EDITORIAL - Martial law, after 43 years
none (The Philippine Star) - September 20, 2015 - 10:00am

A center is being developed to preserve the stories of torture, rape, enforced disappearances and summary executions suffered by victims of martial law. Remembering becomes difficult after 43 years, especially in a nation with a short memory. But the nation cannot afford to forget the atrocities of the past, particularly when the abuses of the Marcos dictatorship persist, even if no longer sanctioned by the top leadership.

A special rapporteur of the United Nations took the Armed Forces of the Philippines to task for enforced disappearances and executions – an accusation that the AFP has repeatedly denied. Police personnel continue to be caught or implicated in torture and summary executions, with the massacre of 13 people in Atimonan, Quezon among the worst.

And while the government no longer sanctions executions, failure to punish those who resort to murder has bred the kind of impunity that led to the 2009 massacre of 58 people, half of them journalists, in Maguindanao.

Impunity also reigns in the other problem that characterized the dictatorship: large-scale plunder. Nearly half a century after martial law was imposed, the nation continues to grapple with corruption, from the highest levels of government to the lowest rungs of the bureaucracy. The problem has been likened to cancer and the nation still has not found a cure. Studies have shown the nation losing billions to corruption – money that could have otherwise gone to poverty alleviation and improving public services. But the problem has become too entrenched, with systems designed to provide wide opportunities for graft.

None of the perpetrators of plunder and human rights atrocities during the martial law regime went to prison. This is one of the biggest reasons why the problems persist. It has been compounded by the failure to implement structural reforms and strengthen institutions. The commemoration today of the imposition of martial law should firm up the nation’s resolve to undertake the necessary reforms.

ACIRC ARMED FORCES OF THE PHILIPPINES ATIMONAN EXECUTIONS LAW MAGUINDANAO MARTIAL NATION PROBLEM QUEZON UNITED NATIONS
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