Activist nun thinks of September 21 and the prospect of martial law redux

September 19, 2017 - 7:23 PM
TFD protest, Sr. Cres Lucero
Sr. Cres Lucero of Task Force Detainees join protesters against killings and violence. Photographed by Bernard Testa, News5 | InterAksyon

Manila – Sr. Cres Lucero, Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) Chairperson said Tuesday that it remains to be seen whether or not President Rodrigo Duterte will, indeed, declare Martial Law, but the protest movement feel an uncanny parallelism in the respective experiences of violence during the administration of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos and the incumbent chief executive.

One of the convenors of MASK, Mamamayan Ayaw sa Karahasan, Sr. Cres Lucero added during their press conference in Quezon City that the youth and much of the militant studentry could find themselves in paramount danger.

Sr. Cres Lucero, Task Force Detainees
Sr. Cres Lucero of Task Force Detainees. Photographed by Bernard Testa, News5 | InterAksyon

Sr. Cres told InterAksyon: “Regarding martial law itself, maliban sa mga opposition, ang mga una ay mga estudyante, hindi lang student leaders, ang daming naaresto, minsan isäng sweep, isang klase (aside from the mainstream opposition, at the forefront are the students, not just the student leaders, many are being rounded up, sometimes in one entire sweep, one class).”

Having herself witnessed and experienced Marcosian martial law, she feared that the brunt of the state violence would be partly funneled at the students and the youth.

She pointed out that there are increasing arrests not just in Manila but also in major cities such as Baguio, Cebu, and Davao. “Buti pumayag ang mga Association ng Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines na palakihin ang TFD bilang pagtugon sa tawag ng panahon (It’s good AMRSP expanded the work of TFD in response to the call of the times).

TFD rally against torture
Task Force Detainees monitors the higher incidence of killings and violence against the youth sector. Photographed by Bernard Testa, News5 | InterAksyon

“Mahirap malimutan ang mga biktima ng salvage (How can one forget the salvage victims),” she asks. “Salvage – that’s the term we used back then. There were times somebody would just dump a corpse inside a sack in front of the TFD office. Others would be found floating on, say, Pasig River, or left at some grassy patch in Marikina.”

“How can you forget going through the documentation process? One person gets shot at a protest rally at the Espana Welcome Rotunda, and you scour the area looking for the bullet. You sit in observing the forensic procedure, the medic going through the body part by part. I couldn’t eat for days.”

“The killings appear to be very systematic,” said Sr. Cres. “Like there is a system to it. Systematic. Systemic.”

“The Marcos martial law itself seemed to have systematized the jailing, the killing, the alleged quotas which felt like they were true: During the early weeks, whatever record we could keep as best we could showed 30 or so dead each day.”

“The tantalizing parallelism seems there – the similar system of Davao Death Squad style operation. It’s as if the DDS playbook was exported here to Manila, right down to the executions by motorcycle-mounted tandem riding assassins.”

Why did she use the word systemic? Sr. Cres points out the kindling effect of President Duterte’s public pronouncements tending to fan the fire from the top of the government hierarchy.

“There is a pattern where you are willing to see it, especially where you have somebody who is not averse to sweeping away the opposition on his path, compromising the democratic institutions, like the pressure now being brought to bear on the Commission on Human Rights. There is no more shame, no respect for the law, for people, for lives.”

TFD protesting violence, killings
Task Force Detainees notes apparent parallelisms between the incidence of violence during the Marcos martial law years and the present dispensation of Rodrigo Duterte. Photographed by Bernard Testa, News5 | InterAksyon

She repeated to InterAksyon this vague undefined but authentic fear that Martial law is imminent.

“Sunod-sunod na banta, noon pa man sinasabi niya na “Gusto niyo declare ko ‘yun martial law?,’ hindi ba sinabi niya kay Sereno (These repeated taunts and threats about martial law. Didn’t he address that pointedly at Chief Justice Sereno)?”

“Even if there is no open window for it. It’s in his personality: If he wants it. He wants it.”

Sr. Cres’s not unjustified worry is that even if the upcoming September 21 rally is peaceful, there is always the possibility for agitators to churn up the situation in a provocative way.

She hints that the recent police unwarranted searches at establishment along the Katipunan enclave fronting Ateneo de Manila University gives one a sampling of the crass method of the state’s forces subtly terrorizing the youth.

“But there is a large portion of the youth that is sensitized and mature to these tactics,” she observed.

Tama na, Sobra na
“The mantra during the Marcos era sounds the same today: Tama na. Sobra na,” says Sr. Lucero. “Pinapatay mo kami. Pinapatay mo ang aming pangarap. Nasaan na ang pangako mong pagbabago (Enough already. Stop it already. You are killing us, killing our dream. Where is the change you heralded)?”

“There is a very thin line between genius and idiocy, being on the verge of madness … Parang wala na siya sa sarili (He seems to be out of it).”