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In face of surveys, CARMMA says anti-Martial Law sentiment won't be silent

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com

Part 3 of a three-part feature on stories of resistance in Davao City

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — A part of presidential aspirant Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.'s staple sortie speech is how his call for unity — his main campaign — started with a whisper that resonated with communities and has become a reverberating call across the country.

For a week in March, Marcos, his running-mate Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte and UniTeam senators barnstormed Mindanao. In the three grand rallies in key areas in the Davao region — Carmen in Davao del Norte; Pantukan Davao De Oro; and Digos City, Davao del Sur — he hammered on his call for unity.

Even with the influential Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez (Davao del Norte, 1st District) declaring support for Marcos’ closest rival Vice President Leni Robredo, Marcos is confident he has the Mindanao vote in the bag. "The crowd understands the message very well, that’s the most important thing," he told reporters in Carmen town.

And Marcos’ team was welcomed by Davaoeños with loud cheers: Even under the scorching sun, even if they had to perch on railings on gates to get a glimpse of the candidates, even enduring light rain at times, attendees stayed and cheered for the UniTeam until late in the evening despite having to go to work the next day.

Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses and Martial Law – Davao convenor Jean Lindo admits the UniTeam tandem will likely win the region.

"I expect them [to win] because they are dominant, they have the power and the resources. While us, we just have spiritual resources. We rely on the courage of people in the margins, in their steadfastness,” she told Philstar.com last week.

"While we do not have power and resources, we are still organized so it helps for as long as we remain steadfast," Lindo, who is second nominee of Gabriela Women's Party-list, said.

The Martial Law experience in Mindanao

In the 14 years since the elder Marcos declared Martial Law in 1972, opposition meant disappearances, illegal detention, torture and even killings. But in the face of those risks, the Philippines ousted the dictator through the historic 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution.

Mindanao has a more recent memory of martial law, when, just five years ago, President Rodrigo Duterte declared it due to clashes in Marawi City against Islamic State-linked terrorists who would later lay siege to the capital of Lanao del Sur.

Lindo said that it is not true that Mindanaons were less resistant to martial law in 2017: They stood witness to the siege in Marawi City and were in solidarity with their Moro brothers and sisters, but she said they questioned the narrative of "so-called Mindanao conflict."

"There was no conflict among the people, so that’s not true that we were eager for martial law. We were not heard but is it not that way: Those who are in dominant politics, they have media access and they talk and tell the narratives favoring them," Lindo added.

"But those in the grassroots, working in the grassroots level, were not heard. I believe we are not okay with martial law," she also said.

President Duterte, in his fifth State of the Nation Address in 2020, claimed there were no abuses during the two and a half years that Mindanao was under martial law, but human rights alliance group Karapatan in May 2018, reported at least 49 victims of extrajudicial killings. Most were from indigenous peoples communities or were members of local peasant organizations.

Karapatan also recorded 22 cases of torture, 116 victims of frustrated extrajudicial killings, 89 victims of illegal arrest and detention, and 336,125 victims of indiscriminate gunfire and aerial bombings.

Marcos son rises

For victims and survivors of his father's Martial Law, the mere mention of the Marcos surname unearths horrors. Even the upbeat cover of the Martial Law anthem “Bagong Lipunan” that gets attendees up from their seats to cheer and dance brings back memories of the original blaring through speakers through their childhood.

One of the key figures in the Davao City of that time was Soledad Duterte, a respected civic leader who fought the regime and who was mother to a future president.

The president takes pride in his mother’s work in fighting the elder Marcos’ Martial Law. In a campaign interview in March 2016, as posted by Rappler, he said: "My mother was one of three or four or five marching down the streets of Davao during Martial Law, in the dark days of Martial Law. My mother led the Yellow Friday Movement in Davao."

"So I will dishonor the memory of my mother by following the persons she helped put down?" Duterte said then in response to concerns that he would be a dictator.

With the junior Marcos dominating pre-elections surveys Duterte has been insisting he will remain neutral and will not support a presidential bet. He declared that, of course, he will endorse the bid of his daughter — who is running hand-in-hand with the son of the dictator their late matriarch fought against.

In their Davao rallies, Sara and the rest of the UniTeam endorsed Marcos as the only presidential bet to help the "Eagle of the South" — Marcos Jr. is sometimes called "The Tiger of the North" — and continue the elder Duterte's programs.

"We will try our best to deliver for Bongbong Marcos in Davao region and based on our survey, he is doing well and we can do more for him," Mayor Duterte said.

Bongbong Marcos and Sara Duterte attends a UniTeam rally in Carmen Davao Del Norte on March 30 2022
EC Toledo / Philstar.com

Hugpong ng Pagbabago Secretary-General Anthony Del Rosario, former governor of Davao del Norte, also said Rep. Alvarez’s endorsement of Robredo did not cause a dent in their campaign for Marcos.

"BBM will still win as president, there is no difference there," he said partly in Filipino in a separate chance interview.

Even opposition mayoral candidate Ruy Elias Lopez admitted the anti-Martial Law sentiment in Davao may be dying. "No more, because those who are anti-Martial Law like Nanay Soling and Dutertes, where are they now? What kind of people they have become?"

Pushing back

Asked if there is still pushback against political forces dominant in the region, Lindo asserted: "Definitely, there is. They may think that just because the president is from here, they think there is no opposition. I mean, come on, Davao is an opposition city, we were against [Charter Change].”

Lindo, who is seeking a House seat under Gabriela Women’s Party-list, acknowledged that they fear the results of the 2022 polls with Marcos leading in pre-election surveys.

"If we will look at it historically, the injustices made against women, during the time of Martial Law, we are not expected to take things sitting down. We need to push back and remember that part of democracy is opposition," she added.

The doctor and aspiring lawmaker said they fear that Marcos will continue the incumbent’s "Build, Build, Build [infrastructure program] that is anti-people, [and] the legacy of his father that impacted people on the margins, to push them further to the fringes, then there will be no justice."

Lindo asserted that while their voice may not be as dominant and the anti-Martial Law sentiment in the provinces may not be as loud, these still resonate in places.

She pointed out the recently launched movement supporting Vice President Leni Robredo's presidential alongside Sara Duterte as vice president, as a form of resistance to another Marcos presidency.

"So now, what we are doing is we have to bravely confront the issue even if doing such has repercussions if Marcos wins. But we have to take the risk," Lindo added, as she vowed that the pushback from those often drowned out by dominant interests will continue. — Photos and videos by Philstar.com/EC Toledo

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