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BUKIDNON, Philippines – Former political detainees and other civil society groups in the Davao region have mobilized to counter what they described as outright lies being spread about the dark years of the Marcos dictatorship and martial law.
Fe Salino, secretary-general of Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Aresto (SELDA) in Southern Mindanao, said the groups were pooling their resources to thwart attempts to change the historical narratives about the administration of the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos whose 1972 declaration of martial law allowed him to hold on to power beyond the term limits under the 1935 Constitution.
Marcos was first elected president in 1965 and reelected to a second four-year term in 1969. He declared martial law a year before he was supposed to step down in 1973, cracked down on the political opposition and critics, had the Congress padlocked, and ruled by decree.
Salino’s organization and other groups have launched the Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses and Martial Law in Southern Mindanao (CARMMA-SMR) to counter efforts to deodorize the atrocities and other excesses during the martial law era until the dictator’s ouster in 1986.
Salino said they were preparing videos and other materials to tell the stories of the martial law survivors in the Davao region.
The groups would also step up a social media campaign for voters’ education, expose lies, and organize demonstrations, online or on the streets.
CARMMA-SMR also criticized the late strongman’s son, former senator, and now presidential aspirant Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., for playing the victim. The younger Marcos served as vice governor and subsequently as governor of Ilocos Norte during the latter part of his father’s rule.
His presidential bid alone, the group said, brought back memories about the horrors of his father’s martial rule.
CARMMA-SMR said denials that state-sponsored abuses took place were offensive to people who survived it and those who lost loved ones during that period.
Marcos Martial Law survivor Grace Mahinay, 67, told Rappler she resented being told to move on given that she was traumatized.
“As a survivor of the Marcos dictatorship, I am angry. I strongly oppose the attempt of Bongbong Marcos to get back to Malacañang. He and his family have never shown remorse or acknowledged the numerous human rights violations during his father’s despotic rule. He is not apologetic. Instead, he boasts about what his father did and tells us to move on,” Mahinay lamented.
She said the Marcoses have “enjoyed the fruits of the dictatorship.”
Mahinay was a young activist in Mindanao when the elder Marcos declared martial law and was arrested thrice in 1973, 1974, and 1977.
Roger Gonzales, 74, was a public school teacher in Davao City when he was arrested without a warrant.
He said state forces tortured and then detained him for 11 months without charges.
Gonzales said the mere thought that Marcos Jr. is seeking the presidency saddened him knowing full well that while the human rights violations were being committed, the country was also being plundered during the years of dictatorship.
Another Marcos Martial Law survivor in Davao City, Don Pagusara, was also arrested without a warrant for his alleged links to the communist armed rebellion in 1974. He was shot to the leg for trying to evade arrest by military intelligence agents in Tacloban, manhandled while being interrogated, and incarcerated for more than five years.
Pagusara, now 82 years old, said Marcos Jr.’s presidential bid was “disgusting” because it was clear to him that the attempts to “erase the historical vicious acts and evil deeds” were an integral part of the dictator’s son’s efforts to win the presidency.
For two days since his arrest, he hardly had any sleep because of the continuous interrogations and manhandling by his captors, some of whom were intoxicated, said the former Cebu law student and campus newspaper editor-in-chief.
Pagusara recalled that he started to chill on the second day because of his untreated leg wound, and had breathing difficulties for two months due to a chest injury resulting from the hardest blow he received during his torture.
In Cebu City where he was subsequently transferred, Pagusara said, he was tortured for six more weeks.
Pagusara said he later lied and told his torturers what they wanted to hear just so they would allow his parents to visit him.
He was freed in September 1979 after five years of being moved from one detention facility to another.
Pagusara, like the others who survived the Marcos Martial Law, said the only time they would be able to move on is when they see justice. –Rappler.com
Grace Cantal-Albasin is a Mindanao-based journalist and an awardee of Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship