[PHOTO -THE HONOR ROLL. President Aquino, accompanied by AFP Lt. Gen. Reynaldo Mapagu, salutes the heroes and martyrs who died fighting the martial rule of Ferdinand Marcos during the 40th anniversary memorial rites of its declaration, at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani in Quezon City on Tuesday. There are many other martyrs who remained unknown. MARIANNE BERMUDEZ]

MANILA, SEPTEMBER 24, 2012 (INQUIRER)By TJ Burgonio - Decrying attempts to recast martial law in a good light, President Benigno Aquino III on Friday ordered state historians to compile stories of the survivors for the sake of the youth who have no memory of that dark period.

[PHOTO -On the eve of the 40th anniversary of the Sept. 21, 1972 declaration of Martial Law, people who experienced the tumultuous years under the Marcos presidency lit candles at the foot of Mendiola Bridge for friends and loved ones who gave their lives to restore democracy in the PHL. Danny Pata]

As the country marked the 40th anniversary of the proclamation of martial law on Sept. 21, 1972, the President expressed disbelief at the lingering perceptions of some Filipinos that the 13-year-long martial rule of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos did the country good.

Speaking before a crowd of mostly high school students at Bantayog ng mga Bayani in Quezon City, Mr. Aquino highlighted the key points of martial rule to refresh people’s memories in the face of what he sees as attempts by propagandists and revisionists to cast it in a positive light.

“To ensure that the information we’re passing on to the youth is based on a truthful event in our history, I have directed the National Historical Commission of the Philippines to form a committee” that will compile the experiences and stories of the individuals who lived through that period, he said.

The committee will include families of martial law victims and government officials, he said.

“We want to ensure that the source of information in students’ books will be the truth, not falsehoods pieced together by the propagandists, and not bits of deception by the revisionists,” he said.

The President offered a wreath at, and saluted, the Bantayog’s Wall of Remembrance to honor the countless individuals who died and disappeared fighting the dictatorship.

“There’s a saying that those who forget the errors of the past are bound to commit them. Let’s not allow our rights and freedom to be at risk again,” Mr. Aquino said.

“I will not allow the errors of history to be passed onto the next generation. Let’s treasure the lessons of martial law,” he said.

“I don’t want you to experience the difficulties and sacrifices my father and other victims of martial law went through,” he said.

The President’s father, former Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., the leader of the anti-Marcos opposition, was assassinated on Aug. 21, 1983, on the day he returned from exile in the United States.

The President said he could not believe that some Filipinos would hold the view that life was “much better” during Marcos’ martial rule, even saying that had it been extended, the country would be more progressive.

While he respected such views, he said: “Can they answer us and look at us straight in the eye if we ask them: Did something good really come out of martial law?”

“If martial law was the right solution to crime, how come Marcos’ rule was marked by disappearances, salvaging and summary executions?” Mr. Aquino asked.

Blind to the horrors

Martial rule was also defined by the increase in the number of communist rebels from 1,250 in 1972 to 40,000 in 1983, and the devaluation of the peso against the dollar, he said.

“Is this the new society that they promised? Judge it for yourself,” he said.

Mr. Aquino lamented that 40 years later, the public “remained blind” to the horrors of martial law, including the fact that while Marcos signed Proclamation No. 1081 on Sept. 21, 1972, he only announced its imposition two days later.

In those two days, Marcos had his bitter critics arrested, he said.

“This is the reason why my father was arrested on Sept. 22, as well as other personalities and civilians who were viewed as threats to the regime Marcos was forming. Unknown to the public, on that same day, Marcos issued his most atrocious order as a dictator: General Order No. 1, which placed all powers and operations of the government directly under one man: Mr. Marcos,” the President said.

Marcos justified his order by citing rising criminality and a worsening rebellion, he said.

“I was only 12 years old then, and had no idea what impact September 1972 would have on our family. Yes, I noticed that my father was listless before the declaration of martial law, but as a young boy, I didn’t give it much thought,” he said.

Soon after, checkpoints would be set up, and newspapers and radio stations would be shut down. Marcos would write his own Constitution, and when he felt this would not prosper in a plebiscite, he had this approved by mere “raising of hands” in every barangay, Mr. Aquino said.

Through this Constitution, Marcos removed the powers of Congress and the Supreme Court, vesting himself with all the powers of the state, he said.

On April 6, 1978, the eve of the elections of the Interim Batasang Pambansa, many Filipinos joined a massive noise barrage to support the elder Aquino’s party. While Aquino and his partymates lost, the protest kicked off a series of demonstrations in schools, public squares and government offices, he said.

Responding to international criticism, Marcos lifted martial law in 1981, but he still held the powers of the state. The situation came to a head in the elder Aquino’s assassination in 1983 that sparked the February 1986 People Power Revolution that ousted Marcos.

