MANILA, Philippines — Former Bayan Muna representative Neri Colmenares is hoping President Rodrigo Duterte’s hints about declaring martial law nationwide should protests on September 21 turn violent is an empty threat similar to previous over-the-top statements.
Nevertheless, the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, of which Colmenares is chairman, predicted that “nationwide martial law will spell the end of the Duterte regime.”
NUPL members, at a gathering in Quezon City to mark the group’s 10th anniversary, signed a manifesto opposing any attempts to place the country under martial law, extrajudicial killings, the Duterte administration’s efforts to “cripple or control institutions” that provide checks and balances to executive overreach, and join the people fight “the open and evident rise of a fascist government.”
Colmenares said Duterte had no basis to use the planned protests on September 21, the 45th anniversary of the martial law declaration by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, to justify his own nationwide declaration because “ang mga organizers ng rally dito (the organizers of the rally here), the last thing they would do is to commit violence, the very violence na kinokondena nila (that they condemn).”
“Just because people are holding rallies to disagree with him doesn’t mean martial law has to be declared,” Colmenares stressed.
The protests are being spearheaded by the Movement Against Tyranny, which counts groups and individuals of different persuasions.
However, while confident the rallies will be peaceful, Colmenares admitted being unsure if the same could be said of any action Duterte might take.
Neither, he said can Duterte blame people for suspecting him of moving towards dictatorship.
“Hindi masisi ni President Duterte ang taongbayan na magsuspetsa na hinahanda na niya [ang martial law], especially since ang mga actions ng mga gobyerno ngayon ay repression (President Duterete cannot blame the people for suspecting that he’s preparing [for martial law], especially since the government’s actions are repressive) … For me I agree with those who say that these are probably baby steps towards it,” he said.
“Hindi pa nga martial law ganito na karami namatay eh (Martial law hasn’t been declared yet but many have already died),” he added
But should Duterte declare martial law, Colmenares said: “‘Yan ang tungkulin namin na bilang human rights lawyer na depensahan ang karapatan ng taongbayan ‘pag mag-martial law siya (That is our duty as human rights lawyer to defend the rights of the people if martial law is declared). We will oppose it.”
“For now, we will concentrate on making September 21 a very successful, very peaceful and very meaningful event for the Filipino people to not only commemorate the declaration of martial law 45 years ago, but also to express our opposition to the anti-people policies of president Duterte,” he said.
READ THE NUPL MANIFESTO BELOW:
WE, people’s lawyers and allied lawyers from all over the country, assembled together on the 10th year anniversary of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), declare that:
- We VEHEMENTLY OPPOSE, as we have vehemently opposed the declaration of martial law in the entire Mindanao, any and all attempts by the government and the military to impose a nationwide martial rule to quell the growing public dismay against intensifying state tyranny;
- We STRONGLY CONDEMN the state policy of extrajudicial killings being committed with impunity and the government’s obvious and blatant disregard for the value of human life;
- We FIRMLY DISAPPROVE of any attempts to cripple or control institutions responsible for ensuring checks and balances as well as the accountability of the government and other state forces such as the impeachment move on the Chief Justice, the slashing of the CHR budget and the bullying and impending impeachment of the Ombudsman;
- We VIGOROUSLY VOW to STRUGGLE and FIGHT together with the Filipino people against the open and evident rise of a fascist government under the Duterte regime; and
- We RESOLUTELY PLEDGE to continue to offer our knowledge of the law, in the service of the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized, for the defense, promotion and protection of human rights and for a just and lasting peace.
16 September 2017, Quezon City, Philippines.