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Filipinos in Oregon share their experiences 50 years after martial law declaration

Filipino activists and allies hosted a discussion, film screening and prayer vigil in Portland during a series of events.
Credit: JayR Cosico 2

PORTLAND, Ore. — More than one hundred Filipinos in 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 Sept. 21, 1972, a year before his term ended. Martial law, which was in place between 1972-1981, essentially suspended Congress and allowed law enforcement and the military to arrest anyone without reason. Amnesty International has documented extensive human rights violations including widespread arrests, disappearances of citizens, killings and torture. 

Filipino activists and allies hosted a discussion, film screening and prayer vigil in Portland during a series of events on the week marking 50 years since martial law. Participants shared their personal experiences living under martial law in the Philippines. For many survivors, the commemoration brings back trauma and painful memories.

"It was common for firefights to breakout," said Portland resident Jacob Bureros in a news release, recalling one of his earlier childhood memories. "I was playing with my airplane outside. My mom came out and grabbed me and we hid under the table. Someone was injured and we took him to get help. I just remembered how strong the smell of metal was, blood sloshing in 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 U.S. Marcos and his family have been accused of amassing an estimated $5 billion to $10 billion while he was in power.

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

This all comes as Marcos' son, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., visits the U.S. this week. Marcos Jr. took office in June 2022 following a landslide electoral victory. As he delivered a speech at the U.N. General Assembly on Monday, a small group of people protested outside. 

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

Bayan Portland is an overseas progressive Filipino alliance.

On Thursday, Marcos Jr. met with President Joe Biden face-to-face for the first time. In a statement, the White House said that the leaders discussed "the importance of respect for human rights."

During a TV 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.

Credit: AP
People protest outside the New York Stock Exchange during a visit by Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in New York, Monday, Sept. 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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