Never forget
BAR NONE - Atty. Ian Vincent Manticajon (The Freeman) - February 12, 2019 - 12:00am

I now have read personal accounts about the Martial Law period from two Cebuano authors. One was in one chapter of a beautiful memoir written by Dr. Jose “Dodong” Gullas a few years ago entitled “To Never Forget”, which retraced the important footprints and unforgettable periods of Sir Dodong’s life as a community pioneer and leader.

The most recent one was from a book written by another leading Cebuano figure whom I also look up to, Attorney Democrito “Mocring” C. Barcenas, leading human rights lawyer in the anti-dictatorship movement and now regional chairman of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG)-Region 7.

Sir Mocring’s book, incidentally titled “Never Forget: A Collection of Essays on Human Dignity, Politics, and Life,” was launched last Friday, February 8, at the 38 Park Avenue Showroom in I.T. Park. That day was also the 129th birth anniversary of nationalist statesman Claro M. Recto. Copies of the book are (for now) available at the Barcenas law office in Aniceta Building, Capitol Site.

“To Ian, Carry on the struggle for justice and freedom. Mocring,” read the hand-written memo by the author on the first page of my own copy of his book after I sought his autograph.

Those words carry a lot of weight, coming from a man who, in the words of former newspaper publisher Eileen G. Mangubat, “came away with the battle scars of Martial Law” and a dictatorship which brought out “the courage in small, mighty witnesses” like Barcenas.

In his foreword of the book, national artist Resil B. Mojares notably observed that men like Barcenas must not be forgotten. This is especially true today “when politics (in the popular form we call pulitika) has been degraded and demeaned.”

Barcenas’ life and ideas serve as a reminder of that time “when politics was a high, heroic undertaking, a self-sacrificing pursuit that was purposeful and inspiring,” Mojares wrote. Despite his stints in public office, Mojares observed, Barcenas has “kept a critical distance from traditional politics and has not pursued public office for its own sake.”

Two of the notable essays in Sir Mocring’s book that I’ve read so far are the piece entitled “Cebu’s First Martial Law Detainees” and the one guest-written by his wife and my former high school professor Attorney Lourdes Unabia Barcenas entitled “The Day the Soldiers Came”.

In his distinctively clear, unadorned yet potent voice, Sir Mocring described the events leading to and during his arrest and detention at Camp Sergio Osmeña. He was already Carcar’s duly elected Liberal Party vice mayor at that time. But his association with social activists and student leaders in Cebu as their pro bono lawyer made him a targeted enemy of the state.

“On December 23, 1972, my release was announced by the military,” Sir Mocring wrote, “My wife excitedly brought me to the office of the zone commander where I was made to sign conditions for my release including a ban on media interviews and travels outside Cebu province without military approval.”

As a lawyer who was made to study not just the 1987 Constitution but also the 1935 Constitution (in effect at that time in 1972), those excerpts in Sir Mocring’s “Never Forget” made me ponder deeply. Those words for me are a stark reminder of a political system that on paper is democratic and republican but which can be overturned by sleight of hand – a deadly combination of populism and politico-military clique resembling anything other than a mandate from the people and the rule of law.

The struggle for a just and progressive society continues. And it starts with the words “Never Forget”.

MARTIAL LAW
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