I’VE HEARD THE arguments and I agree, it’s an option. But I don’t feel it’s the best one, or that it’s even warranted now.
Martial law will spark rancor perhaps until my generation dies out. We were the “martial law babies” raised in the Marcos dictatorship, whose vistas and opportunities were constricted from the moment we could walk. We were the generation they tried to brainwash, who were fed the “Bagong Lipunan Hymn,” the “virtues” of Imelda, the Green Revolution and the San Juanico Bridge. We feared the PC (Police Constabulary) and the Metrocom who threw our hippie older siblings in Crame for breaking curfew and punished them by cutting their hair and forcing them to weed the fields. We feared them because there were other youths they picked up who never came home. These were the victims of “dampot” via the Arrest Search and Seizure Order who were “salvaged,” that is, disposed of like garbage after having been killed, often brutally, often after torture.
Say “martial law” to us and get a visceral response. After 30 years, the trauma remains – partially because the Marcoses never made themselves accountable for their myriad crimes. They never repented, they never apologized, they never even bowed their heads in shame.
They sucked the treasury dry and robbed us of the possibilities we were heir to; while we treaded a dim half-life, they danced on yachts.
EDSA was cathartic but it did not heal our many wounds. The flashbacks still plague us because 21 years of repression is a lifetime. Indeed it was longer than many of the burgeoning lives it snuffed out. We remember the victims’ faces and names. It is difficult to forget.
LIVING IN THE PAST
BGen. Restituto Padilla says we who are making noise now are living in the past; this is true, for the past is etched on us. What social mechanisms were installed after EDSA to help us move smoothly from bondage to freedom, to find our collective voice after decades of muffling, and heal? We did it by ourselves, individually, gradually learning to stand then walk while the Marcoses remained at large – obdurate, impenitently calculating their infernal resurgence.
The only comfort was their absence. And so long as the Marcoses were gone, we could proceed as if they had never been. But now that’s not possible, for the largest reminder and harbinger of doom is Duterte himself, who appearts to be furtively working to install to the highest post the very one who least deserves it. Bongbong Marcos must never return to the Palace.
The millennials will not understand this, but my generation has reason to be wary. Yes, the Constitution provides for martial law, and in certain cases its imposition is merited. But I am convinced that the Marawi incident does not require martial law, certainly not in its present provincial scope. The Zamboanga siege of 2013, the most recent major uprising, was quelled without need of martial law. Surely, the AFP is well-enough equipped to handle this slighter outbreak.
We say #NoToMartialLaw not because we endorse the terrorist menace but because it might lead to renewed subjection. We know the constitutional safeguards, but they are only as good as the men and women who enforce them. Martial law, as now crafted, can be a good thing – but in unscrupulous hands it may once more become the tie that binds us. That said, I am hoping the reformed AFP will honor its oath to the people and to the Constitution, even when pushed into a corner.
NEVER FORGET, NEVER AGAIN
My generation and our elders risked much to trounce the last dictatorship. We did that so future generations would have the freedoms we did not enjoy – the latitude to speak, to form their views, to hew their path and yes, even to disbelieve and disrespect what we have been through. We say #NeverForget because we know that even published good intentions may be secretly stained. We have learned this the hard way. We are not gullible. We doubt and question and think the worst. The past requires us to. And if this means we are living there, then we will admit it.
As a martial law baby now grown up, I distrust this president, for he reeks of autocracy. He has authored policies that have led to violence and death and division in the land. He has dismissed the concerns of a major swathe of society and now cavalierly throws martial law at us despite the pain it incites. And he threatens us with it nationally, indefinitely. There would have been a more politic and sensitive way to introduce his decision, were it truly the only viable path. But he is amplifying, even sensationalizing, the peril to justify its imposition. As someone for whom lighting is striking twice, I say beware. Things are not what they seem. That is how it was all those years ago. We were constantly, consistently gaslighted so that in our stupor we would accept the unacceptable. I am praying that the enthralled will awake soon so that with us, they might adamantly say, #NeverAgain, not on our watch.
When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice;
but when the wicked man rules, the people groan and sigh.
– Proverbs 29:2