By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Like President Benigno S. Aquino III’s father, they too were imprisoned, even worse, tortured during the dark days of martial law.
Unlike Commission on Human Rights chairwoman Loretta Ann Rosales, they did not call on the youth to go to the library to learn the lessons of martial law. Instead, they marched with the younger generations of activists toward the foot of Chino Roces (formerly Mendiola) bridge to denounce the continuing repression under the Aquino administration.
Judy Taguiwalo, Satur Ocampo and Behn Cervantes are but some of the ‘70s youth activists who joined the protest rally marking the 40th anniversary of the imposition of martial law.
Speaking at the rally, Taguiwalo, former Faculty Regent of the University of the Philippines (UP) said more than 70,000 activists were detained during the Marcos dictatorship. In 1987, more than 10,000 members of the Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (Selda) filed a class suit against the Marcoses.
“Until now, the bill seeking to indemnify the victims of martial law remains pending,” Taguiwalo said.
Legislation is needed to appropriate part of the sequestered funds from the Marcoses for the victims of martial law because the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law provides that all sequestered assets from the Marcos family should be utilized for the implementation of land reform.
Ten years after the Federal District Court of Hawaii court ordered the Marcos family to pay $776 million in damages to the victims, the indemnification bill has not yet been passed.
“Where are the Marcoses now?” Taguiwalo said. “They are still in power. There is no justice.”
In the same vein, director Behn Cervantes, who was arrested four times during martial law, said: “We must not forget that Lean Alejandro is dead while Imelda [Marcos] is now a congresswoman and Bongbong [Ferdinand Marcos Jr.] wants to become president.”
Alejandro, former secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) and also a youth activist during martial law, was assassinated on September 19, 1987.
In a statement, Cristina Palabay, secretary general of human rights group Karapatan, called on Aquino to order the passage of the bill.
“No amount of wreath laying and praises to the martyrs of martial law could give justice to those who offered their lives to fight the dictatorship, including his father, Noynoy could not even work on the passage of the indemnification bill for the martial law victims – the simplest act of justice,” Palabay said.
In his speech at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani, Aquino ordered the creation of a committee to record the horrors of martial law.
For Selda, however, Aquino himself is “suffering from amnesia.”
In her speech, Angelina Ipong, Selda spokeswoman, said: “Aquino forgot that his father was a political detainee and he refuses to release the 387 political prisoners all over the country.”
Ipong pointed out that Aquino’s father, Benigno Jr., popularly known as Ninoy, was also charged with common crimes just like today’s political prisoners.
According to Karapatan, 107 activists have been arrested and detained under the Aquino administration. Eighty-five percent are facing criminal charges including murder, illegal possession of firearms and explosives, kidnapping, among others.
The practice of filing common crimes against political dissenters, Ipong said, became rampant during the administration of the late president Corazon Aquino, the current president’s mother.
Human rights lawyers pointed out that such practice violates not only domestic laws such as the 1987 Philippine Constitution, the Hernandez political doctrine, and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law but also international human rights covenants.