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HomeThe RegionDavaoA SOJOURNER'S VIEW: September 21’s horrific memory

A SOJOURNER’S VIEW: September 21’s horrific memory

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 21 Sept) — There are a few dates in Philippine History that bring a horrific memory to those who suffered the consequences of these historical events. One is 16 March 1521, ironically labeled the day when the islands – later to be named Las Islas Filipinas – was "discovered." In actual fact, on this date began the Spanish occupation of the islands ending only because the Philippine National Revolution waged by the Katipunan vanquished the colonizers.

Another is 8 December 1898 when the whole of this archipelago was sold by Spain to the new colonizer, the United States of America for the measly sum of US$20 million.  Still another is 7 December 1942 – the bombing of Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii by Japanese Imperial forces that triggered the war in Asia impacting on the Philippines. There are also the dates that are still remembered up to today, the Fall of Bataan (9 April 1942) and the Fall of Corregidor (6 May 1942).


But in recent memory, no other event would haunt the generation that suffered the consequences of what unfolded on this date than the one that is now recorded in history books as taking place on 21 September 1972.  That was the day when hundreds across the Republic were arrested and put in prison and with some of them staying in prison for years.  Until it finally got  abolished with People Power in 1986, 3,257 Filipinos killed, 35,000 tortured, and some 70,000 arrested — taking place across 14 years. Many of the dead have not been recovered and provided a decent burial.   For all these victims and their families, co-workers and friends, the trauma suffered through the long years of tyranny remain haunting them in their dreams even up to today.


Comes now the suggestion of the newly-elected Senator Imee Marcos that her family be allowed to share their views on what happened with the martial law inflicted by his father on the Filipino people.  Reacting to the news that the University of the Philippines would soon offer Philippine Studies (PS) 21,  a subject that will focus on the language, literature and culture under martial law, Senator Marcos said: "It's good that it's being studied. I hope we will be given the chance to say what we believe happened.. That is what's important, that each of us share our viewpoint and that each of us be heard." (See Leila Salaveria and Matthew Reysio-Cruz, “Imee on Martial Law as UP Subject: Part of Academic Freedom”, in PDI, 19 September 2019, p. A11).


By all means, give Senator Marcos her family’s day in the court of public opinion. But don’t just ask Imelda, Imee and Bongbong to appear in the public sphere to tell the people their versions of the “golden days” of FM’s martial rule. Bring in the cast of characters who were her father’s chief collaborators to tell us their own stories so we can ferret the truth from the horses’ mouth.  If the names mentioned below have moved to another level of existence like their authoritarian master, one of their descendants – especially those still benefiting from the wealth amassed by their ancestor who was FM's crony – could be called on to appear in the public sphere.

Make sure that General Fabian Ver and Juan Ponce Enrile will be around to once and for all confess to the crimes they committed against the Filipino people as they ordered the thousands assassinated, disappeared, tortured and imprisoned. Let Ponce Enrile again recount how he was used to justify martial law’s declaration by the ambush he experienced which he himself later on claimed was staged to make it appear that the NPAs were behind the ambush. 

Bring in the Cabinet members who included oligarchs like Cesar Virata, Roberto Ongpin, David Consunji, Vicente Paterno, Jaime Laya, Rodolfo del Rosario, et al who – by being FM’s cronies amassed great wealth during these years but bankrupted the coffers of the Republic through loans of millions of dollars that ballooned and whose principal and interest we continue to pay until today.  Bring in Francisco Tatad, Estelito Mendoza, Ernesto Maceda et al who told lies and manipulated the truth to fool the people into believing that our lives were greatly improved because of martial rule and that the new society was the best thing that ever happened to the Republic.

Bring in Vilma Bautista, Imelda’s former personal secretary caught with selling stolen art works of Impressionist painters worth tens of millions of dollars. This might be a problem as she has to serve a two-to-six year prison term, but arrangements could be made for her extradition to the Philippines.  She will then be able to tell us how Imelda managed to buy these super-priced paintings, where she got the money to buy them and how she has kept these in their vaults until discovered. Perhaps someone else who handled her diamond jewelry could also be invited to share the story  Just don’t bother anymore with whoever helped Madam collect her thousand shoes kasi lumang tugtugin na nga ito.  But it might be a good idea to assemble her remaining Blue Ladies to also testify to the extravagant parties and concerts she organized for the likes of Van Cliburn, George Hamilton and Margot Fonteyn.

But, of course, make sure you have a good collection of personalities and ordinary folk who were victims of martial rule to grace this truth-telling session. While it is no longer possible to bring in the likes of Ninoy Aquino, Jose Diokno, Lorenzo Tanada, Chino Roces, Evelio Javier, Edgar Jopson, Sr. Marianni Dimaranan SFIC and all those whose names are written on the walls of the Bantayog ng mga Bayani, there are still hundreds of surviving victims of martial rule.  Many are now in their advanced ages but are still fit to testify once again what they underwent in the cruel hands of the FM regime.  They are farmers, workers, housewives, urban poor, indigenous persons, medical personnel, lawyers, teachers and church people.  Bring them in and their testimonies can so easily wipe out the lies of those who would defend the Marcos martial rule as the best thing that has ever happened to this country.

If any of the universities in Manila – especially UP Diliman —  maybe an intimidating venue as public sphere for these truth-telling sessions, there is always the Araneta Center or the Solair Performing Arts Center.  A huge crowd would certainly come to watch this spectacle. The Manila Film Center would have been the perfect venue if it has remained as grand as when it opened, before it became a haunted place in the wake of the hundreds who perished in that tragic incident.  A haunting that might just occur as the deliberations reach a feverish level may just finally make Madame confess her sins. And  to  finally apologize to the madlang people who she and her husband – with whom she shared a conjugal dictatorship – victimized owing to their untarnished greed for wealth and power.

[Redemptorist Brother Karl Gaspar is a professor at St. Alphonsus Theological and Mission Institute (SATMI) in Davao City and a professor of Anthropology at the Ateneo de Davao University. Gaspar is the most prolific Mindanawon book author, having written at least 22 books since 1985, including “Desperately Seeking God’s Saving Action: Yolanda Survivors’ Hope Beyond Heartbreaking Lamentations,” two books on Davao history, and “Ordinary Lives, Lived Extraordinarily – Mindanawon Profiles” launched in February 2019. He writes two columns for MindaNews, one in English (A Sojourner’s Views) and the other in Binisaya (Panaw-Lantaw)]


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