Correction: Bro. Ronald Balgado’s name was misspelled as Bro. Ronald Balase in previous report. Our apologies.
DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Updated as of 5:50pm, September 22, 2017) — She was four years old when former President Ferdinand Marcos Sr. declared Martial Law on September 21, 1972.
When Senator Benigno Aquino Sr was assassinated at the Manila International Airport, most of Mags Maglana’s classmates believed it was Marcos who ordered the killing. She was the only one who stood up for the late dictator asking her friends to give Marcos a chance.
“I grew up thinking we had a good government,” she told Davao Today in an interview on Friday.
She grew up singing “Bagong Lipunan” (new society) and remembered well that when she came back to Davao to study college in 1985, she branded rallyists condemning tuition increase as “bugo” (stupid). But on that same year, Maglana joined her first “Welgang Bayan”.
“That was after I learned the concept of social justice and nationalism,” she said.
Years later Maglana would be one of the conveners of Konsyensya Dabaw, a group formed to oppose the burial of Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
Marcos was buried at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani in November last year, but the group remained active in condemning what they described as a “creeping” authoritarianism under the Duterte administration.
Members of Konsyensya Dabaw were among the groups who held protest actions in time for the commemoration of the 45th anniversary of Martial Law declaration here Firday. They said they were not paid to join the rallies but they joined to demand what is due them from the government.
“Hindi kami nandito para magpabayad, nandito kami para maningil (We are not here to get paid, we are here to get what is due for us),” Maglana said at the gathering of hundreds of protesters along Freedom Park in Roxas Avenue here.
The protesters came from various organizations in Davao region, but they were united in demanding the government to stop the killings and to lift Martial Law in Mindanao.
Groups and individuals who are members of Movement Against Tyranny were supposed to gather at the Rizal Park before they march to Freedom Park. But the roads leading to San Pedro Street were blocked by police with steel barricades.
The stage at the Rizal Park was covered with giant tarpaulins with words: “Resist Destabilization We Support PRRD.” The tarpaulins were signed by another group who had the same acronym, MAT-Davao or Mamamayan Ayaw sa Terorista (People Against Terrorists).
The anti-Martial Law activists gathered near the Osmeña Park instead. Rally organizers pegged the protesters came close to 1,000 while Police Regional Office 11 Director Chief Supt. Manuel Gaerlan said they were monitoring a maximum of 300 protesters.
Gaerlan told reporters at the Ritz Hotel that the protesters were paid.
“Naghakot sila, I don’t know who rented buses may mga tao from Compostela Valley, Davao del Sur… May bayad naman, binayaran ang mga tao at free lunch,” Gaerlan said.
(They paid rallyists. I don’t know who rented buses, they brought people from Compostela Valley, Davao del Sur… They were paid, they paid the people and they gave free lunch.)
He said it was “ironic” for rallyists to denounce Martial Law in Mindanao when they can hold their rallies.
President Rodrigo Duterte signed Proclamation No. 319 declaring a “national day of protest” and suspending classes and works in government offices on Thursday.
But Sheena Duazo, secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan in Southern Mindanao said some rallyists entering the city were blocked despite Duterte’s proclamation of the “national day of protest.”
No destabilization plot
Maglana said the National Day of Protest announced by President Duterte days before the commemoration of Martial Law is a way of “letting off steam” as criticisms against the government’s policies are mounting.
“The exercise of protest is not a form of destabilization,” Maglana said.
She said it is the government’s policies like extrajudicial killings and the apparent authoritarian rule which has destabilizing effect.
“People are killed without due process and there is no sign that there is systematic effort to hunt down killers. The power clearly rests with the President,” Maglana said, adding that it shows the government has weak institutions.
Duazo also condemned the killings of 47 activists in Davao region since Duterte swore in as President.
She said like the Martial Law under the late dictator, Duterte’s Martial Law also endangers the lives of civilians who are critical of the administration.
Meanwhile, 27-year-old Bro. Ronald Balgado, CsSR of the Redemptorist Church said President Duterte is clearly dividing the people.
“He is using violence for those who are against him. If you do not support the policy of the government they treat you as an enemy,” Balgado told Davao Today.
Balgado said he was not born during the Martial Law years of President Marcos, but he sees Duterte’s “use of power” to make everyone accept the government’s policies as a way to silence the critics.
He said he hopes Duterte will be open for dialogue with the basic sectors and will hear their demands like how he did when he was still mayor of Davao City.(Robby Joy D. Salveron contributed to this report)