MANILA, Philippines — Martial law survivors have called on Filipinos to be vigilant and ready to resist a possible return to authoritarianism with the assumption to the presidency of Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.
The landslide win of the son and namesake of the late deposed dictator should make Filipinos watchful against a repeat of history through the abuse of the presidential mandate, martial law survivors said at a recent virtual town hall discussion on “What Really Happened During Martial Law” conducted by advocacy group Democracy Watch.
Writer and University of the Philippines professor emeritus Jose “Butch” Dalisay, who at age 19 spent seven months in prison during martial law, said he realized early on that those conscious of and who actively resisted the dictatorship were in a distinct minority.
“Some people say that streets got quieter as no protests were allowed. The fact that many people were hunted, killed or imprisoned, never reached the front page of the broadsheets,” Dalisay added.
He also talked about recognizable formulas employed by despots: “Crush the opposition, put a rubber stamp on it, feed the people with nutribuns and fake news, dazzle them with beauty contests and foreign royalty, make everyone’s business your business and deposit your savings in an offshore account.”
As a result, poor Filipinos got poorer and rich Filipinos got richer, according to the author educator, as he noted that over the years, people became complacent.
Dalisay advised younger Filipinos to hold government leaders accountable.
“This is more your fight than ours,” he said.
“(Our generation) will be gone in a few years. You better rise to that challenge,” he added.
Former health secretary Manuel Dayrit narrated the life-changing decisions he made as a result of the First Quarter Storm when he was a student activist.
“We were full of youthful exuberance; we were idealistic and brimming with ideas about political change. We sought to create a just and equitable country. In all this turmoil, the slogan ‘Serve the People’ was, for me, the galvanizing call,” Dayrit said.
Fifty-two years hence, he noted that the country remains in turmoil.
“Even after martial law, the forces of Marcos are still around,” he said.
As a health professional, Dayrit underscored that the social disconnect between classes is concerning because people are working in silos.
“We know that we can’t succeed in the health sector if we don’t work with other sectors. You need to build bridges. We need leadership to build social cohesion,” he said.
Judy Taguiwalo, a former UP professor of women and development studies and convenor of the Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses to Malacañang or CARMMA, said she was imprisoned for over four years during martial law, being a member of the UP student council and a staff of the Philippine Collegian, UP’s official student publication.
Taguiwalo exhorted the youth to “never forget,” to fight for basic social changes and to end impunity.