The national democratic youth group Anakbayan has warned that martial law threats will only worsen existing human rights abuses and police brutality.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to impose martial law as communist rebels in the country warn that peace is unlikely in the near future, given the government's negligence in fulfilling their demands.
Duterte hinted at imposing martial law last weekend in a speech at the Chamber of Commerce in Davao City, contradicting his previous statements characterizing martial law as “stupid” and a move that would lead to a downfall of the country. He has also said in the past that only an invasion would propel him to declare martial law.
His latest threats to impose martial law have triggered widespread fury, fueled by the memory of the country’s history of martial law under the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
In response, the national democratic youth group Anakbayan — an alliance of the progressives in the country fighting for agrarian reform, national industrialization and social welfare — issued a fiery statement Tuesday, declaring that its members “strongly oppose any move or even the mere hinting of enforcing overt military rule” and warning “the Duterte regime that any further turn towards open fascist rule will be confronted and defeated by the Filipino youth and people’s struggle.”
Duterte’s most recent threat was issued ahead of peace talks that are slated to take place Thursday in Italy between the Philippine government and the longstanding left alliance, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
Duterte and his circle have made ending the rebellion — which began in 1968 in order to overthrow the deeply unequal neocolonial government ruled by bureaucratic capitalism, landlords and U.S. imperialists — a priority and are aiming for a peace deal within the year. However, the communists have warned that a rapprochement is unlikely. They are demanding more time, in order to agree on a series of economic and political reforms. They would also like to see hundreds of jailed political prisoners and fighters released.
Anakbayan also mentioned these detentions in their condemnation of Duterte's hints at martial law.
“He has also backtracked on his promise to free all political prisoners and instead kept them hostage as his ‘cards’ in the peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front,” the organization stated.
“As it is, even without the direct declaration of martial law, mounting human rights violations have been committed by abusive police and military men with impunity in the name of Duterte’s brutal anti-drug war and relentless counterinsurgency operations in the countryside,” the group added.
“Declaring martial law will only intensify such repression and abuses … (history) has shown that the collective action of the Filipino people could defeat and overthrow the Marcos dictatorship," the statement continued. "Any attempt by Duterte to impose Martial Law can likewise be defeated."
Concluding, the youth organization warned, "Duterte may be enjoying relative popularity now even as this is daily eroded by the lack of any fundamental change. But if he declares Martial Law and intensifies fascist terror while continuing neoliberal economic policies that favor the landlord and oligarchic classes, then he is only ensuring his place in the dustbin of history."