A day we must never forget

“To remember is to memorialize those who sacrificed their safety and personal desires so that future generations would not suffer what they did”

This week, we remember the declaration of martial law 50 years ago.

There is some debate on when martial law was declared, as esteemed historian Ambeth Ocampo has written recently.

Was it on September 21, 1972 which is the date indicated in Proclamation No. 1081?

Was it on September 22, a day later, when the police and military started arresting opposition personalities and activities?

Or was it September 23, when Marcos’s Press Secretary announced it on radio, reading the text of Proclamation 1081?

For sure, we commemorate martial law’s declaration this week. And commemorate we must. Because Proclamation 1081 is not just a legal document; it had real consequences for people and country.

Primitivo Mijares, in his book The Conjugal Dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, describes what happened during martial law: “The corruption of the martial regime is not confined to the insatiable acquisition of the country’s material resources, but extends to the exercise of power itself.

“Having proclaimed martial law, he proceeded to bribe, coerce and/or intimidate the Constitutional Convention members into drafting a new charter dictated by him.”

Mijares, who used to be Marcos Sr.’s most trusted confidante, later disappeared and was never found while his son, Luis Manuel Mijares, was killed shortly after.

But as I recently wrote with colleague Bernardine de Belen, “as terrible as this already sounds, from lies to theft to repression to corruption, the history of martial law gets worse as we dig deeper.”

We observed: While corruption ensued, media was repressed, cronies were favored, lies were propagated, shoes were collected, Filipinos’ human rights were also being directly violated.

We quote an Amnesty International report that documented the human rights abuses during martial law: 3,240 known extrajudicial killings, 34,000 documented tortures, 70,000 imprisonments, and 77 recorded disappearances.

Duterte of course surpassed the number of extrajudicial killings but that is not necessarily something the Marcos regime can be proud of.

As Bernardine and I also pointed out, it’s important to note that these are just the recognized ones, meaning that the numbers are even higher when we consider the cases that went unrecorded.

With these large statistics, we must remind ourselves that martial law victims are more than just numbers.

These are fellow Filipinos, most of them political rivals, student activists, journalists, religious workers, farmers, peasant organizers; most of them fought the dictator.

Many works continue to record this history of human rights abuses during martial law, not just through documents but also through art.

Desaparesidos, a novel by Lualhati Bautista, chronicles the experience of a desaparecido who was tortured and eventually incarcerated. It follows the life of a mother who finds it hard to move past the pain brought by Marcos’s martial law.

Liway, a film by Kip Oebanda, shows a family who spent years in prison together because they fought against the Marcoses.

ML, a film by Benedict Mique, depicts the level of brutality of the state force during martial law.

Indigo Child, a play by Rody Vera, shows the scars that remain even years after a victim is tortured and how this can cause riffs in the family.

I encourage everyone to watch these films and to join other forums and activities commemorating this 50th anniversary.

These are just a few examples and sources to get started which already show that we do not need to have been there to stand against the untruths and injustices.

But after hearing how atrocious, violent, and scarring martial law is, why must we never forget? Would it not be easier if we did?

There are numerous victims who continue to find it hard to recount their experiences, and this is completely understandable.

We should not police individuals who have been abused and violated in unimaginable ways on how to deal with their trauma.

However, collectively as the Filipino people, in solidarity with all the victims who choose to continue to speak out as well as those who can’t, we must never forget.

We must never forget because it is a disrespect to those who fought so that we may be free from the clutches of the Marcos dictatorship.

To remember is to memorialize those who sacrificed their safety and personal desires so that future generations would not suffer what they did.

It even becomes more pertinent that we remember now that disinformation, historical denialism and the Marcosian myth permeates our very consciousness.

It is more important now that all these have led us to the son of the dictator again sitting, sleeping, living, and invading the Malacañang Palace.

We must never forget so that we may never again suffer the same fate.

Ironically, they are back at the palace which calls us even louder to fight again, to continue remembering, and to speak the truth. We find ourselves again at the precipice of history, what do we do now?

The 50th year of martial law is not a cause of celebration. It is not a jubiliee. It is a day of remembrance of a day and many days of violence. It is a remembrance of how our country has been plundered.

It is a day we must never forget.

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