MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Hundreds of people marched in the Philippine capital on Saturday to protest what they say has increased the number of extrajudicial killings and other injustices under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s rule.
The protesters, led by a Philippines-based rights group, gathered in a public square in Manila before marching to the presidential palace to demand justice for the victims. Police estimated that about 800 protesters took part in the rally, which coincided with International Human Rights Day.
The demonstrators held a brief program near the palace and dispersed peacefully shortly after noon.
Cristina Palabay of the Karapatan rights group said the group has documented at least 17 cases of extrajudicial killings as part of the Marcos government’s anti-insurgency campaign, along with four other incidents of violence where victims survived.
The number of political prisoners has continued to rise, with 828 prisoners on Nov. 30, Palabay said, noting that at least 25 of them were arrested after Marcos took office in June.
“Despite these filthy figures, there is no justice for the victims of extrajudicial killings,” Palabay said in a statement. “The culture of impunity continues to emerge.”
Organizers said protesters in Manila and other parts of the country included families of activists who disappeared or were tortured during the reign of Marcos’ father and namesake, deposed dictator Ferdinand Marcos, as well as human rights victims under former President Rodrigo Duterte, whose brutal war on drugs is under investigation by the International Criminal Court after thousands of deaths.
The dictator was overthrown in a military-backed “People Power” uprising in 1986 and died in exile in the US three years later without admitting any wrongdoing, including allegations that he, his family and other associates made an estimated $5 billion. amassed up to $10 billion while he was in power.
“We come together as families of victims of different regimes and presidents,” Evangeline Hernandez, president of a human rights victims’ group, said in a statement. “We have made it a point that every International Human Rights Day we call for justice and commit to not allow the same violations to happen to others.”
A youth group that joined the rally also called out the Marcos government for its alleged failure to address human rights violations in the country.
“Behind the veil of laziness and decadence projected by President Marcos, Jr. himself, human rights abuses were reminiscent of those committed by his father, a dictator,” said Kej Andres, a spokesman for the Student Christian Movement of the Philippines.
Karapatan said the current government is also increasingly using terrorism laws to suppress dissent and restrict freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of association.
Palabay called on the international human rights community to step up processes to ensure justice is achieved, especially for thousands of victims of extrajudicial killings.
The UN Human Rights Council has urged the Marcos government to address the alleged killings and other rights violations.
The Marcos government has said it is committed to protecting human rights, citing reforms in the country’s judicial system.
Justice Minister Jesus Crispin Remulla rejected allegations that there is a culture of impunity in the Philippines in a speech to the UNHRC in Geneva last month. He said the government will not tolerate denial of justice or violation of rights.