“On May 9, let us remember Marcos’ martial law.”

A few days before elections, labor rights NGO Center for Trade Union and Human Rights urged the public to remember the human rights atrocities and plunder during Marcos dictatorship before casting votes on Monday.

The group belied claims by Ferdinand Bong Bong Marcos Jr, son of the late dictator and currently a frontrunner of the vice presidential race, that the martial law years were the golden years in the Philippine history.

“To say the time of the Marcos dictatorship represents the Golden years in Philippine history is outright distortion of history. A Marcos dictatorship is a dictatorship. It was the darkest stage in the post ‘colonial’ Philippines where wounds of families of victims of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings refused to heal as similar incidents continue to happen and justice had not been served since then. The Marcoses incorrigibly refuse to acknowledge these crimes.  Filipino people are still paying humongous debts after the Marcoses and their cronies siphoned off public funds for their own benefits,” Daisy Arago, CTUHR Executive Director said.

The group also emphasized that the labor movement was heavily suppressed during martial law.

The Marcos dictatorship accounted for many atrocities against workers. The Labor Day massacre on May 1, 1971 left three workers dead after the government forces fired at a mass of workers holding wooden armalites as props for a cultural activity. When Marcos declared martial law in 1972, a Total Strike Ban followed through General Order No. 5. There was a crackdown on trade unions as prominent labor leaders like Felixberto “Ka Bert” Olalia, Crispin Beltran, Bonifacio Tupaz among others were arrested. Even in the Marcos twilight years (1984-86), 77 unionists were murdered, 25 of whom were killed in the picketline, such as in the strike of Artex, Foamtex in Valenzuela, Franklin Baker and Lapanday in Davao provinces.

“The military and the police were lawfully permitted to conduct raids and arrests on suspected ‘subversives’ many of whom were workers. Military raids in union offices, abduction, torture, summary execution of union leaders, bloody picket line dispersals characterized the labor rights landscape during the years of the Marcos dictatorship,” Arago explained.

Hollow democracy: Continuing hostility to unions

CTUHR however underscored that despite so-called restoration of democracy following the 1986 People Power, the labor and trade union sector continued to endure many human rights violations.

During Corazon Aquino’s 6-year term, CTUHR documented 243 victims of killings and summary executions, 42 forcibly disappeared and 1,338 arrested and detained from the trade union movement. CTUHR was established in 1984.

CTUHR also urged workers particulary the young, to remember that it was in Cory Aquino’s ‘democratic government’ that the Herrera Law, the Wage Rationalization Act as well as the Assumption of Jurisdiction power of Department of Labor Secretary were passed. These laws paved   contractualization, divided the workers through creation 1,000 wage levels system in the Philippines and codified military intervention in strikes and labor disputes.

“Is this the democracy that PNoy said he wanted to defend with his life with against the threat to democracy?” Arago averred.

The group added that PNoy’s Daang Matuwid mirrors similarities and parallelism. At least 726 cases of trade union rights violations affecting thousands of workers were recorded.

“Aquino’s Daang Matuwid is no better. It gave no reprieve to workers and the trade union movement despite its claim of inclusiveness and industrial peace. Aquino’s deceitful and pseudo-democratic reforms in reality undermine and attacks hapless workers and trade unions while promoting neoliberal and profit-oriented so called development,” Arago said.

The group urged the public, especially the workers to choose leaders that will truly advance workers’  rights and interests as well as the interests of the Philippines as a sovereign nation.

“We must hold those who perpetrated deaths and misery to the Filipino workers and the poor accountable. Let us not allow the return of those leaders who continue to deny the bloody history of martial law. Let us not allow yet another triumph of a government that is insensitive and astute in promoting the interest of the wealthy few,” Arago averred.###