By LIZST ABELLO and CHARISSE MAYUGA
MANILA – Various organizations and personalities vowed to fight historical distortion as they gathered to launch “ML50” on Thursday, July 21.
“We are here today to mark the 50th year declaration of martial law and to emphasize the more than 50 years of struggles of Filipinos to assert and fight for their rights against authoritarianism,” history professor and Tanggol Kasaysayan co-convenor Francis Gealogo said in Filipino.
The launch kicked off the two-month series of events to mark the 50th year of the declaration of martial law during the administration of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr.
Gealogo said different sectors and organizations have calendared activities for two months leading up to Sept. 21, which include webinars in schools and communities, theater arts performances, film viewing, as well creation of instructional materials that will deeply discuss the history of martial law.
Former Social Welfare and Development Secretary and Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses and Martial Law (CARMMA) Convenor Judy Taguiwalo, said that ML50 is not only about revisiting the past but also fighting for genuine justice and accountability.
Taguiwalo said that she was 22 years old when martial law was proclaimed, 36 years old when the Marcoses were ousted. It is ironic, she said, that now at her age of 72, a second Marcos was seated in Malacañang.
Many youth, she said, felt sorry that the present administration have failed the generation who fought against martial law, but the lesson in history is clear, she said, and that is to fight collectively.
“What’s important is to continue to stand together and fight – fight historical denialism, historical deception, lack of accountability, and to continue, especially the youth, to seek a leadership that is responsible and cares for its people,” Taguiwalo said in Filipino.
Film director and Surian ng Sining board member, Joel Lamangan, meanwhile encouraged artists, writers, and filmmakers to create works that will be significant to the interest of the public instead of movies like “Maid in Malacanang,” which he described as nonsense.
“I had witnessed during Martial Law how art was used to reveal the truth. There were big waves of poetry, songs, and such, disseminating the real experiences and happenings during those times,” Lamangan said.
“We should be awakened. We should not belong to those who use the arts to cover up the facts,” he added.
‘Why do we need to remember?’
National Union of Peoples Lawyers (NUPL) Edre Olalia emphasized the need to educate and inform the people of the past.
“Why do we need to remember? We need a remembrance, not to reminisce or romanticize, but look back, to compare, to draw or even to relearn lessons, to identify what went wrong and what went right, to know missed opportunities and even defaults,” said Olalia.
But before one forgets, he added, that assumes knowledge.
“Many do not know what really happened. So we need to educate and inform people. There’s a lot to undo, to push back to prevent atrocities and to promote rights,” Olalia said.
Student Christian Movement National Spokesperson Kej Andres meanwhile vowed that the young generation will continue to persist against tyranny.
Also present at the launch were former Congressman Erin Tañada and former Bayan Muna representatives Carlos Zarate and Satur Ocampo, among others.
Martial law veterans and personalities such as Sr. Mary John Mananzan, former political prisoner Dante Simbulan, Kris Lacaba, former Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, lawyer Gwendolyn Pimentel-Gana also sent their solidarity messages.
Gana reiterated the importance of retelling the history of martial law saying that the present generation is “far too detached in time from the actual events that drastically shifted the direction of our nation.”
That direction, she said, had led the country into what she described as “a perilous path of atrocities, human rights abuses, and suppression of many of our freedoms.”
She said the nation cannot afford to forget its past as it is a vital compass for the country’s future.
“The wrongs of history have to be told and re-told, so we rid our future of costly mistakes. This is why I see this movement as very timely, very important and very necessary. The movement will be a collective process and effort to perpetuate eyewitness testimonies of a horrific past. And I would be glad to be a small part of it, and to share the story of my father, former Senate President Nene Pimentel and our family’s journey through those dreadful times,” Gana said. (AMU, JJE, RVO)