#NeverAgain: They’re just waiting for us to forget

42 years ago, Marcos imposed his fantasy monarchy and barbaric martial law on the Philippines. NEVER AGAIN.
42 years ago, Marcos imposed his fantasy monarchy and barbaric martial law on the Philippines. NEVER AGAIN.

Once upon a time, a President described himself as the best and most indispensable. He said no one else, except himself, could be trusted to continue his “good work.” He said the country needed to be saved from the “specter of communist takeover.”

And so that President implemented what he thought was the formula to save the country and to usher in a “new society”: He placed the entire Philippines under martial law, padlocked Congress, arrested, jailed, and tortured oppositionists and activists, launched an all-out war against the communists, imposed curfews, criminalized dissent and the exercise of other rights.

The Philippines lived under that “fantasy land of peace and plenty” under martial law from 1972 onwards. As dictator, Ferdinand Marcos wrote, executed, and interpreted laws by his lonesome. Zero accountability.

The absence of accountability made it easy to violate people’s rights en masse. It also made it easy to steal and pillage the treasury – Marcos and his cronies did so without any hesitation. The Marcoses lived as if they were a royal family, complete with a painting that portrayed them as such.

But Filipinos slowly but surely saw through Marcos’ fraudulent propaganda and made it their cause to not just challenge the lies but to defeat the source of it – to take back the country from the brutal and rapacious dictatorship.

The communist movement, which Marcos made a scapegoat for his martial law, blossomed, attracting the best and brightest to join the revolutionary underground. Those who did not join the armed revolution worked discreetly in the towns and cities, planting the seeds of revolt that would later make possible rallies, strikes, barricades, and, multiplied by the thousands or millions, the People Power uprising that ultimately brought down the dictatorship.

As tactical offensives of the New People’s Army harassed units of the dictatorship’s goons in the countryside, people in the cities eventually rediscovered the joys and highs of enjoying freedoms and rights: The reestablishment of the first student council and student publication, the brave and historic La Tondena workers strike, the anti-tuition fee increase protests, and the formation of all sorts of coalitions and alliances.

Decades before the advent of the Internet and social media, Filipinos established their own, alternative press that told the truth, unlike those that were obedient to the dictatorship’s censors. The Balita ng Malayang Pilipinas, Ang Bayan and Liberation, the Signs of the Times, the many student publications, mimeographed or photocopied statements or clippings and later the brave new national newspapers – they played a role as the “mosquito press.”

The corruption, cronyism, and barbarism of Marcos’ martial law and dictatorship only served a tiny few: The pseudo-royal family of the Marcoses, the small cabal of loyalist generals, and their Big Business supporters. The situation was so obscene that it also created a potentially big movement involving the disenfranchised Big Business, entrepreneurs, professionals, workers, farmers, urban poor, women, youth, artists, and the academe.

A stone’s throw away from MRT Quezon Avenue stands the Bantayog ng mga Bayani which quietly and proudly honors a growing list of heroes and martyrs who offered their lives to challenge the dictatorship and to restore democracy.

The list of names at the Bantayog and their amazing stories of offering themselves to people and country are truly inspirational. They were young and old – but mostly young. They were rich and poor – mostly poor and middle class, and included scions of rich clans who gave up comfort in favor of being in the line of fire in the great battle for freedom. Ninoy Aquino was just one of them. Those names are ultimately our first and greatest reminders to the lamentable Marcos dictatorship and the national bayanihan to oust it from power. If each of our heroes is a star, we have constellations up in the sky to look up to, to emulate, and to be inspired about.

We say “never again” because we honor those great heroes and martyrs who fought for a future without martial law and dictatorship – Liliosa Hilao, Bobby dela Paz, Edgar Jopson, Lorena Barrios, Tony and Crispin Tagamolila, and many others. We say “never again” because they did not die in vain.

We say “never again” not out of pure hatred for Marcos but what he did and what he represented: The complete and total opposite, what we stand for and our aspirations for our our country: Accountable government, fundamental rights, justice, fairness, opportunity for all. Martial law and dictatorship resulted in cronyism and plunder of taxpayer money, economic malaise, grinding poverty and gross inequality, and the monotonous and boring life without any freedoms.

We say “never again” not just to Marcos, but for anything that sounds and looks Marcosian – especially if it is BS coming from an Aquino like unlawful term extension, decapitating the Supreme Court, presiding over impunity and the corruption of public funds amounting to hundreds of billions.

Because the moment we stop saying “never again” is the precise moment the wolves in sheep’s clothing start to attack. They’re just waiting for us to forget.

Author’s Note: This was first published in my column in the Manila Bulletin, 20 Sept. 2014. 

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.