“I just want to clarify. We recovered democracy not because of the assassination of my father, but by the hundreds of heroes who risked their lives to fight for the rights of the oppressed,” he said.

Remembering Martial Law By Sofia Logarta Cebu Daily News [Free Legal Assistance Group, IBP Cebu City Chapter, and the UP Political Science Program convened NEVER AGAIN Stories of Repression, Resistance and Heroism. Prof. Henry Francis B. Espiritu, the coordinator of the UP Cebu Political Science Program, provided a very inspiring opening reflection, which he allowed me to quote extensively here].


At first, he quoted the Old Testament Prophet Micah: “The Lord has shown you a better way of piety…to liberate the poor and to help the oppressed; cling to what is good! What the Lord requires of you is not sacrifices nor prayer rituals but to struggle for justice, to be compassionate and to work for the emancipation of the poor, the widows and the orphans!”

To emphasize the significance of the activity he recalled the ideas of Frantz Fanon asserting the “creative and redemptive roles that storytelling and memory-reminiscing play in achieving genuine liberation and transformation of peoples who were oppressed by colonization, neo-colonialization and militarization.”

And he elaborated saying “Memory is powerful and it is redemptive. Activist-heroes who gave their lives during that blight and treacherous regime paid the cost of their heroism and valor not cheaply—some were raped, maimed, incarcerated without just reasons and others were cruelly butchered for standing against the Conjugal Dictatorship.

The memory of this enslavement and the narratives of courage in our efforts to struggle against the dark elements of brute power can be harnessed as effective sources of national zeal and as a potent bulwark against any attempts to restore dictatorship, militarization and Martial Rule in our midst! Never again! So we declare this slogan from within the inner core of our very being.”

“However, the remembrance of that unhappy event of Martial Law and the subsequent joy of our national redemption when we had successfully extricated ourselves from the grip of the dictator will only be beneficial for us and our nation if it is kindled with a pro-active and liberating hope; and not just a fatalistic kind of hope. A memory devoid of the promise for our continuing national liberation is an empty useless hope—it is nothing but wishful thinking that can even lead us back to social apathy and political leniency! Real hope for the future must be geared towards integral national liberation and total societal emancipation. Pro-active hope for the future of our country is achieved in the midst of the struggle towards genuine and total redemption of our nation from all sinister powers of darkness and death.”

“The lessons we learn should actively prod us to work vigorously in building a truly democratic Philippines where peace, joy, equality and love eventually triumph in our midst and where authentic socio-politico and economic liberation will be fully realized by every Filipino, hopefully in our lifetime.”

And truly, it was an enlightening afternoon for all of us. A researcher on the history of Cebu could learn a lot from the discussion of Judge Meinrado Paredes. Before the declaration of Martial Law, he was a student activist; upon the declaration he was reviewing for the bar examinations. Later he became a FLAG lawyer.

He informed the political science students regarding the various student groups, radical and moderate. He discussed the issues they raised: national, local, and sectoral: poverty; foreign domination; corruption; independence of the student government and student publication, representation in decision-making bodies; improvement of school facilities; the demand for a nationalistic, scientific, relevant, and democratic educational system.

He did not discuss the many times he was approached to defend students arrested for joining protests such as those against the oil price hikes. Nor did he mention how he helped friends and relatives of those who “disappeared”. He had interesting ways of trying to locate them.

Bong Wenceslao narrated experiences of the people who were just beginning to transcend their fears in a militarized situation. For young males the presence of females—colegialas from STC— was an added encouragement to join rallies. He also mentioned that in a rally where the presence of military agents brought tension on the rallyists, his manhood was challenged by the colegialas who initiated the shouting of slogans.

Speaking from experience, he impressed upon the students that armed revolution is a very serious matter (“It is not a picnic”); people die here. He recalled the march-procession from Redemptorist Church moving toward Fuente Osmeña. He recalled how fire trucks with water were used to disperse the marchers. Fr. Rudy Romano and Fr. Abdon Josol were arrested. That reminded me that the religious were reliable allies then. Several priests declared that participating in the struggle was the most authentic expression of their priesthood.

Dr. Rhodora Masilang Bucoy revealed that she was arrested even if she was heavy with child. Her husband was also arrested and tortured. But, she pointed out how songs really raised the spirits during those grim times.

Atty. Democrito Barcenas, an opposition Vice Mayor of Carcar then was arrested, too. This was very trying for his wife who was pregnant as she religiously visited him and worked for his case.

The reactors all urged continued vigilance for much remains to be done, despite EDSA. Much needs to be done, since the culture of impunity and traditional politics remain. Ahmed Cuizon (now in public office) called on the students to “resist tyranny; continue to question public policy; resist conformity, think differently.” The student, James Uaminal urged his fellow youth to avoid being absorbed by “apathy and cynicism”.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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