Release all political prisoners to remove “imprints” of martial law.
This was asked of President Rodrigo Duterte by human-rights group Karapatan on Wednesday, the 44th anniversary of the declaration of military rule by then-President Ferdinand Marcos.
“The existence of political prisoners in a so-called democratic country proves that the imprints of martial law are still here,” Jigs Clamor, Karapatan deputy secretary general, said in a statement emailed to reporters covering the Philippine National Police.
Marcos declared martial law on September 21, 1972 to suppress supposed lawlessness and violence brought about by a communist rebellion coupled with a Muslim uprising in Mindanao.
Karapatan said there were at least 120,000 persons imprisoned during martial law and that many of them were arrested without warrants for their political beliefs.
As of June 30, 2016, according to the group, there were at least 525 political prisoners languishing in jails all over the country.
Clamor said activists and critics of the government are slapped with criminal charges such as illegal possession of firearms, murder and kidnapping instead of political offenses.
“Leaders of legal mass organizations and development workers providing services to the most marginalized sectors are also arrested for charges of murder and frustrated murder, like Amelia Pond, a teacher/researcher of self-help schools for lumad [indigenous people’s]children,” he added.
Clamor said major causes of massive unrest of Filipinos during the martial law regime such as corruption of public funds, political repression and extreme poverty stemming from landlessness and joblessness still continue to exist at present.