Updated: May 27, 2022 05:43 AM GMT
Supporters of Philippine presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr. hold newspapers with coverage of his landslide victory outside his campaign headquarters in Mandaluyong City, Metro Manila, on May 10. (Photo: AFP)
It has been five decades since the late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos imposed martial law on Sept. 21, 1972.
In this 50th year since the iron fist of repression was imposed, his son, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., will soon be the country’s head of state. Sara Duterte, daughter of outgoing president Rodrigo Duterte, will serve as vice president.
Those who voted for them are rejoicing over the impending return of the so-called golden age, a mythical period of national prosperity, peace and order boastfully dubbed the “Bagong Lipunan” or “New Society.”
When I asked some of them why they were voting for Marcos and Duterte, they could not give clear answers. We can only hope against hope that they can answer this question honestly without being haunted by a not-so-erroneous conscience.
The apathetic others call on their fellow Filipinos to move on. Whatever the meaning of this call, they do not clearly comprehend it, sorry to say.
Shortly after the elections, those who were old enough to witness the tyrannical and rapacious Marcos regime remember the dark nights and bitter days — the death of freedom of the press, suspension of habeas corpus, the incarceration of political opponents.
They can only heave a sigh of regret for their failure to combat the glaring impunity seen in the absence of punishment of human rights violators who roam free and enjoy positions of power
In their first stages of grieving, many Filipinos are in shock and denial. They are angry. Others “self-flagellate” for some sins of omission they think they may have committed.
They fear the eternal oblivion of the dark years of martial law when human rights violations were the order of the day, massive and systematic corruption was the unwritten rule and appalling poverty no longer raised people’s eyebrows.
In a poignant gesture to spiritually communicate with victims of martial law, some survivors visited the Monument of Heroes, where the names of hundreds of victims are engraved. It is a place of memory, protest and hope. It is in itself a concrete testament to repression and resistance.
Those who survived to tell their stories of imprisonment, torture and sexual violence vow to combat the continuing efforts toward historical revisionism by saving whatever documents and pieces of evidence they could of a horrendous past that should never be repeated.
They can only heave a sigh of regret for their failure to combat the glaring impunity seen in the absence of punishment of human rights violators who roam free and enjoy positions of power.
For the millions of voters who flocked to the polls, braving the pandemic and the scorching heat of the sun only to be welcomed with malfunctioning voting machines, never did they imagine the fastest election turnout ever — even faster than that of the US.
The degree of rampant vote buying, vote selling, irregularities, disenfranchisement and digital manipulation has put anti-Marcos and anti-Duterte voters in total shock.
It was inspiring to see very old people who cast their votes for a future they may never even see. It was heart-rending to see how ballots were desecrated, torn by supposed protectors of the law, and tampered with during the dirtiest elections ever in Philippine history.
Families of victims of extrajudicial killings hoped that a Marcos-Duterte defeat could have paved the way to making Rodrigo Duterte accountable for the killing of thousands during his war on drugs. With the Marcos-Duterte victory, it would take extraordinary struggles, and better still a miracle, to realize it.
For families of those who were forcibly disappeared, whose beloved desaparecidos remain in a limbo of lies, uncertainty and injustice, nothing could be more cruel than the unrepentant Marcos’ landslide victory.
It takes a gargantuan and collective struggle of martial law survivors, with arms linked with the young generations and the rest of society, to rise up from this historical fall
Three weeks following the elections comes the International Week of the Disappeared. As enforced disappearances spread globally, this commemoration has been adopted by organizations of families of the disappeared in various parts of the world.
During this last week of May, organizations of families of the disappeared in the Philippines remember the desaparecidos whose lives were sacrificed before the altar of freedom.
Professor Charlie del Rosario disappeared in 1971; student leader Leticia Pascual-Ladlad disappeared in 1977; community organizer Cristina Catalla disappeared in 1977; journalist Primitivo Mijares disappeared in 1977; Father Rudy Romano disappeared in 1985 — they are among the hundreds who, in their struggle for freedom and democracy in the prime of their youth, were plucked from the bosom of their families.
Five decades later, the truth about their disappearance remains hidden and justice has never been attained.
The current Philippines is a far cry from the country that our desaparecidos and all our other heroes and martyrs dreamed of and struggled to attain.
A Chilean lawyer, the late Roberto Garreton, who lost all his habeas corpus cases against human rights violations during the Pinochet dictatorship, never lost hope. “Losing hope is the biggest blunder any human rights defender could commit,” he used to say.
Years of organizing, documentation, legal actions, interventions by the Catholic Church and international solidarity ousted their dictator.
It takes a gargantuan and collective struggle of martial law survivors, with arms linked with the young generations and the rest of society, to rise up from this historical fall.
Combat historical revisionism. Unceasingly search for truth and justice for the desaparecidos and many others who fell prey to the Marcos-imposed repression. Ensure no repetition of the atrocities committed in the past. These are seemingly insurmountable challenges for human rights defenders as they face the upcoming Marcos-Duterte administration.
May the God of Truth and Justice divinely intervene for our beloved Philippines in this time of seeming desperation.
* The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.
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