Commentary: Achievements don't erase abuses; opinions can't change facts
In this Nov. 18, 2016 photo, students in Quezon City rail against the burial of dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Heroes' Cemetery, a move pushed by President Rodrigo Duterte.
Terzeus S. Dominguez for Philstar.com, file

Commentary: Achievements don't erase abuses; opinions can't change facts

Jove Jim Aguas (Philstar.com) - September 22, 2020 - 4:36pm

MANILA, Philippines — This is my personal narrative and although the truth of personal narratives like may sometimes differ from factual truth, the personal truth gives meaning to facts and data.

We are all part of certain historical events and our personal recollection of these events may shed more light into the historical events and somehow safeguard our history from revisionism.

Martial Law is one of the darkest days in our nation’s history and this was conceived and orchestrated by the late president and dictator Marcos.

My first experience of Martial Law was the day when a truck of soldiers (Philippine Constabulary -PC at that time) arrived in our quiet little town of Pandan, Catanduanes.

As a young boy it was strange for me to see these men in military uniforms with their guns alighting a military truck, but it was nothing to be concerned of. But soon curfew was imposed and my recollection of it was that when my Lolo came to visit us in the evening, he had to leave before 8 or 9 pm otherwise he cannot go out of our house and go home because he would be apprehended by soldiers.

Martial Law in the background

In a quiet and peaceful town like ours, it was not necessary. It may have helped in the peace and order of our place but it also caused certain fear among the common folk.

I remember being taught in elementary the song "Bagong Lipunan" which, we as young pupils would sing with a sense of patriotism. Little did we know that it was a propaganda song by the regime.

When I studied in the capital town — Virac — for my high school in the minor seminary, that was when I heard and read about abuses of soldiers and the atrocities committed against the critics of the government especially the opposition.

But still, for me, Martial Law had become a normal and ordinary part of the political life. I had not known any sitting president except Marcos and I thought Martial Law was just in the background. I went on with my studies and everybody, I thought, just went on with their lives.

At that point, I thought those who opposed the government and Marcos were the bad guys.

When I studied in Manila for college in the major seminary was when I started to be politically awakened and gained social and political consciousness of what was really happening in our country.

Martial Law, I would realize, was not just an ordinary and common thing, it was not something that happens in the background because it had affected the lives of people, the affairs and life of our country.

The members of the political opposition were one by one being arrested, activists were disappearing —  some would never be found and those who were found were already dead.

Despite the economic progress that happened during the first term of Marcos — which I believed is one of the best in terms of economic and social progress - we were the "Tiger of Asia" then — we cannot forget the atrocities during the time of Martial Law.

Thousands were arrested, detained, tortured, raped, killed and disappeared. Cronyism and corruption became a common practice in the government.

With this realization, I started joining rallies and demonstrations in Mendiola, Liwasang Bonifacio and Luneta.

I volunteered for Namfrel during the Snap Election of 1986 and joined the rallies and protests after Marcos was declared winner by his rubber-stamp Congress. This culminated in that glorious People Power Revolution in Edsa — the only genuine "people power" in the Philippines.

As a seminarian then, I was positioned in front of the crowd with fellow seminarians, priests and nuns. Together with thousands of Filipinos, I braved the three-day revolution and saw its glorious end.

For me the, EDSA revolution was not so much about changing the regime. Yes, it was part of it, but it was more of the realization that people love freedom and when they put their energies and efforts for a common purpose without personal interests, like establishing a good government, that common purpose or good can be possible.

Opinions cannot change facts

I am one of those they call “Martial Law babies.” I lived through it and I experienced it both in its very common form and in its violent manifestations.

Other people may have a different experience and view or opinion of it; opinions however do not change facts — the facts of its atrocities.

I am not blind to the progress we had during the first term of Marcos but I am not also blind to the horrors and atrocities committed during Martial Law.

Some people glorify Marcos for the progress we had during his first term, but let us not forget the people who were arrested, detained, tortured, raped, murdered, disappeared during those dark times.

Let us not also forget that during second term of Marcos, he became a dictator and a plunderer amassing unexplained wealth.

Now, tell me is that a hero? Maybe he is a hero for some, but not to me and to the many victims of Marcos' repressive and abusive regime.

Marcos was corrupted by power, he wanted to perpetuate himself in power so he decided to declare Martial Law and abolished Congress and suspended our political rights.

Let us not forget our history and let us not allow that it be revised by people with vested interests. Let us love our country beyond any political affiliation.

I am sure some of those who are pro-Marcos love our country as much as we do. But let us respect our history and not dishonor those who suffered and sacrificed during those dark days.

Yes, we enjoy today the accomplishments of the first term of Marcos, but he also caused unspeakable suffering to our country and our people.

Respect our history and those people who suffered and sacrificed so that we can gain freedom and freely express our thoughts and sentiments in a manner that we are doing now.

When people are deprived of bread they either beg or fight to have it, but when they have enough of it they waste it and desire for other things. Freedom is like bread, we never had it before so we fought hard for it, now that we enjoy it we seem to ignore its value.

Sometimes people value more that which they are deprived of and when they have abundance of it they squander it.

I wish we have both bread and freedom.

Jove Jim S. Aguas is a professor of philosophy and a faculty member of the Philosophy Department of the University of Santo Tomas

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