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Filipino victims: Justice elusive decades after martial law

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6 minute read

By Jim Gomez in Manila

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Survivors of torture and other atrocities under Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos on Wednesday marked his martial law declaration 50 years ago by pressing their demand for justice and apology from his son — now the country’s president in a stunning reversal of fortunes for the once reviled family.

Activists held street protests, a musical concert and unveiled a documentary at the state-run University of the Philippines. They say the manifestations were aimed at preventing a repeat of the abuses and plunder that began after Marcos imposed martial law in the Philippines in September 1972, a year before his term was to end.

The dictator was ousted in an army-backed “People Power” uprising in 1986 and died three years later in U.S. exile without admitting any wrongdoing, including accusations that he, his family and cronies amassed an estimated $5 billion to $10 billion while he was in power.

His son, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who took office in June after a landslide electoral victory, delivered a speech at the U.N. General Assembly in New York. A small group of Filipino-American protesters hounded him and at one point managed to get close and booed him and repeatedly yelled “Never again to martial law!” as he alighted from a convoy and walked into a building with security escorts.

He or his key officials have not issued any statement about the martial law anniversary as of Wednesday afternoon.

For many of the survivors of abuses under Marcos, now mostly in their 70s and 80s, the anniversary brought back the trauma and painful memories of fellow victims, who either were killed by state forces or remain missing. They condemned efforts to gloss over the atrocities and portray the martial law years in pro-Marcos social media as a “golden era.”

“The scars may have healed but deep inside, the anger and the sorrow are still there not just because I went through this but because so many good and patriotic people died resisting the dictatorship,” said Judy Taguiwalo, a former Cabinet official and women’s rights activist who was jailed for two years and tortured in the 1980s.

Taguiwalo, 72, sought an apology from the president and asked him to “stop lying about the horrors of martial law because the killings, the imprisonment and bombings of Muslim communities actually happened.”

Marcos Jr., 65, has refused such calls. In a TV interview last week,he said his father’s decision to declare martial law, suspend Congress and rule by decree was necessary to fight communist and Muslim insurgencies. He also said that describing the late president as a dictator is “wrong” and denied that he and his family were whitewashing history.

Bonifacio Ilagan, a left-wing activist who was detained for more than two years starting in 1974 and often beaten and severely tortured, said he could never accept Marcos as president. His sister was abducted by government agents with several other anti-Marcos activists in 1977 in metropolitan Manila and has never been found.

“The trauma has returned with all its inhumanities,” Ilagan, 70, said, and renewed his call for justice and a clear Marcos apology. “That’s the reason why I could not, for the life of me, say that he is my president.”

Loretta Rosales, the former head of the independent Commission on Human Rights, was arrested with five other activists in 1976 by military agents and subjected to electrocution and sexual abuse.

She said that the president should comply with a provision of a 2013 law that she co-authored as a member of Congress that calls for the documentation of the atrocities and the construction of a museum to memorialize the sufferings of thousands of people.

The legislation was used to compensate victims of abuses. Separately, a Hawaii court found the elder Marcos liable for rights violations and awarded $2 billion from his estate to more than 9,000 Filipinos led by Rosales who filed a lawsuit against him for torture, extrajudicial killings, incarceration and disappearances.

The 1986 ouster of Marcos was a high point, Taguiwalo said, but poverty, inequality, injustice and other social ills remained pervasive in the country decades after. That allowed political dynasties, including the Marcoses, to exploit the deep discontent to their advantage.

“I think the biggest lesson which we have always emphasized is that it’s not enough that you overthrow a dictator or return a certain extent of free press and academic freedom, civil and political rights,” Taguiwalo told The Associated Press.

“You need to show that democracy works for the majority of the people in terms of their basic economic rights to have jobs, land and a decent livelihood,” she said.

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Business

Prairie premiers, governors urge Canada, U.S. to keep border crossings open longer

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Washington – Canada’s Prairie premiers and two U.S. governors want their respective countries to restore pre-pandemic operating hours at entry points along their shared land border.

