Musings on Martial Law
Earlier this week, I briefly attended the book launch for Raissa Robles‘s book Marcos Martial Law: Never Again held at Balay Kalinaw in UP Diliman. Noel Cabangon performed “Bayan Ko” before the main discussion with the panel, which featured Robles, Roberto “Obet” Verzola, Senator Rene Saguisag, Pete Lacaba, Bonifacio Ilagan, and Dean Ronald Mendoza of the Ateneo School of Government, began.
The attendees, to my dismay, were mostly older people, with a smattering of younger ones, which to me only highlights the idea that younger people are becoming less and less interested and aware of what happened during the Martial Law years and why it all remains relevant today. Alan Robles moderated the discussion, and one of his first questions was about why people seem to have forgotten all about the atrocities during Martial Law and how it’s possible that Bongbong Marcos has a very strong chance to become vice president. I think the panelists got it right when they said that no one was ever really held accountable for all the wrongdoings during Martial Law. Nobody was arrested, nobody was tried and jailed, and the Marcoses were allowed back in the country a mere handful of years after they were kicked out of power.
Aside from justice not being served, I believe another key factor is that Martial Law was never really discussed in depth in schools. I don’t remember any detailed information being taught about those years, only that Marcos was in power for a very long time. In fact, I only learned the truth about Martial Law when I was in college through a very excellent documentary entitled Batas Militar. I can’t say for sure whether history isn’t taught properly to children because people don’t think children will understand or that such details are too much (too disturbing) to handle. And then there’s the perpetual refrain that learning history isn’t necessary and the all-too-common attitude of brushing unpleasant things under the rug and pretending they never happened. As a result, you have people who never learn from their mistakes.
Yet another factor is what is now called “EDSA fatigue,” which is being used to describe how people feel about People Power nowadays. What was once a celebrated event is now either widely mocked or ignored. It may be related to the fact that People Power and EDSA are always associated with the Aquinos and not with the Filipino people anymore. Nobody is saying that Ninoy Aquino didn’t play his part or that Corazon Aquino was an inspiring figure at the time. But recognition of their roles has reached the point of reverence that it’s difficult for some people to view People Power and the Aquinos as separate entities. Therefore, anyone who’s unhappy with the Aquinos, be it Noynoy or Kris, tends to become annoyed with the family and, by extension, People Power. The discussion has become nothing more than red versus yellow, Marcos versus Aquino, Martial Law versus People Power.
And because many people don’t know what happened during Martial Law, even those who lived through it and saw nothing more than carefully planned order and progress that masked the grimy truth, you now have a nation that is fondly looking back on that time. Now you have people who are confusing truth for propaganda and who don’t realize that their criticisms against the government would have gotten them imprisoned and/or tortured during the Martial Law era they praise and long for today.