The hashtags #NeverForget and #NeverAgain topped Twitter trends as Filipinos took to the social media platform to commemorate the 50th anniversary of former President Ferdinand Marcos Sr declared martial law on September 21, 1972 by signing Proclamation No. 1081.
On Twitter, students from various universities called on their classmates to wear black as a sign of protest against the period of authoritarian rule in the Philippines marked by the death of press freedom, widespread human rights violations, and plunder.
Several Twitter users drew attention to the startling figures of corruption and human rights abuses that were recorded during the Martial Law era.
One user even reshared the image of Joel Abong, the severely malnourished child whose photo was taken in 1985 at the height of the Negros famine, when millions of individuals who relied on sugar plantations suffered from extreme malnutrition caused by the Marcos administration’s efforts to control sugar production.
Others recognized the importance of remembering what took place 50 years ago in the context of another Marcos sitting as president.
While he did not name President Ferdinand Marcos Jr specifically, Barry Gutierrez, Vice President Leni Robredo’s former spokesperson, said he wished for him to do well since “too many will suffer otherwise,” but pointed out that recognizing the atrocities of Martial Law was important.
Creative director Gerry Cacanindin pointed out that the real legacy of Martial Law was the “extinction of intellectuals, public servants, and freedom fighters. That’s why we’re left with the dregs. Just look at the legislature and what a joke it has become,” he wrote, referring to current members of the senate (such as action star and political newbie Robin Padilla, who garnered more votes than any other senator in May’s election).
The anniversary is taking place while President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr’s is making his first official visit to the United States and participating in the United Nations General Assembly in New York City. Marcos Jr and his mother, Imelda, face a US$353-million contempt order issued by the District Court of Hawaii in 2011 for not answering a judgement against Marcos Sr in a 1995 human rights class action lawsuit. But the US government confirmed earlier this year that, as a head of state, Marcos Jr is protected by diplomatic immunity.
Marcos Jr’s arrival in the United States was met by two opposing reactions from the Filipino community: while his supporters welcomed his arrival, groups of protesters took to the streets to voice their opposition to his presidency.