Martial Law

LIST: 49th Martial Law anniversary protests, activities

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LIST: 49th Martial Law anniversary protests, activities

Hundreds of activists converged at the University Avenue in UP Diliman, Quezon City on September 21, 2020, to commemorate the 48th anniversary of the Declaration of Martial Law by then dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Photo by Jire Carreon/Rappler

Jire Carreon/Rappler

The activities are happening against the backdrop of the rising COVID-19 cases and the ongoing corruption exposés in the government's pandemic spending

In the middle of the COVID-19 Delta surge in the Philippines, groups and coalitions will be leading protests to mark anniversary of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ declaration of Martial Law on September 21, 1972. 

Martial Law is considered the darkest years of post-colonial Philippines, marked by grave and innumerable human rights abuses. The declaration involved extreme military rule, media suppression, and piling up of government debts due to corruption.

Marking its 49th anniversary, groups are adjusting their calls through events to show their indignation towards the looming dictatorship of President Rodrigo Duterte. The activities are happening against the backdrop of the rising COVID-19 cases and the ongoing corruption exposés in the government’s pandemic spending.

Metro Manila

On Tuesday, September 21, human rights groups, grassroots activists, and civil society organizations including In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement (iDEFEND), Karapatan, and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN), Sanlakas, Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM), and Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) will be mobilizing a People’s Caravan. 

The caravan will start from Commonwealth across the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) at 10:30 AM. Groups will be marching at the University of Santos Tomas at noon then it will join another mobilization in Mendiola. All groups will gather at the Liwasang Bonifacio in Ermita, Manila by 4 pm to conduct the program.

With the theme, “MARCOS-DUTERTE: PANDEMYA NG PASAKIT #NeverAgain,” the protest aims to remind the public of the horrors of martial law, as well as to call on the electorate to reject Bongbong Marcos and Rodrigo Duterte’s bid in the upcoming 2022 elections.

Groups will also express their condemnation against the Duterte administration’s malevolent  governance such as the Duterte-China ties, and his Davao Death Squad (DDS) and war on drugs that is currently being investigated by the International Criminal Court (ICC). 

In joining the protest, proper health protocols such as wearing face masks, social distancing should still be followed. 

To amplify the symbol of protest, participants are invited to wear black, as well as face shields as a sign of Duterte’s failure in pandemic initiatives.

Tying black ribbons and flaglets in windows, cars, bikes, gates are also encouraged to spark a conversation within communities.

Regional areas

On September 21, human rights organizations such as Sanlakas, PAHRA, and PLM will be conducting stage protest actions in Calabarzon, Cebu, Negros, and different areas across Mindanao. Details will be shared on their Facebook page.


United States based organizations such as Malaya Movement USA, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan USA, Gabriela USA, Migrante USA, and International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines – US will be organizing protest actions across the country on September 21. The venue of the mobilizations may be checked here.


Because of the pandemic, many organizations are conducting their activities online.

Here’s a developing list of other online activities to mark the 49th Martial Law anniversary: 

