LILAK, together with indigenous women human rights defenders, call on the people to defend truth amid lies perpetrated by the Marcos administration.
Marcos Jr. won the presidency through lies. His electoral candidacy was founded on disinformation, not only embellishing his resume but more sinisterly, hiding the atrocities of his father, Marcos Sr., and his whole family during Martial Law, one of the Philippines’ darkest eras.
A year into his presidency, Marcos Jr. uses lies to hold onto power, staging performances and creating an illusion of good governance.
The people are hungry and so here are food stamps and Kadiwa stores. Straight from his father’s playbook, Marcos Jr. launched highly publicized and seemingly charitable programs. But these are band-aid solutions that serve to beautify the president’s image and are not concrete steps to address hunger and poverty.
Because how can they? The root causes of hunger are the elite few hogging the country’s natural resources, stealing land from indigenous peoples, and the government prioritizing industries that destroy local and community-based food production. As Agriculture Secretary, Marcos Jr. prioritizes importation and cartels which drive up the prices of food. The Rice Tariffication Law has also remained in place leaving local farmers unable to compete with imports and are left with no choice but to continue selling rice for cruelly cheap prices. All of these were done despite his grand promises to support farmers.
Marcos Jr. boasts of investment pledges from other countries. While he considers these as trophies, in reality, these investments, which include large-scale mining, pose a deadly threat to indigenous communities and ancestral domains. Not only does the mining industry destroy the soil and water of rural and indigenous farmers, but mining has also been identified as the driver of violence and killings of indigenous peoples, according to the 2022 report of Global Witness.
Marcos Jr.’s actions, including his inactions, have succeeded to worsen hunger and weakened indigenous women’s capacity to face and recover from the impacts of climate change.
Marcos Jr. has repeatedly attempted to differentiate himself from his predecessor, but this is just another of his carefully crafted illusions. Violence is still very much a part of the Marcos administration. In the first six months of his presidency, more than 300 deaths related to Duterte’s War on Drugs were reported by the Dahas Project of the University of the Philippines’ Third World Studies Center. More than a hundred of these killings were done by state agents and led by the Philippine National Police.
Red-tagging continues to be perpetrated by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict. Indigenous women leaders continue to be harassed and red-tagged as they ask critical questions about government programs and policies, assert their rights to food, access to social services, and seek justice for gender-based violence against them. The Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) also seems to have doubled its efforts in designating human rights defenders as terrorists, even recruiting the help of Vice President and Education Secretary, Sara Duterte, as the council’s newly appointed co-vice chair. Indigenous human rights defenders remain victims of red-tagging which leads to detainment, harassment, and killings. This month alone, two indigenous women human rights defenders were designated as terrorists by the ATC, along with four other community leaders.
Marcos Jr. has also continued Duterte’s legacy of impunity. Families endure the tormenting journey of seeking justice for thousands of EJK victims from the war on drugs, and for most indigenous peoples, from land conflicts. Political prisoners such as Leila de Lima remains unjustly imprisoned despite witnesses withdrawing their testimonies. The most glaring exercise of impunity by the Marcos Jr. government is its bold albeit failed attempt to block the International Criminal Court’s investigation of Duterte’s drug war.
LILAK and indigenous women human rights defenders urge the people to remain vigilant and critical of Marcos Jr. and his government. Marcos Jr. is no one new. We have seen him in Marcos Sr., and we have seen him in Duterte. Perhaps, compared to his predecessors, Marcos Jr. is only a better performer with better PR, but in the end, his charades will remain just as they are, charades.
For real changes and for a better society, we the people must speak against injustice, against every violation of our rights. We, as women, must occupy spaces of leadership, seek justice, demand accountability, and take action.
We stand our ground, as we assert our rights and fight for a humane and just society.