The group of provincial and state leaders have written to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Joe Biden to argue that curtailed hours at border crossings are hurting the economy.

The letter is signed by Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson, as well as Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum.

It says travellers and businesses are being forced to go out of their way to find entry points with longer hours, driving up fuel and labour costs.

The leaders say that’s also hurting smaller border communities along the Canada-U.S. border that depend on international traffic for their economic livelihoods.

The letter does not mention that the U.S. still requires visiting foreign nationals to be vaccinated against COVID-19, a requirement Canada lifted over the weekend.

“Residents and businesses on both sides of the border have expressed concern that the reduced hours of operation will become permanent,” the letter reads.

It also argues that the supply chain problems that have persisted since the onset of COVID-19 in 2020 will only linger so long as cross-border trade and travel remains curtailed by limited hours at border crossings.

“Resuming pre-pandemic operating hours will ensure the efficient and steady flow of people and goods, which will only improve trade activity and reduce inflationary pressure on both sides of the border.”

A notice on the Canada Border Services Agency website warns of limited operating hours at nearly 40 land ports of entry, mostly in the Prairie provinces, along with Quebec, New Brunswick and B.C.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 3, 2022.

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Disaster

UN: 5.7 million Pakistani flood victims to face food crisis

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ISLAMABAD (AP) — The United Nations humanitarian agency is warning that about 5.7 million Pakistani flood survivors will face a serious food crisis in the next three months, as the death toll from the deluge rose on Monday.

Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority reported that floods fueled by abnormally heavy monsoon rains have killed 1,695 people, affected 33 million, damaged more than 2 million homes and displaced hundreds of thousands now living in tents or makeshift homes.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in its latest report Saturday said the current floods are expected to exacerbate food insecurity in Pakistan and said 5.7 million people in flood-affected areas will be facing a food crisis between September and November.

Even before the floods, according to the World Health Organization, 16% of the population was living in moderate or severe food insecurity.

However, Pakistan’s government insists that there is no immediate worry about food supplies, as wheat stocks are enough to last through the next harvest and that the government is importing more.

The U.N. agency said in a tweet on Monday that the agency and other partners have scaled up their flood response and delivered aid to 1.6 million people directly affected by the deluges.

OCHA said outbreaks of waterborne and other diseases are on the rise in Sindh and southwestern Baluchistan provinces, where floods have caused the most damage since mid-June.

Several countries and U.N. agencies have sent more than 131 flights carrying aid for survivors, but many are complaining they have either received too little help or are still waiting for it.

The U.N. humanitarian agency also said in its Saturday report that rainfall in Baluchistan and Sindh lightened substantially over the past week, as temperatures start to decrease ahead of winter.

“Normal conditions are prevailing in most districts of Baluchistan, while in Sindh, the Indus River is flowing normally,” said OCHA. Overall, it added, in 18 out of 22 districts of Sindh, floodwater levels had receded at least 34%, and in some districts up to 78%.

The OCHA report also highlighted the ordeal of flood survivors, saying many continue to live in “unsanitary conditions in temporary shelters, often with limited access to basic services, compounding the risk of a major public health crisis.”

It said pregnant women are being treated in temporary camps when possible, and nearly 130,000 pregnant women need urgent health services.

“Already before the floods, Pakistan had one of the highest maternal mortality rates in Asia, with the situation likely to deteriorate,” it said.

The U.N. is due to issue a revised appeal seeking an additional $800 million from the international community to respond to the soaring life-saving needs of Pakistani flood survivors. The U.N. said last week that “food is being delivered to vulnerable families; however, it is still not enough to meet the nutrition needs of the people.”

Pakistan says floods caused about $30 billion of damage to its economy.

Floods washed away thousands of kilometers of roads, destroyed 440 bridges, and disrupted railroad traffic.

Pakistan Railways said it has started restoring train service from Sindh to other cities after repairing some of the tracks damaged by floods.

Munir Ahmed, The Associated Press

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