As the son of Ferdinand Marcos Sr. took oath as the country’s next president in Manila, the victims of Martial Law swore to do something different.
Fortified within the walls of the Bantayog ng mga Bayani in Quezon City, the Martial Law victims vowed a holy war against disinformation and historical revisionism so the public will not forget atrocities of Marcos Sr.’s regime.
“Saksi ang mga namayapa nang mga kasama, nanunumpa kami na walang humpay naming ilalantad and katotohnan ng pagmamalis at pang aabuso sa karapatang pantao ng diktaduryang Marcos,” they said in the oath taking.
“Higit pa riyan, nanunumpa kami na gagawin namin ang lahat upang biguin ang pagtatangka na baluktutin ang kasaysayan,” they also said.
The disinformation that benefited newly-sworn President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. during the election season painted his father’s rule as the country’s “golden age.”
The son’s campaign branding whitewashed experiences of Martial Law victims. The numbers have long been established: 70,000 people were detained, 34,000 tortured, and 3,240 killed during Marcos Sr’s regime.
For the victims, the feeling of another Marcos retaking Malacañang Palace is immeasurably disappointing. But, characteristic of Filipinos, some of them resorted to quips and jokes to somehow ease the heavy atmosphere and bleak moods.
“Ang presyo ng gasolina ay mas mataas pa sa grades ni Marcos,” veteran actor Joel Saracho said before the oathtaking.
Others expressed the gravity of what they’re feeling.
“I certainly don’t feel happy about it. People don’t feel happy about it, lalong-lalo na iyong mga naging biktima ng Marcos Sr. kalupitan,” Etta Rosales, former Comission on Human Rights chairperson and a Martial Law survivor said.
For Anacleto Ocampo, 69, the administration of the Marcos Jr is “dubious” due to his sister Sen. Imee Marcos’ remarks about cleaning their family name.
“Alam naman natin na simula noong pagbalik nila ay sinimulan na nila yung disinformation,” he said in an interview.
Despite the feeling of distrust, Ocampo said he is still willing to “measure” the new administration.
“Sana naman pangatawanan niya yung sinasabe niyang ‘unity,’…kaduda-duda eh,” he said.
Ocampo was a political detainee from 1974 to 1979. He was arrested because his older brother, former Bayan Muna representative Satur Ocampo, was an activist.
Mario Ben, 65, who was arrested when he was 15 years old, said this victory of Marcos “opens the wounds” of the past.
“Masakit, masakit sa aming pakiramdam,” he said.
Within the circles of Martial Law victims, Ben is one of the known “Ben Brothers of Fort Bonifacio.”
“Masakit, masakit sa aming pakiramdam.”
Like Ocampo, the brothers are not activists, but they were arrested due to their siblings’ activism.
Passing the torch
The Martial Law survivors said the only way for people to never forget is to educate the younger generations on what transpired in the past.
To symbolize this, they passed literal torches to the youth present at Bantayong.
“Ang henerasyon namin na nakipaglaban sa diktadurang Marcos 50 years ago ay papaunti na. Marami na ang sumasakabilang buhay. Kaya kailangan talagang magkaroon ng continuity, at ang continuity na ito ay nararamdaman namin at kitang-kita sa paglahok ng mga kabataan,” Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses and Martial Law convenor Boni Ilagan said.
Ilagan also emphasized the need to address the lack of “institutional support” in teaching Martial Law that resulted in an “improper representation” of the victims.
“Alam niyo, right after EDSA 1986, talagang nagkulang ang mga institusyon ng ating gobyerno na tiyakin na ang mga aral ng Martial Law ay mapapanatili at maisasalin sa mga henerasyon,” he said.
Despite the bleakness, Ilagan is optimistic.
“Noong 1970s naman, nagsimula ang kilusan ng walang institutional support. Taumbayan. At diyan mananangan ang kilusan ngayon—taumbayan pa rin,” he said.