Earlier this September, Northern Luzon archbishops decried how killings, injustice and corruption have been prevalent in the Philippines under President Duterte’s administration, so much so that the country has turned into the biblical but all too real “Valley of Death.” Their message to Filipinos is timely because Duterte’s presidency has trademarked brazen killings, state terrorism, widespread repression, and unprecedented plunder. Their message is especially timely now that the country is marking martial law one year’s shy of the 50th anniversary of its declaration by deposed dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

 Martial Law’s horrors need constant retelling as trolls, historical revisionists, and fake news peddlers (collectively called in the modern-day as “Toni Gonzagas”), try so hard to whitewash what was a brutal bloodbath and the assassination of Philippine democracy. (Many of these trolls operate with government sponsorship: they’re paid by taxpayer’s money, as recently revealed by Facebook which closed down several social media pages traced to the Armed Forces of the Philippines!) During martial law, according to global human rights organization Amnesty International, 70,000 were imprisoned, 34,000 were tortured and 3,240 were killed during Martial Law from 1972 to 1981. These numbers were the “greatest lessons” the country learned from Marcos, and not whatever hogwash Bongbong Marcos told a “Toni Talks” episode to cosmeticize the monster he had for a father.

 According to Archbishops Socrates Villegas (Lingayen-Dagupan), Marlo Peralta (Nueva Segovia), and Ricardo Baccay (Tuguegarao), Filipinos must unite in resisting and correcting “a culture of murder and plunder,” which, not surprisingly, is one of Duterte’s takeaways from the Marcos government. By filling his Cabinet and government with military and police officers and doubling the salaries of the historically corrupt and incompetent AFP and PNP, Duterte, without a nine-year-long nationwide Martial Law, was able to kill 5,903 individuals through his deadly drug war from July 1, 2016 to Sept. 30, 2020, according to likely tampered-with Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency numbers. That’s almost double the Martial Law death count in half as long!

 Moreover, Duterte has presided over an unprecedented plunder of the nation, revealed recently in the Senate blue ribbon committee which found out the overpricing of billions worth of face masks and personal protective equipment in the heat of the pandemic.

 The “culture of murder and plunder” is alive and well, thanks to Duterte, who has caused moral corruption and the abandonment of Christian teachings among Filipinos. Duterte’s despotism, paired with his murderous chutzpah and hate speech, has put the Philippines in a worrying state where people openly support extra-judicial killings and the death penalty despite opposition from the Church and rights watchdogs. Without the brains or the sophistication of Marcos, Duterte has resurrected Martial Law.  In hindsight, Duterte had early on allowed the burial of the strongman’s corpse at the Libingan ng mga Bayani only to resurrect the zombie of Martial Law.

True to his betrayal of the Constitution and the people, Duterte has allowed totalitarian Communist China to occupy Philippine territory and given preferential treatment to its nationals ostensibly to draw more foreign investments. Duterte as bully and slaughterer reflects the murderous bossism of China. We have treason in high places and its name is Duterte.

We have now right before us the living dead of totalitarianism. The face of that living dead is Duterte.

 Duterte’s totalitarianism and state terrorism are paving the way for Martial Law II, and 49 years removed from Marcos’ declaration, we defiantly decare: Never again!

 Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it, and Filipinos must heed the archbishops’ call to resist inhumane governance, denounce state killings and vote for ethical politicians in 2022. The Philippines does not have to lie prostrate in the Valley of Death!

The Church and other Christian institutions in the country, including UST,  play an important role in contributing to voter education and the upliftment of the democratic consciousness of Filipinos, many of whom are prone to demagoguery and fascist bluster. After all, the 1987 Constitution that was birthed in the aftermath of Marcos’ reign of terror, “implor[es] the aid of Almighty God” in the Filipino people’s building of a just and humane society and the establishment of a government that promotes the common good; conserves and develops our patrimony; and “secures to ourselves…the blessings of independence and democracy under the rule of law and a regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality, and peace.”

 As the only Pontifical University in the Philippines and Asia, UST has the right and authority to stand up to state terrorism and acts of ungodliness; and by doing so it is serving well its duty as an academic and social institution. That’s why it’s appalling how a social media post of the University denouncing Martial Law has been met with vicious responses from pro-Marcos and pro-Duterte revisionist trolls. It’s a shame that taxpayer’s money is being wasted on trolls and bots to deflect criticism of strongmen and state terrorism! Some have even accused the University of politicking, failing to realize that standing up for life and human rights is not political partisanship but an act of moral will. It is a responsible human act. It just so happens that human life and human rights are not a priority in Duterte’s M.O. We do not need an inhumane president, let alone one who called God stupid. For reflection, we suggest that Duterte read Psalm 23, and realize that being godly is the only way out of the Valley of Death.

As the Northern Luzon archbishops said: “This is not the time for despair but courage. This is not the time to be quiet but (the time) to stand up for God. Against the tide of murders and plunder, let us bear witness to truth and life!”

Never again to Martial Law! Down with murder and plunder! Down with despotism! Down with treason! Duterte out!


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