After 31 years, people still clamor for fundamental change
Targeted political killings, the slate of illegal arrests of leaders and members of progressive organizations, intensified military operations in communities, a justice system that favors the rich and powerful, the continuing oppression of peasants and workers and the domination of US interests in the country remain as palpable realities, thirty one years after Edsa 1. Has this country really achieved change when repressive state policies continue? Have we really seen change when farmers remain landless, rights continue to be violated, and the Filipino people’s interest remain subjugated to imperialist powers?" asked Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay on the 31st commemoration of the EDSA people power.
"What we have seen in the years following the Marcos dictatorship are forms of repression, masked under the banner of democracy. Killings in the name of the war on drugs, the possible reimposition of the death penalty, the revival of the Philippine Constabulary and the military's involvement in the war on drugs under the Duterte administration are more recent worrisome issues," she stated.
"Scores of activists and revolutionaries who work for radical change continue to be targeted and the number of political prisoners remains on the rise," Palabay continued.
Karapatan has documented 402 political prisoners in the country as of February 2017, 30 of them arrested under Duterte and 283 under BS Aquino III. "Even this practice of jailing activists and political dissenters has continued throughout the administrations after Marcos, tolerated and enabled by people who, given recent developments, are now at the end of this repressive State maneuver," said Palabay.
Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile’s statement that there are no political prisoners is not surprising, coming from the mouthpiece of government narratives since Martial Law. "His efforts to delegitimize the struggles of activists and progressives through these kinds of statements are classic examples of the elite's disdain for genuine change. His release on the basis of humanitarian grounds should have been accorded to the people who most deserve it - the political prisoners who have fought hard alongside the marginalized in this country," Palabay said.
Karapatan also recounted that the conferment of hero's honors on former dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. is a betrayal of what the EDSA "people power" stood for. "The Filipino people toppled a dictator but the Supreme Court and Pres. Duterte allowed him a hero’s burial. On the other hand, the victims of the Marcos dictatorship have yet to be indemnified and the Marcos’ stolen wealth yet to be returned. This can only be the result of the shameless accommodation of the ruling elite to stay in power,’ said Palabay.
Aside from allowing a hero’s burial for Marcos, Duterte also cancelled the peace talks on February 3, 2017, ramped up the implementation of counter-insurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan with the military's declaration of an all-out-war, and subsequently terminated the Joint Agreement on Security and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG). "Duterte won with his catchphrase 'change is coming.' We should thus demand and protest the Duterte administration's unfulfilled promises. We strongly call on the President to stop the fascist attacks against the people and to continue the peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines,’ Palabay added.
"EDSA 1 showed how a dictator was ousted through the people's collective strength and actions. As long as interests of imperialists, landlords and political clans continue to dominate, there is no doubt that the people will continue to struggle in all forms to achieve fundamental change," Palabay concluded.