By JOAN GARCIA
LAOAG, Ilocos Norte – In Ilocos Norte, there was no commemoration of the declaration of martial law. Instead, what the provincial government led by Governor Imee Marcos did was to hold a 4-day Marcos Fiesta last September 8-11 to celebrate the 95th birth anniversary of deposed former president Ferdinand Marcos.
The so-called fiesta, which included activities such as a Macoy literary and art contest and even a wreath laying at the memorial site of Marcos seemed like a propaganda campaign that not only seeks to glorify Marcos but to also erase the cruelty felt by the people during his term.
For Mila Marcelo, Acting Deputy Secretary-General of Ilocos Human Rights Advocates-Karapatan, to hold an activity like the Marcos Fiesta is adding insult to injury especially to the victims of Martial Law.
“In Ilocos Norte, even though it is called Marcos country, there are many human rights violations during the time of Marcos and until today that the Marcoses are back in the local political scene”, Marcelo said.
Human rights violations, then and now
During the time of martial law, even the residents of Ilocos Norte are not spared from the terror that it brought.
According to the Solidarity of Peasants Against Exploitation (STOP-Exploitation), many farmers from the towns of Vintar, Dumalneg, Solsona, Marcos and Piddig suffered from illegal arrest and torture perpetrated by the military from 1984 until the end of Marcos’ regime.
Also in 1984, three members of an indigenous community in Pallas Valley, Vintar and eight farmers in Bangui were salvaged.
Aside from these, indigenous communities such as the Yapayao and Isneg were forced to evacuate from their ancestral domain.
The victims in these cases have not yet received any compensation until now.
Recently, especially due to the entry of mining firms in the province and the so-called peace and order program of the local government, including the implementation of Oplan Bayanihan, human rights violations persist.
In the town of Currimao, the IHRA-Karapatan was able to record an incident that happened last June 30, 2012 wherein members of the 3rd IBPA physically assaulted and harassed a tanod(village security volunteer) and the barangay captain of Brgy. Santa Cruz.
According to IHRA-Karapatan, Fredimar Labangcoc, a barangay tanod, was punched in the stomach two times by PFC. Darwin Fernandez and was also strangled and kicked by Sgt. Eduardo Turno.
The military officials were reportedly drunk during the time of the incident.
Meanwhile, there has also been an increase in surveillance and harassment of environmental advocates in the province.
Donna Rabang Peta, convenor of the Peoples Solidarity Against Large-scale and Destructive Mining in Ilocos Norte (PSALM-IN) and secretariat member of the Defend Ilocos Against Mining Plunder (Defend Ilocos) has been continuously monitored by the Philippine National Police with direct orders coming from Governor Marcos herself.
Even with the lavish fiesta that the Marcoses conducted, it cannot erase the fact that martial law brought terror into the lives of people.
Last September 21, more than 200 farmers, fisherfolks, youth and human rights victims and advocates marched at Candon City, Ilocos Sur to commemorate the declaration of Martial Law.
Ilocos Norte resident and vice chairman of STOP-Exploitation Tony Pugyao said, in his speech, that the fight against the injustices of martial law is not yet over.
“As the victims of martial law have yet to seek justice, we are also here today to make sure that the human rights violations still being perpetrated by the Aquino administration through Oplan Bayanihan will cease to happen. We are here today to exclaim that we will not let the dark days of martial law happen again”, Pugyao added.
For Marcelo, the activity serves as an eye-opener that human rights violations still persist, especially the militarization of communities.