Move on or remember? Senators clash over martial law's 50th anniversary

Jauhn Etienne Villaruel, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 20 2022 08:58 PM | Updated as of Sep 20 2022 11:45 PM

 Artist Max Santiago gives a walk-through of the images on a mural, depicting labor leaders and human rights activists that fought against the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos Sr. in the 1970s, at the University of the Philippines, Fine Arts department on Tuesday, Sep. 20, 2022. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News
Artist Max Santiago gives a walk-through of the images on a mural, depicting labor leaders and human rights activists that fought against the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos Sr. in the 1970s, at the University of the Philippines, Fine Arts department on Tuesday, Sep. 20, 2022. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News


MANILA - Several senators on Tuesday aired clashing views on how the country should mark the 50th anniversary of the declaration of martial law by the late President Ferdinand Marcos, Sr., father of the incumbent chief executive.

For Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, Filipinos have already moved on, citing the electoral victory of Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, Jr. last May.

Estrada ran under Marcos' "Uniteam" slate.

"Move on na tayo," he said, adding that the Marcos family have nothing to apologize for.

"Now that Pres. Marcos garnered 31 million votes, palagay ko naman 'di naman siguro naniniwala ang taumbayan. Siguro, minority naniniwala," Estrada said when asked about the Marcos ill-gotten wealth and human rights abuses during the martial law. 

Sen. Robin Padilla, who was also part of Uniteam, have a similar sentiment regarding what he called the "martial law issue." 

"Para sa akin, mag-move on na tayo, mga anak," Padilla said.

The newbie senator also said the atrocities during Marcos Sr.'s rule should not be held against his heirs.

"Kung may kasalanan man yung dating Ferdinand Marcos, Sr., hindi po kasalanan ng anak 'yun. Wag po tayong ganon.... Pag hindi tayo nakaalis sa martial law issue na 'yan, kelan pa tayo mag-go-grow?" he said. 

But for Sen. Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III, son of a martial law victim, the country still needs to remember that "dark period."

"We should reflect at alalahanin natin that 50 years ago, a dark period descended upon our country because of the declaration of martial law," Pimentel said.

The senator said that if the Marcos family will not apologize for the abuses during the martial law, they should at least "explain" what happened to the victims or their families. 

"I think they (victims), kung buhay pa sila or their families, they all deserve at least an explanation as to what happened," he said. 

Pimentel believes that the proper way to “move on” from the bitter memories of Martial Law is to value the basic rights of citizens and learning from that experience.

“We should learn. Otherwise, meron ngang saying na we are condemned to repeat the past, yung mga pagkakamali natin, if we do not learn our lessons," he said.

"Siguro ang pinakamagandang aral na dapat makita natin ay bigyan natin ng halaga ang demokrasya and democratic practices. Tulad ng halalan, regular na halalan, na tunay ha, honest, na reflective of the will of the people,” he added.

The detention and torture of his late father, former Senate President Aquilino "Nene" Pimentel Jr., during the Martial Law "should not happen again," he said. 

Sen. Risa Hontiveros said it is not enough to just remember.

"It is not enough that we remember. Let us continue mediating, sharing, and learning from each other... We expect efforts and online trolling to undermine the significance of this day. It is then, the duty of each and every Filipino citizen to deny them their goals," she said.

Sen. Sonny Angara, meanwhile, thinks the Filipino people "have come out of that experience with a commitment to democratic values and a level and competitive economic playing field."

"But democracy requires a daily commitment and hungry stomachs may abandon it for other forms of government if basic needs are not addressed well," he said. 

The commemoration of the declaration is commonly observed every Sept. 21, the day in 1972 when Marcos, Sr. signed Proclamation No. 1081. 

There have been calls though for it to be done every Sept. 23, the day he announced he had placed the entire country under military rule.

The declaration lasted until January 1981, and the period was marred by human rights violations and massive corruption.

According to reports from global human rights watchdog Amnesty International, there were 100,000 victims of martial law, with 3,000 killed, 34,000 tortured and 70,000 arrested.

The Marcoses also amassed an estimated $5 to 10 billion, or some P500 billion, in ill-gotten wealth, based on the World Bank-United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s Stolen Asset Recovery report.

“We recognize naman the problems that happened, the abuses that occurred like in any war. All of these things are some things that are already part of history,” Marcos Jr. said an interview that aired on ALLTV channel on his 65th birthday last Sept. 13.

“There’s no reason to revise history,” he said in the taped interview.

Last April, he said he told his children that Martial Law was something their grandfather "had to do." 

"The situation at the time was dire. We were fighting a war on two fronts. We had a secessionist movement in the south, we had the dissident NPAs, CPP-NPA in the countryside. And these were people who wanted to bring down the government, and the government had to defend itself... That's how I explain it. That was what your lolo had to do. He felt that he had to do that," he said when asked on CNN Philippines how he would explain the Martial Law era to millennials and the "Gen Z" generation.

- with report from Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News

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