MANILA, Philippines — Hundreds of people marched in the Philippine capital on Saturday protesting what they said was a rising number of extrajudicial killings and other injustices under the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

The protesters, led by a Philippines-based rights group, gathered at a public square in Manila before marching toward the presidential palace to demand justice for victims. Police estimated around 800 protesters took part in the rally, which coincided with International Human Rights Day.

The protesters held a brief program near the palace, then dispersed peacefully shortly after noon.

Cristina Palabay of the rights group Karapatan said under the Marcos administration’s counter-insurgency campaign the group has documented at least 17 cases of extrajudicial killings in addition to four other incidents of violence where victims survived.

The number of political prisoners has continued to rise, with 828 detained as of Nov. 30, Palabay said, noting that at least 25 of them were arrested after Marcos took office in June.

“Despite these sordid figures there has been zero justice for the victims of extrajudicial killings,” Palabay said in a statement. “The culture of impunity continues to rear its ugly head.”

Organizers said among the protesters in Manila and other parts of the country were families of activists who disappeared or were tortured during the administration of Marcos’ father and namesake, ousted 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 leaving thousands dead.

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

“We come together as families of victims from different regimes and presidents,” Evangeline Hernandez, chairperson 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 administration for its alleged failure to address human rights abuses in the country.

“Behind the veil of idleness and decadence being projected by President Marcos, Jr. himself, human rights violations have been reminiscent of the abuses done by his dictator father,” said Kej Andres, a spokesperson for the Student Christian Movement of the Philippines.

Karapatan said the current administration is also increasing the use of terror laws to suppress dissent and curtailing freedom of expression, press freedom and freedom of association.

Palabay appealed to the international human rights community to step up processes to ensure that justice is attained, especially for thousands of victims of extrajudicial killings.

The U.N. Human Rights Council has urged the Marcos administration to address the alleged killings and other rights abuses.

The Marcos government has said it is committed to protecting human rights, citing reforms in the country’s judicial system.

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla, in a speech last month in Geneva before the UNHRC, dismissed allegations that there is a culture of impunity in the Philippines. He said the government will not tolerate the denial of justice or the violation of rights.


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