Fifty years to the day since a dictator declared martial law in the Philippines, the international community is poised to welcome his son into power with open arms. The United Nations has invited newly inaugurated Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to speak at the UN General Assembly on September 20. The invitation coincides with the 50th anniversary of the declaration of martial law in the Philippines by his father, Ferdinand Marcos Sr.
September 21, 1972, marked the beginning of a 14-year period of corruption, tyranny and state violence that left over 70,000 Filipinos jailed, 34,000 tortured and 3,240 murdered. It also left the Marcos family $10 billion richer.
Despite an outstanding $353 million contempt order related to human rights abuses committed under his family’s previous rule and a presidential campaign marred by claims of electoral fraud, violence and misinformation, Ferdinand “Bong Bong” Marcos Jr. will be speaking to the international community on issues of inequality, poverty and armed conflict — issues he has no right to speak about. The UN General Assembly must not be swayed by the Marcos family’s attempts to obfuscate their crimes against the Filipino people. Anything less is a gross hypocrisy from a body that supposedly “promotes the realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all.”
State violence against the Filipino people is not a problem of the distant past. Americans may be familiar with former Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s (2016-2022) bloody “war on drugs.” In a thinly veiled effort to crack down on dissent, state forces and their allies targeted activists and critics, resulting in as many as 30,000 extrajudicial killings of labor leaders, land defenders, and the poor and vulnerable. Now, the former president’s daughter, Sara Duterte, is Marcos Jr.’s vice president. This is not a coincidence. The Marcos-Duterte alliance is the work of a decades-long project by the Marcos dynasty and its cronies to restore itself to power. Inviting Marcos Jr. to the UN only further disregards the killings and indignities suffered under both Marcos Sr. and former President Duterte.
Make no mistake: Marcos Jr.’s regime is overseeing a continuation of the practices of his predecessors. His regime lends its full support to practices widely condemned by international human rights groups. These include the violent and anti-democratic tactics of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict and the Anti-Terror Law, which in tandem have resulted in the intimidation and arrest of any opposition, including sitting senators, journalists and Indigenous school teachers. In 2020, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights itself reported “systematic human rights violations, including killings and arbitrary detention, persistent impunity and the vilification of dissent.” Now, Marcos Jr. doubles down on these same cruel, repressive methods. Human rights atrocities in the Philippines will worsen as the government continues to dodge accountability.
The United States and the international community will remain complicit with the Marcos-Duterte regime so long as the world continues to legitimize the tyranny of these political dynasties and the U.S. government continues to fuel the mechanisms of terror with over $550 million in military aid and $2 billion in arms sales. But this cycle of impunity need not continue. Last year, Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pennsylvania) introduced the Philippine Human Rights Act (PHRA) in an effort to suspend security assistance to the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police until the human rights situation improves.
Marcos Jr.’s speech at the United Nations will represent a cruel hypocrisy to the many Filipinos who have suffered under the Marcos and Duterte regimes. The international community should not welcome Marcos Jr. into power. Congress must pass the PHRA, the International Criminal Court must proceed with its inquiry into extrajudicial killings during the Duterte administration, and the United Nations must commit to investigating the human rights abuses of the new Marcos regime. It’s high time the global community take substantial steps towards restitution for the Filipino people and begin to hold the Marcoses and Dutertes accountable for their crimes.
The Northeast Coalition to Advance Genuine Democracy in the Philippines will protest and march from the Philippine Consulate (556 5th Avenue) to the United Nations on Tuesday, September 20, at 12 pm.
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