45 years ago today, we remember the horrors of the Martial Law dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos.
Thousands of Filipinos were murdered by state forces; detained and disappeared over two decades of military rule. People were denied of their rights as the police cracked down on free speech and free movement. Billions of public funds and loans were plundered by the Marcos family and their cronies, most of which still burden Filipinos today.
This year, we don't remember the dictatorship as a distant past but as a current reality. The new dictator is President Rodrigo Duterte.
In Duterte's dictatorship, he has made the police force his personal killing machine, turning its crosshairs on the poor and defenseless. His gospel of violence led to 13,000 killed, some of them as young as 4 years old. The streets he promised he would sweep clean of criminality became his killing field, painting the sidewalks with the blood of his own people.
Duterte has silenced and attacked those who speak of the truth as he churned lies to turn Filipinos against each other. Duterte turned to the language of misogyny to discredit the strong and principled women opposing his regime’s excesses, one of which is Risa Hontiveros, who is threatened with fake cases for defending justice.
Duterte has also brought back the Marcoses to power by giving the late dictator a hero's burial. He’s guaranteed them immunity from charges in return of a few stolen gold bars. Duterte’s closest allies are the corrupt Marcoses, Estradas, Arroyos-- presidents who have been booted out by people power.
But Duterte, the dictator, is scared. He is scared at the sound of people outraged. He quickly brandishes the threat of Martial Law when people push back against his killings, his lies and his abuses.
This is why, today, fighting back is a duty for all of us. We turn to each other for strength to keep our democracy alive.
This year, a dictatorship is becoming real. But we remember that the Filipino people has toppled dictators before and we won't be afraid to do that again when the challenge arises. A nation united is more powerful than a dictator who wants to divide all of us.