Protesters rally at Consulate vs Martial Law

Community News & Features Jun 9, 2017 at 5:28 pm
Toronto rally vs Martial Law in Mindanao. Photo: JECRIS TUBIGON

Toronto rally vs Martial Law in Mindanao.
Photo: JECRIS TUBIGON

By Pet G. Cleto

The May 23, 2017 declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao by President Rodrigo Duterte, alongside his declaration of the suspension of the privilege of writ of habeas corpus, have successfully mobilized a united protest among various sectors of the Filipino community in Toronto. The suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, as survivors of Ferdinand Marcos’s martiual law know, effectively authorizes the military to dispense with warrants of arrest, and immediately arrest and detain anyone on the simple suspicion of rebellion.

Several known leaders in the Filipino community called up a protest action in front of the Philippine Consulate to call down the imposition of Martial Law in Mindanao. Toronto anti-Marcos and anti-Martial Law activists from the 70’s made up a good number of this group. Leading and organizing the moving picket and program were the Bayan Canada-member organizations and affiliates, mainly Migrante Ontario and GABRIELA Ontario.

“It’s the 70’s again,” was heard from Filipino writer Voltaire de Leon, holding up a placard showing a woman padlocked by Martial Law, and Peace Talks as her only hope of deliverance from misery. De Leon stood determinedly in the rally beside stalwarts from that decade. Their group would sharply shout out with the others : “Never Again to Martial Law!” Noted in his group was Rose Tijam, current PPCO (Philippine Press Club of Ontario) president. Also present was Fe Grcznski, also a 1970’s activist, who later joined the Philippine Solidarity Group and the International

Photo: LUI QUEAÑO

Photo: LUI QUEAÑO

Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines.

Before the program began, Jesson Reyes of Migrante Ontario had gone up to the Consulate to deliver the Bayan Canada statement, somehow expecting to meet with some consular officials, since the organizations had sent a message notifying the Consulate of the event occurring that day, and that a statement from Bayan Canada would be delivered to the Consulate. For reasons unknown, Reyes was not met by Consul General Rosalita Prospero nor by any of her consuls.

Luisito Queano of Migrante Ontario set the tone with “We’ve gathered today to voice out our collective rejection of martial law in Mindanao. We say with all our resistance, NEVER AGAIN TO MARTIAL LAW! In solidarity with our Moro brothers and sisters and with the Filipino people, we say LIFT MARTIAL LAW!”

Photo: JECRIS TUBIGON

Photo: JECRIS TUBIGON

Mithi Esguerra, Chairperson of GABRIELA Ontario prefaced her speech by saying her group was against the violence perpetrated by the Maute (a group connected to ISIS) against the people of Marawi. However, she said, GABRIELA Ontario also rejects Martial Law as an appropriate solution. From the declaration by President Rodrigo Duterte of Martial Law in the whole of Mindanao, Esguerra quoted the president as saying he would be “harsh”, clearly equating his Martial Law with the conduct of Martial Law of Ferdinand Marcos.

Esguerra said the reports of escalated violence in the week after ML Declaration confirm that the conduct is “harsh”. She said however, that instead of the Maute, members of progressive organizations, activists, plain farmers and other civilians were arrested or killed.

Esguerra cited among others, the May 26, 2017 killing In Matanao, Davao Sur, of Daniel Lasid, 58, a B’laan council member of Akma Aksasatu Matanao (Unity of Matanao) and his companion, Lindo Samling which was reportedly done by five gunmen onboard three motorcycles on. Witnesses identified elements of the 73rd IBPA as the perpetrators. Lasid sustained eleven gunshot wounds, majority to his head.

Josh Cuasay, Executive member of the Board of UNITE HERE Local 75, was also present. She spoke about the Filipino workers’ rejection of Martial Law because it doesn’t solve the root causes of the armed conflict and the suffering of people in Mindanao and the rest of the Philippines. “We don’t need more militarization because we know it hasn’t solved anything and only causes more problems.” Cuasay pointed out the excessive numbers of migrant workers who need to work abroad so their families can survive. “We need solutions to the economic situation which has only created more porverty. We can only hope for some solutions from agreements at the Peace Talks”, she said.

Photo: JECRIS TUBIGON

Photo: JECRIS TUBIGON

One of the survivors of Marcos’s Martial Law, Jojo Geronimo, from the Ontario Federation of Labour, spoke about the terrorizing trauma of Martial Law on the general populace, and his memories of friends who were illegally arrested, and tortured or “salvaged” (killed). Geronimo said that his generation should make efforts to keep this historical period in the awareness of younger generations, so that it would never happen again.

Recent reports from KARAPATAN, a human rights organization, have said that President Duterte’s cancellation of the Writ of Habeas Corpus also means that the military can detain people suspected of rebellion and rejection of Martial Law for more than the standard three days.

Progressive and supportive Canadian organizations also showed up and spoke at the rally.

Photo: JECRIS TUBIGON

Photo: JECRIS TUBIGON

Philip Fernandez from Communist Party of Canada expressed solidarity from his party as well as from many international groups, with the Filipino people in their opposition to Martial Law. He talked about the link between the declaration of Martial Law and the cancellation by President Duterte of the Peace Talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines right after the declaration of Martial Law. He commented: “The success of the negotiations for lasting peace in the Philippines would spell the end of US domination in the country.” The decisive factor, according to Fernandez, however, lies in the “organized resistance of people fighting for their rights and self-determination.”

Ben Radiz of the Toronto Against Fascism group relates the ML Declaration as a “fascist tool of the ruling class in the Philippines” to what is happening in Canada, where “the face of domestic fascism shows itself daily to indigenous, racialized, and poor people.” He also related the Maute group to the Abu Sayyaf, Al-Qaeda, and even Daesh itself as “tools of Western governments to destabilize and disrupt independent states and people’s movements abroad.”

He said the Philippine struggle should inspire people in Canada “to take up and continue the ongoing struggles here.”