will never tire, never again to martial law,” declared the participants. # nordis.net