A gathering of martial law activists and victims pledged to keep retelling their painful stories, so the younger generation would not let these happen again.
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – Abunawas Kali, who came all the way from Maguindanao, recalled the dark days of the martial law with so much disdain. If he were in their house on April 20, 1974, Kali would have been killed along with his three uncles via firing squad by soldiers.
“That was how it was for the Moros during the martial law days. Most of our stories are unheard of, perhaps because we are far away from Manila-based media. Soldiers would enter our community and kill everyone along the way,” Kali, now 65, told Bulatlat at the sidelines of the national gathering of Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses to Malacañang (Carmma) today, Feb. 22, at the Bahay ng Alumni at the University of the Philippines – Diliman.
The last thing that Kali and the rest of the martial law activists and victims want is the return of the Marcos family to Malacañang. With the vice presidency bid of the late dictator’s son and namesake Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. – the family is only a stone’s throw away from making a comeback to the highest post in the land.
Carmma was first launched on Feb. 4, by several Manila-based activists. But today’s delegates came in hundreds all the way from Ilocos, Cordillera, Cagayan Valley, Central and Southern Luzon provinces, Bicol, Panay, General Santos, Davao provinces, Caraga region, and Cotabato City.
In his pronouncements, Marcos had consistently defended their family’s wealth and has refused to apologize to martial law victims. Last year, he said in a television interview that, “If I ever hurt anyone, I will always say sorry. But what have I been guilty of to apologize about?”
He also said that his “greatest blessing” is to have “Marcos” for a last name. Being one, he added, makes him the “luckiest” person that it would be an advantage. He added that he is also counting on the millennials and his father’s so-called loyalists to win the election.
But for writer and director Bonifacio Ilagan, who is also a torture victim and the brother of disappeared activist Rizalina Ilagan, martial law activists are not just against Marcos’ vice presidency bid just because he is a Marcos. He said that the dictator’s son not only continues to justify the crimes committed against the people during the martial law days but has also benefited from it.
“Ang ugat ng kahapon ay ngayon,”(The present is rooted in yesterday) Ilagan added sternly.
In a statement, Carmma said that Marcos is “not the guiltless son that he presents himself to be.”
In a decision in 2003, the Supreme Court defined that the Marcos’ family’s ill-gotten wealth as those in excess of $304,000, which was their supposed total legal income from 1965 to 1986. But Carmma said that so far, the Presidential Commission on Good Governance has only managed to recover about $4 billion, a far cry from the alleged $10 billion that the family was able to have amassed.
“While the sins of the father may not be passed on to the son, the son could very well inherit the ill-gotten wealth of the father,” Carmma said in a statement.
The group added that when the senator was only 26 years old, his father appointed him chairman of the Philippine Communications Satellite Corporation, where he received a salary of $9,700 to $97,000 “despite the fact that he rarely even went to the Philcomsat office.”
Government auditors later found out that Philcomsat was among the government agencies used to siphon ill-gotten wealth out of the country.
On rights violations
Carmma also belied Marcos’ claims that life was better under martial law. Former vice president Teofisto Guingona said that martial law was not just simply “bad,” as the country “ended up poorer and with tremendous loss of lives and poverty.”
The group said that the number of Filipinos living below the poverty line doubled from 18 million in 1965 to 35 million in February 1986, when Marcos was toppled during the popular Edsa uprising.
“Bongbong continues to defend and promote martial law when Filipinos suffered systematic, widespread, and state-sanctioned enforced disappearances, torture and extrajudicial executions,” Carmma said.
Amnesty International said there were more than 3,200 killed, 70,000 imprisoned and 34,000 tortured under martial law.
Trining Herrera, leader of the urban poor group Zone One Tondo (Zoto) during martial law, said she was among those who resisted the demolition of communities in Tondo, Manila. In a previous interview with Bulatlat, she recalled that there were at least 10,000 families who were about to lose their homes to give way to big government projects.
For leading the urban poor struggle, Herrera was detained and tortured in Camp Crame in Quezon City on April 23, 1977. Electric wires were tied to her fingertips. She was electrocuted until her fingertips bled.
“I kept on shouting. But nothing happened,” she recalled during the Carmma gathering.
In a statement, Carma assailed that Marcos even had the gall to accuse 9,539 human rights victims who filed the Hawaii class suit as purely motivated by compensation. He was reportedly to have said, “They are just after the money.”
During the forum, former Sen. Aquilino Pimentel told the youth that the freedom of speech was curtailed under the martial law.
“A forum like this would not have been possible,” he said.
Carmma referred to the plan to bring Marcos to a higher government position as a “Marcosian plot” to redeem their so-called “family honor.”
But Ilagan said stories of horror, terror and plunder were shared in the day’s discussion as “we want to impress on today’s generation the kind of life we had under the Marcos dictatorship” and to “see through the ‘cool’ façade of Bongbong Marcos, executor of the ill-gotten Marcos estate.”
Joana Cariño, an activist who hailed from Cordillera, said Marcos cannot wash his hands from the sins of martial law.
“The victims have long memories,” she said.
Following pronouncements of presidential candidate Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte that he would allow the Marcos Sr.’s burial to the Libingan ng Bayani, former Senator Rene Saguisag said he is only amenable if they would also agree to change the name of the historic burial site to “Libingan ng Bayani at iba pa.”
Apart from the “sins” he committed during the martial law, Carmma said Marcos has yet to come clean after he was linked to the infamous pork barrel scam, reportedly masterminded by Janet Lim-Napoles.
College Editors Guild of the Philippines president Marc Lino Abila also said that Marcos was among those who pushed for the passing of the controversial Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, which, he added, is tantamount to “e-martial law.”
He urged his fellow youth to tap the social media and use the hashtag #NoMoreMarcos.