  • Active Vista International Human Rights Festival is celebrating “Kwento Natin ‘To: Reclaiming our Stories as a Nation” from September 21 to October 10. Programs ranging from film screenings, forums, eventsthe festival aims to highlight stories of human rights struggles during the COVID-19 pandemic. Check out their page for more updates.
  • Act for Peace and Pilgrims for Peace are launching a webinar series titled “Academics against Authoritarianism: Academic Freedom from Marcos to Duterte” via Zoom. This aims to encourage audiences to show their support for a concrete legislative measure to defend democratic rights in the educations sector – the Academic Freedom Bill currently being pushed by the ACT Teachers and Kabataan Partylistst. The event will be on September 18, from 3 to 5 pm. Details about the event can be found via this link.
  • Amateur Media Association for Philippine Scouts will be holding a show titled “Martial Law: Magandang Lipunan o Madugong Lipunan” on September 20, 7:30 pm. The event will showcase videos of youth Scouts on their initial stand about Martial Law, followed by a webinar with Martial Law survivors. The event will be available via Facebook live and Zoom. Interested Zoom participants can register here.
  • Anakbayan Metro Baguio’s Online Mobilization is organizing an online forum titled, “Saksi ang Kasaysayan: Diktaduryang Duterte, Wakasan!” on September 19, 5 pm via Facebook live. 
  • In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement and LILAK (Purple Action for Indigenous Women’s Rights) will be launching a film screening event entitled, “KwaranSine 2.0 Batas Militar sa Lente ng Bagong Henerasyon,” on September 23, from 4 to 6 pm via Facebook Live. The screening will feature short films from students of the Far Eastern University Department of Communication that tackle issues of Martial Law, gross human rights violations, and their parallelism with the current administration.
  • Kabataan Partylist Southern Tagalog will also conduct a series of educational discussions titled, “Tanikala: Pagbabalik Tanaw sa Masalimuot na Batas Militar ni Marcos” via Discord. The event will run from September 16 to 18, every 4 pm. Participants can register here.
  • KALasag, the official student publication of College of Arts and Letters in the University of the Philippines Diliman, will launch the zine entitled “Ang Sining na Mapagpalaya Kontra Pasismo, Mula sa Rehimeng Marcos Hanggang Duterte” in the last week of September. Check out their Facebook page for their recent works.
  • Lasallian Justice and Peace Commission with the De La Salle University Araneta is organizing a webinar forum titled, “Heroes of Peace: A Conversation on Lasallian Advocates of Active Non-Violence” on September 21, 2 to 4 pm. The forum will be tackling Lasallian personalities, such as Sen. Jose  “Ka Pepe” Diokno who served as icons of active non-violence during the time of Martial Law. Registration followed by the Zoom link can be found here
  • Movement Against the Anti-Terrorism Act will be hosting, “Torture Victims Speak Out Against Marcoses and Dutertismo” on September 21, 9:30 am. The event will take place via Zoom and it can be accessed here.
  • PumaPodcast relaunches Habilin, a series of Spotify podcasts that encourages parents and teachers to start an early conversation about Martial Law to their kids. Presented by the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines and Sandigan para sa Mag-aaral at Sambayanan (SAMASA), each episode narrates different stories of ordinary Filipinos who made their own heroic ways during the Martial Law period. Listen to their latest story here.
  • PUP Center for Inclusion and Diversity and Center for Peace, Social Justice, and Human Rights Studies will organize a two-segment educational discussion on September 21. The first segment “Rewriting Martial Law” will run from 9 am to 12 pm and the afternoon session, “Salvage Noon, Tokhang Ngayon” at 2 to 5 pm. Participants interested in receiving certificates of participation are encouraged to register via this link. 
  • University of Makati Political Science Organization is organizing “BATAS MILITAR: Learning the Lessons of the Past and Its Relevance Today” on September 24, 1:30 pm. This will be available via Zoom and Facebook live. Registration details can be found via this link.
  • The UP System will be holding its UP Day of Remembrance from September 20 to 24 to highlight the “names and struggles of the University’s best and brightest who fought, struggled and made the greatest sacrifices in the name of freedom and democratic ideals.” Livestream of the webinars and the online exhibit will be available via and TVUP’s YouTube channel. More details about the event can be accessed here.
  • UP Diliman’s Department of History will hold a webinar as they invite experts and historians to share their knowledge about the Martial Law Era. Themed “Essential Truths on Martial Law Years,” the webinar will happen on September 21 to 24. Registration can be found via this link.
  • UP Diliman’s College of Mass Communication Student Council will be holding a week-long program to mark the 49th Martial Law Anniversary from September 15 to 21. Check out the schedule of activities below.
  • The University of the Philippines University Student Council will launch “Tuloy ang Laban: Martial Law Anniversary Commemoration,” a series of talks, statement release from September 17 to 21. Activities are listed here.
  • The UP Diliman Broadcasters’ Guild will be posting a series of educational features commemorating the history of Martial Law and its impact in today’s political context from September 21 to 25. The content of their week-long campaign can be accessed through their Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts. 
  • Scientists and Techonologists (SnT) Say No to Tyranny, a political organization of concerned scientists, technologists- will be holding an online discussion via Zoom on September 20, 6 pm. Participants can sign up here.
  • We The Future PH, a non-partisan national movement consisting of Filipino youth, will be organizing a ‘secret’ online art show on September 21. The show will only be accessible via QR code that will be soon posted on social media, as well as QR code stickers on street posts, gates in public spaces. The group is still accepting entries from artists who are interested in making art pieces addressing Martial Law issues. Entry drop-off can be accessed through this link
  • Youth Act Now Against Tyranny- Cagayan Valley, a coalition of student organizations, will be conducting a Facebook event to mark the 49th Martial Law anniversary. The event will happen on September 21 at 1 pm, to amplify their calls about the manifestations of Martial Law during the present times. 

Do you know of other activities and protests done to commemorate the 49th Martial Law anniversary? Send details to! – with a report from Waya Lao/

Waya Lao is a Rappler intern from the University of the Philippines Diliman. She is a senior taking up a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philippine Studies major in Creative Writing and Anthropology.

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