Filipinos in Oregon mark 50 years after martial law

On Wednesday, Filipino activists and allies held a discussion, film screening and prayer vigil in Portland.

PORTLAND, Ore. — More than a hundred Filipinos from Oregon joined people around the world to mark 50 years since former dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos declared martial law in the Philippines.

Marcos declared martial law on September 21, 1972, a year before the end of his term. Martial law, which was in place between 1972 and 1981, essentially suspended Congress and allowed law enforcement and the military to arrest anyone for no reason. Amnesty International has documented numerous human rights violations, including widespread arrests, disappearances of citizens, killings and torture.

On Wednesday, Filipino activists and allies held a discussion, film screening and prayer vigil in Portland. Participants shared their personal experiences of living under martial law in the Philippines. For many survivors, the commemoration brings back trauma and painful memories.

“It was common for gunfights to break out,” Portland resident Jacob Bureros said in a news release, recalling one of his earliest childhood memories. “I was playing with my plane outside. My mum came out and grabbed me and we hid under the table. Someone got hurt and we took them to get help. I just remembered at how strong the smell of metal was, blood running through the vehicle.”

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Marcos Sr. was ousted in a pro-democracy uprising in 1986. He died three years later while in exile in the United States. Marcos and his family have been accused of amassing between $5 billion and $10 billion while he was in power.

The events in Portland this week were part of the “Never Again, Never Forget” movement, which is observed by people around the world to condemn martial law and remember the victims and survivors.

This all comes as Marcos’ son, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., is visiting the United States this week. Marcos Jr. took office in June 2022 after a landslide election victory. While he was delivering a speech at the United Nations General Assembly on Monday, a small group of people demonstrated outside.

“Marcos Jr. belongs far from the highest position in the land,” Bayan Portland member Angelica Lim said in a press release. “He spoke about the inequalities and injustice of the pandemic, but he did not mention the name of a single victim of martial law on the 50th anniversary.”

Bayan Portland is a progressive overseas Filipino alliance.

On Thursday, Marcos Jr. met President Joe Biden in person for the first time. In a statement, the White House said the leaders discussed “the importance of respecting human rights.”

During a television interview earlier this month, Marcos Jr. said his father’s decision to declare martial law was necessary to fight communist and Muslim insurgencies, the Associated Press reported.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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