Martial Law

Fight ‘tentacles of dictatorship,’ says Pangilinan on Martial Law anniversary

JC Gotinga
Fight ‘tentacles of dictatorship,’ says Pangilinan on Martial Law anniversary

Lone dissenter to Bayanihan to Recover as One Act: Sen. Francis Pangilinan explains his negative vote against the approval of the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act during Tuesday’s hybrid session, July 28, 2020. Pangilinan said he could not vote for a measure that will fund the fight against COVID-19 pandemic without a change of leadership at the Department of Health. (Allan Peñaredondo/OS Pangilinan) (Senate PRIB)

Allan Peñaredondo/OS Pangilinan

An activist during the Marcos dictatorship, Senator Francis Pangilinan urges Filipinos to 'be brave and serve the people'

On the 48th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law in the Philippines, Senator Francis Pangilinan called on Filipinos to keep examining and questioning social realities, and to resist a “resurrected” authoritarian threat.

“That period shaped me to the need to struggle in solidarity with others toward a victory not simply to oust the dictator, but to extricate the tentacles of dictatorship which appear to have resurrected now,” Pangilinan said in a statement on Monday, September 21.

The dictator Ferdinand Marcos declared nationwide martial law on September 21, 1972, and did not lift it until January 17, 1981. The nearly decade-long period was marred by thousands of killings, disappearances, and persecution of critics of the Marcos regime.

“Martial Law is a dark chapter in our history. Many were arrested without charges, tortured, dispossessed of their properties, killed. It wasn’t the progressive and orderly ‘new society’ bannered in the newspapers, radio, and television,” Pangilinan said.

“The true face of Martial Law became clear to me when an opposition leader was killed. I started to examine our people’s condition and ask why there was so much poverty while Marcos the dictator, his family, and his cronies lived in opulence,” the opposition senator added.

The opposition leader Pangilinan referred to was Ninoy Aquino, according to his office. Pangilinan was an activist during the Marcos regime. The assassination of Aquino on August 21, 1983, galvanized opposition to the dictatorship, which culminated in the February 1986 People Power uprising that ousted Marcos.

“I and my fellow activists were pushed to fight for our fellow men and women, for ourselves, and for the future. We were pushed by those dark times, when the law was about one man, to serve as inspiration. We were pushed by the need to be brave and to serve,” Pangilinan said.

“As before, that is the challenge of today: Examine and question. Serve as an inspiration. Be brave and serve the people,” he added.

Pangilinan is one of only 4 opposition senators. The others are Franklin Drilon, Risa Hontiveros, and Leila de Lima, who is detained for drug charges widely perceived as political persecution for her criticism of President Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal war on drugs.

Imee Marcos, daughter of the deceased former president, is currently a senator. Her brother Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr was a senator before he ran for vice president in 2016. He lost to Vice President Leni Robredo.

Imee and Bongbong Marcos are political allies of Duterte.

Akbayan: Teach Martial Law history in schools

Also on Monday, a Senate finance panel heard the proposed 2021 budget of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), while the House of Representatives held a hearing with the Department of Education (DepEd) on preparations for the school opening, set for October 5.

The activist group Akbayan Youth urged CHED and the DepEd to include the history of the Martial Law period in the education curriculum.

“DepEd and CHED are legally mandated to include martial law human rights violations into the education curriculum, whether primary, secondary, or tertiary. But if the House of Representatives found no injustice in passing a bill declaring Marcos’ birthday a holiday, clearly our educational institutions need to step up against historical revisionism,” Akbayan Youth chairperson RJ Naguit said in a statement.

The Akbayan party lobbied for Republic Act No. 10368 or the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act in 2013. The measure mandates elementary and high schools to teach students about human rights violations that happened under Martial Law.

Naguit called on CHED and the DepEd to give a “concrete report” on their inclusion of Martial Law topics in their social science curricula.

“Every year that schools fail to teach Martial Law is [tantamount to] a whole batch of students prone to being victims of the lies spread by the Marcoses,” Naguit said.

The Marcoses have long sought to sanitize their reputation and even have the late dictator be hailed as a hero, which Bongbong Marcos could use to bolster an attempt to reinstate his family in Malacañang in the 2022 presidential elections, history professors at the University of the Philippines said in January.

The former senator earlier said school textbooks that narrate the abuses and excesses of his father’s dictatorship should be revised. UP history professors opposed this.

“Kung ayaw natin ng fake news, sana tutol rin tayo sa fake history (If we shun fake news, we should also oppose fake history). Let us not be complicit [in] the historical revision of the Marcoses and take a stand as a nation,” Naguit said. –