Today, 21 September 2023, the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID) joins the Philippines’ commemoration of the 51st anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law. On this same day, we also observe the International Day of Peace , declared by the United Nations General Assembly as a day of non-violence and ceasefire in pursuit of a world without violence, displacement, and widespread human rights abuses.

In support of the International Day of Peace’s 2023 theme, “Actions for Peace: Our Ambition for the Global Goals,” IID recognizes the importance of individual and collective action in fostering peace. Part of these actions include raising awareness of threats against peace in issues that extend beyond armed conflict.

In the Philippines, however, September 21 continues to haunt and plague our collective memory as a nation as we are reminded of the darkest period in our history when Martial Law was declared by the dictator Ferdinand Marcos more than five decades ago. We are one with the people in honoring the martyrs of Martial Law and today recommit ourselves to defend the gains of their struggle against the unlamented dictatorship.
Sadly, political proponents of authoritarian measures continue to influence Philippine politics, pushing for a distorted vision and narrative of peace and order in our schools, in indigenous people’s and conflict-affected communities.

We express grave concern over the execution of the government’s current peace strategies, seemingly shifting to the militarization of educational spaces, revision of Philippine history and the suppression of freethinking, while failing to address the issues of poverty, economic dislocation, disinclusion and marginalization.

We maintain our resolve that giving primacy to a peace process through a negotiated political dialogue is a necessary step in finding resolution to armed conflicts happening around us. This approach enriches the meaning and basis of an International Day of Peace. A military solution is a counter-productive measure that will hurt not only the economy but our human security and the entire democratic future of the whole country.

We believe that our peace and human rights are not gifts or favors from those who govern us–they are byproducts of those who struggled before us and it is our duty to defend them at all costs against those who are trying to obliterate them for their venal ends. Our struggle against Martial Law and the triumphs we achieved will all become meaningless if we, at the moment, allow a culture of impunity to persist and the violation of human rights to remain unabated.

Towards this, we hope that the government revisit its framework and views of peace and human rights. Peacebuilding is a process of resolving and negotiating differences, requiring policies that transcend better narratives and are rooted in realities on the ground.

Further, we call for increased transparency in public spending, in line with the government’s peacebuilding through trust-building strategy. Investments and economic development must be felt by marginalized sectors and vulnerable groups, as promised by the whole-of-nation approach to peace and development.

As we observe the 51st anniversary of Martial Law and the International Day of Peace, IID emphasizes the critical importance of the people’s right to peace and sincere and inclusive collaborations across all sectors of society in the pursuit of peace and justice for all. ###