Filipinos facing threat ‘worse than Martial Law’

Paterno Esmaquel II
Filipinos facing threat ‘worse than Martial Law’
'We are seeing an erosion of our moral fiber as a people,' says an activist nun as the Philippines marks the 32nd anniversary of the EDSA People Power Revolution

MANILA, Philippines – Exactly 32 years after the People Power Revolution that toppled strongman Ferdinand Marcos, the Philippines faces a threat worse than military rule under the late dictator. 

“We are threatened by something worse than Martial Law,” said activist nun Sister Mary John Mananzan. “We are seeing an erosion of our moral fiber as a people.”

Mananzan made these remarks in an interview with reporters Saturday, February 24, the eve of the anniversary of the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution. Mananzan spoke on the sidelines of the Walk for Life, an event to condemn killings in the Philippines.

Explaining the Philippines’ loss of its moral fiber, Mananzan cited the “loss of respect for people, for life, for law,” as well as current moves to “ram down our throats” a new Constitution.

Mananzan, a feminist and former president of Saint Scholastica’s College, also mentioned “the crassest and the most objectionable and the most obnoxious machismo,” sexism, and misogynism that she has ever heard.

She said it seems “there’s a breakdown of rational governance.”

“Parang nawawalan tayo ng dignity. Kaya sa ‘kin, worse pa ‘yan kaysa sa Martial Law. Kasi pagkatao na natin ‘yan,” said Mananzan. (It seems we’re losing our dignity. That’s why for me, that’s worse than Martial Law. Because that’s about our identity.)

She said the Philippines is facing a threat “worse than Martial Law” also because of its leaders. “Ano bang example ang binibigay nila?” (What examples do they give?)

“I have never experienced so many intellectually, morally, and behaviorally challenged government officials,” Mananzan said. 

‘Moral decay’

This year’s People Power anniversary comes as President Rodrigo Duterte says he needs to be a dictator so that he can change the country. 

The annual observance also comes as the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) warns of a “creeping dictatorship” in the face of “self-serving motives” for Charter Change. 

Duterte is also accused of endorsing extrajudicial killings, and is slammed for using foul and sexist language, most recently for joking that female rebels should be shot in the vagina.

Like Mananzan, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said he is alarmed at the “moral decay” happening to the Philippines.

“I am ashamed of our Catholic countrymen who find lewd words funny. I am puzzled deeply by the scandalous adulation and applause that foul language elicits in the national forum. How persons are genitalized rather than respected,” Villegas said in a message to detained Senator Leila de Lima dated February 24.

Villegas also slammed fake news, ignorance among public officials, and also “how our young people now treat our national attire, the barong Tagalog.”

Duterte is known for his unconventional way of wearing the barong Tagalog, rolling up its sleeves and leaving its collar unbuttoned.

“How the barong Tagalog is worn now at home and out of the country is the pathetic symbol of our national malady. It is a shame,” Villegas said.

‘We must guard our democracy’

In a Rappler Talk interview in November 2017, Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David had also warned of the “killing of conscience,” which he described as more dangerous than the killing of drug addicts. 

‘Pag namatayan tayo ng konsensya at sinimulan nating tanggapin na tama ang mali, grabe ‘yon. Mahirap itama ‘yon,” David explained. (Once our conscience dies and we begin to accept evil as good, that is terrible. That is hard to correct.)

David also spoke to reporters on Saturday during the Walk for Life, a grand procession to oppose killings, the death penalty, and other anti-life measures in the Philippines.

David, who is also CBCP vice president, said Filipinos should “celebrate” and also “guard” the gift of democracy, which they gained after ousting Marcos on February 25, 1986.

Asked if he agrees there is a “creeping dictatorship” in the Philippines, David said, “It will creep on if we are not vigilant.” (READ: Bishops call for vigilance amid ‘creeping dictatorship’

“We must guard our democracy. We must guard our freedom as a people, our civil liberties. We must not take that for granted,” the bishop said. –

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at