Young and gone too soon: How martial law took our future

The military captured Edjop in a raid in 1982. Refusing to cooperate during the interrogations, he was executed the day after.

Lean, meanwhile, actively campaigned against martial law while in the University of the Philippines. He joined and led protests against the regime, and helped establish the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan). He later became Bayan's secretary-general.

In 1987, Lean was assassinated. He was on his way to Bayan's offices in Cubao when his vehicle was ambushed. His murder has yet to be solved.

There were many others like them: Archimedes Trajano, who dared question Imee Marcos's being National Chairman of the Kabataang Barangay; Enrique Voltaire Garcia II, the former editor in chief of the Philippine Collegian; Lorena Barros, the first chairperson of the Malayang Kilusan ng Bagong Kababaihan. They all died for holding views dangerous to the regime.

Martial law and the death of the future

When the Marcos regime killed that crop of young leaders, they took with them would-be congressmen, senators, and perhaps, presidents. Martial law stole more than the country's financial wealth – the Philippines was also robbed of a generation of bright minds.

Edjop was 34 years old at the time of his death; he would have turned 68 this year. Lean died at 27; he would have been nearing his 56th birthday today.

When the youth criticize today's quality of governance, they should look to those dark years and see how they lost the chance to elect those bright minds.

But all is not lost, and that is cause for hope.

The youth beyond 1986, 2016

The 2016 polls have been called "the social media elections" because of the numerous campaign tools available. Maybe it should also be called "the youth's elections."

The youth are the largest segment of the population, making up more than 40% of the electorate. They have also been vocal about issues concerning them. Their sheer number and advocacies, coupled with their Internet skills, have made them more influential than they ever have been.

Young people were called to serve their country in 1972 to fight oppression, and again in 1986 to overthrow the regime that started it. In 2016, they had to choose the country's future direction. The people, the youth included, have spoken, but civic participation has never ended with just voting.

Now, more than ever, the youth have the responsibility to be the leaders we lost in the dark years. They should be the Liliosas, Edwards, Edjops, and Leans.

But they can only do that by remembering those who came before them, and understanding that they are the successors of the people who died, the people who would have wanted them to continue the good fight.

The youth's time will come, and when it does, we could be on our way to healing. I would like to think that when that happens, Liliosa, Edward, Edjop, Lean, and all the martial law victims will look upon us with pride.

 Bea Orante is a freelance writer and history buff.