Ignorance of (Martial) Law is no excuse 1

Ignorance of (Martial) Law is no excuse

Aneth Ng-Lim

Posted at Sep 21 2021 07:40 AM

During my freshman year in UP Diliman, one of my first assignments was to write a brief research paper that would use the APA style. I so wanted to impress my professor and remember thinking that as a student of UP, with its glorious history of student activism, my topic should be weighty, political and even leftist or as far left as I can swing considering my absolute lack of political exposure at that time.

So off I went to the main library to soak up information on human rights violations during the Martial Law. I discovered rows and rows of books on the topic, not just on one floor but even in other sections and quickly realized I was in over my head. I knew I will have to narrow down my topic but in the meantime, I decided to choose a journal penned by Amnesty International so my visit will not be a total waste.

Assuming it will be a quick read, I did not even pick a quiet corner and just sat at the first available table. Fifteen minutes in, I was horrified for the sufferings of the victims of political cruelty recorded in the journal. That particular issue focused on the “desaparecidos”, referencing persons who have disappeared, and presumed killed for their political beliefs.

The journal did not try to present their stories other than as facts, listing names, what they were doing before they disappeared, the efforts their families and friends have spent to track them down or as hope began to fade to at least be able to recover their bodies. And maybe it was the brevity of the descriptions that led my imagination to run wild, until I found myself quietly weeping for these souls that walked before me so I could have the freedom to sit in that chair and read about these atrocities.

Flash forward to this week and I join thousands of others in their dismay of the abuse of this freedom by a vlogger/singer/actress for opening her online platform to the scion of one of the acknowledged world’s worst dictators. Twitter’s 280-character limit just isn’t enough to protest the interview, peppered with factual errors and the whitewashing of human rights violations committed under the regime of the interviewee’s father.

What was dark was made to appear light, and what was horrific was portrayed as humorous. Condemnations came quick from individuals and institutions, shocked at the blatant misrepresentation of facts that can be easily checked thanks to the world wide web. Their collective anger fueled a social media storm and as they all called out the vlogger for her actions, she chose to remain defiant and instead boasted of her interview’s growing number of views.

While we can forgive incompetence, we should not let arrogance pass. Ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance is ignorance. And when you have millions of viewers subscribed to your online platform, you have a responsibility to check what you will say or to issue a disclaimer upfront of your personal relationship and your lack of knowledge on the subject.

With the national elections a few short months away, we will likely see more of these attempts to revise history, reframe the facts and challenge the true narrative to suit political ambitions.

Forty nine years have passed since the day Ferdinand Marcos signed Proclamation No. 1081 placing the Philippines under Martial Law. From that day to this day, misinformation has been rampant. According to the officialgazette.gov.ph, during the Martial Law period, Marcos even promoted this day as National Thanksgiving Day, memorializing the date as the foundation day of his New Society.

Forty nine years is too long a time for a nation to remain ignorant. The girl that was sobbing in that library chair had her eyes opened and her worldview changed by one journal. Do the same for yourself, for your family and friends today. Do not give the floor to singers and actresses reinvented as vloggers and pseudo-journalists. The clock is ticking.

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Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.