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An opportunity to listen to others

PRESIDENT Duterte has declared today, September 21, a “National Day of Protest “in the wake of reports that various organizations plan to conduct demonstrations on this day, each with its own cause to pursue.

September 21 is the day President Ferdinand Marcos proclaimed martial law in 1972, beginning a period in which he governed the country without Congress, without many other officials of government, without the press and other media.

On this and succeeding days, military units arrested many officials, among them opposition Senator Benigno S. Aquino Jr. and two other senators, along with several newspaper editors, publishers, and columnists, and many activist youth leaders. Aquino was tried in a military court which, after many years, sentenced him to death.

Martial law remained in force for nine years until it was formally lifted in 1981, but the deadening effect of martial law remained until 1983 when Aquino, returning from the United States where he had been allowed to undergo medical treatment, was assassinated on the tarmac of the Manila International Airport. Three years later, in 1986, the gathering protest movement culminated in the People Power Revolution at EDSA.

There are many, especially students of law and government, who value the martial law years as a period when many of the laws that govern our country today, were crafted and proclaimed, and many great institutions like the Cultural Center of the Philippines, the Heart Center, and the Kidney Center came into being. But it was at the expense of so many constitutional rights and freedoms – which is why today, September 21, is not celebrated but remembered with pain and sorrow. It is truly an apt day for protest and so today many organizations dissatisfied with many policies and decisions of the government plan to demonstrate in various places.

One group will protest the continued fuel price increases as well as plans to raise fuel taxes. There will be a march from the Mabuhay Rotonda in Quezon City to Morayta in Manila this morning. There will be a rally at the Luneta Park this afternoon to protest repeated government threats to impose martial law nationwide.

Last Monday, President Duterte said he might as well declare September 21 as a National Day of Protest for all people who want to express their opposition and protest on various issues, including, he said, the government’s campaign against drugs, the many killings that have taken place, low salaries of workers. Even the New People’s Army forces are welcome to join the protests, he said, provided they stay within the law.

For most people, September 21 is simply the day martial law was declared in 1972 and they would rather that it be forgotten. But it has been adopted by some protest groups and President Duterte has agreed to call it a National Day of Protest.

We just hope that it will serve its purpose of providing an opportunity for people to voice any discontent they may have, any protest against some government action, as well as to voice any suggestion or proposal they may want our officials to consider. Let it be an opportunity for all to listen to others within our democratic system of government.