Every year during the anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law, a few articles come out from mainstream media reminding Filipinos about the “horrors” that came following its implementation by former President Ferdinand Marcos. I noticed that most of the articles describe the abuse perpetuated by the Philippine military or police back in the 1970s. Those who lived to tell the tale or the survivors of torture and systematic kidnapping, quite often say that members of the military or police committed the atrocities.
However, one cannot help but wonder if those atrocities were committed with the knowledge of the late President Marcos himself. Did he order for example, the rape of then 23-year-old Lily Hilao in 1973 after writing her school paper at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila? Who was in charge of the military then? The same question can be asked about Dr Juan Escandor who was said to be a young doctor with UP-PGH. Rehashed accounts say he was also tortured and killed by the Philippine Constabulary. Were any of the Marcoses aware that the members of the military were going to eliminate him in such a terrible way?
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We can name all the victims of abuse and torture during the Martial Law years and ask the same question. We may find that it would have been too far-fetched for the young Marcoses at least to be involved or aware that such gruesome crimes were happening under their father’s watch. But why are they still being blamed for it now?
I find it strange that 30 years after President Marcos’s death, there are still some people – especially those who are allied with the Aquinos – who keep blaming the Marcoses for the atrocities they may not have been aware of. They have this fear that if Senator Bongbong Marcos becomes President one day, he will also declare Martial Law and ask the military to commit the same atrocities against people critical of his government.
In the age of Internet and social media, their fear is outright ridiculous. Obviously, what happened in the 1970s is unlikely to happen again. The use of memes alone by Netizens will help expose government abuse if ever. Likewise, the world is so connected now that atrocities similar to what happened then will make it to international media outlets within hours of happening, which will then be the basis for people in other countries to show support for the victims.
It is unfortunate that the perpetrators of the crimes during Martial Law years were never brought to justice. This is precisely the reason why there has been no closure for them and their supporters. Most of the victims did not get compensated too and this time, the current administration under President Benigno Simeon Aquino is to blame for it. To quote excerpts from a recent report:
Aging victims of the Marcos dictatorship are urging the panel tasked to process their claims for reparation to speed up its work, saying hardly anything has moved in the two years since the law granting them compensation was enacted.
Worse, the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board will cease to exist by next year based on the law that established it, playwright Bonifacio Ilagan, vice chairman of the Samahan ng Ex-detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto or SELDA, noted.
SELDA said the delay in granting the compensation “reflects how the Aquino government treats human rights victims then and now,” as it noted that instead of diminishing, the number of human rights violations has increased in the waning months of the current administration.
It also pointed out Aquino has yet to name a replacement for former HRVCB member Chito Gascon, who is now chairman of the Commission on Human Rights, causing even more delays in the panel’s work.
It seems like BS Aquino did not follow through on this. It is also worth noting that even without Martial Law, abuse and killings committed by members of the military and police under the current government is still happening. The most recent one is the killing of three Lumad tribal leaders and teachers from Surigao del Sur who were beaten and tortured before being killed right in front of their community allegedly by militiamen trained by the Philippine military. The motive for the killings of the Lumad leaders is still unclear.
BS Aquino was quick to absolve the military of responsibility for the atrocities. It is also interesting to note that the President’s rabid supporters are not appalled by the crimes committed against the Lumads the same way they are appalled by the crimes committed during the Martial Law years. Economist and media personality Solita “Winnie” Monsod even pins the blame on the leftist for the killings even before an investigation had started. This is what she had to say:
If the military has killed Lumad, it is not because they are Lumad, but because they are NPA. How does the military know the Lumad are NPA? Simple. If they have guns, they must be NPA,” she said.
Monsod’s bias is evident in her statement. She doesn’t seem to mind the torture and killing of suspected communists hiding in communities. She doesn’t seem to care about following due process. Her statement against the killing of the Lumads is certainly appalling. Sadly, most rabid Aquino supporters think like her.
The question now is, will the perpetrators of the crimes committed during the current Aquino government be brought to justice or will they go scot-free the same way the perpetrators of crimes during the Martial Law years got away with their crimes? One just needs to look up the Mendiola massacres in 1987 where 13 people were killed by government anti-riot forces, the Hacienda Luisita massacres in 2004 where seven farmers died in the hands of the PNP and AFP forces, the Maguindanao massacres where 58 victims were tortured and killed in 2009 allegedly by the Ampatuans, to realize that justice for the victims of government abuse in the 1970s and now are the same – it does not exist.
Therefore, those who call for justice for the victims of government atrocities should include the horrors during the two Aquino Presidencies and highlight their failure to end the violence against innocent Filipinos. Members of the media inaccurately exclude other victims of heinous crimes after Martial Law was lifted in their fight for “justice” just because they are beholden to the Aquinos.
In life, things are not always what they seem.