On September 21, 2012, President Noynoy Aquino commemorated the 40th year of the imposition of martial law by visiting his the former detention cell of his father, Ninoy Aquino, at Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija. President Aquino also opened it as the Armed Forces Center for Human Rights Dialogue (AFP-HRD).
On the same day, political prisoners all over the country lifted their one-week fast that called for their release, as well as to remember the thousands of Filipinos who were tortured and detained during martial law. There are currently 385 political prisoners in different detention centers in the Philippines, 170 were arrested during the two-year old Aquino administration; yet, Pres. Aquino continues to deny their existence.
It is understandable for a son to remember his father and the suffering he endured during martial law as a political prisoner, but it is appalling that he refuses to acknowledge that political prisoners still exist today. All political prisoners are facing trumped up criminal charges. Among them are 30 women, 19 elderly and 49 political detainees suffering from various illnesses.
Worse, Noynoy Aquino depicts the Armed Forces of the Philippines of today as dependable allies of the people compared to the AFP during martial law. Truth is, the AFP continues to be the State’s primary machinery in implementing Oplan Bayanihan that has caused numerous human rights violations against the Filipino people, including the increase in the number of political prisoners.
The creation of the AFP human rights center is another effort to deodorize the image of the military since martial law. Unfortunately, the institution has carried on its mercenary practices and, political prisoners are a proof of this.
When martial law was declared, most of those who were arrested were brought to military camps like Camp Aguinaldo and Fort Bonifacio. The practice has not stopped. Current political prisoners Tirso Alcantara and Ramon Patriarca, consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines in the peacetalks with the government, are in solitary confinement in military camps.
The military has defied a court order for Alcantara’s transfer to a regular detention cell in Camp Crame while Patriarca was arbitrarily transferred from Danao Provincial Jail to a cell at the Central Command in Cebu.
The dark era of martial law is not yet over. State repression that results to human rights violations persists under a so-called democracy. We at SELDA will continue to work for justice for all the victims of human rights violations from martial law to Noynoy Aquino.