MANILA - It's time to "leave behind" what happened during the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos' dictatorial rule.
Former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile had this to say Wednesday when asked about the repressive years of martial law, of which he is known as the chief architect.
Amid outcry over historical revisionism, Enrile, who was Marcos' defense minister during the military rule marked by killings and other human rights abuses, said there were more problems at hand that needed attention.
"My advice is let us leave these things behind us. Because we are beset with so many problems that we must tackle. If we're going to keep thinking always about these things, let historians make judgment in the future. Tapos na 'yun (That's over). History na 'yun (That's history)," he said.
Martial law victims recently lashed out at the 94-year-old politician when he claimed that "very few" of the dictator's critics were arrested during that time and that they were detained for "criminal acts."
But Enrile, currently seeking a Senate comeback, explained that he did not say that there were no human rights violations during martial law.
"I'm not saying that there were no people arrested or that there were no people abused. What I am saying, and I keep repeating to the public, is that we never adopted a policy of killing people with impunity," he said.
"I apologize for the people who suffered abuse if there were," he added, claiming that no one came out to file any case of abuse related to martial law. He later on admitted to "supporting" the law mandating reparation for martial law victims.
Five years ago, Enrile, as then Senate President, signed the martial law victims' reparation law, an implicit recognition of human rights abuses during the time he was Marcos' defense minister.
Martial law victims earlier came out to debunk Enrile's claims, among them former Commission on Human Rights Chairperson Etta Rosales and former Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, who were both tortured during the Marcos regime.
Data from Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) showed that there were at least 9,000 victims of human rights violations during the Marcos regime (1969 to 1986), with nearly half of abuses recorded in Mindanao.
Of the total, 56 percent were arrested and detained, 13 percent were "salvaged" while 10 percent were massacred. The remaining 21 percent of abuses were experienced by people who were harassed, assaulted, or those who went missing.