Martial Law still haunts victims
“There can be no apt and solemn commemoration of the declaration of martial law if there is no full and expeditious enforcement of laws redressing the victims of martial rule and the prevention of human rights abuses which it spawned.”
This is the call of former Rep. Edcel C. Lagman, the principal author of the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012 and the Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013.
According to Lagman, “recognition must be coupled with monetary and non-monetary compensation, emphasizing that although nothing can fully compensate for the harm and dire effects of martial law, the State must give reparation as part of serving justice.”
Forty-two years ago, then President Ferdinand E. Marcos, placed the entire country under martial law purportedly to suppress lawlessness, violence and rebellion.
To the families of victims of enforced disappearance, martial law reminds them of a self-serving charter change that created a mongrel government and lifted the term limits for the president; the imposition of a “new society” paradigm which served as the framework for distorting history and discouraging critical thinking; and a contrived setting that facilitated monopolies, cartels, plunder and corruption, even as it spawned extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture, and arbitrary arrest and detention.
“But the waves of repression and deceit could not drown the courage and bravery of patriots and nationalists who consistently unmasked the dictator and refused to be cowed,” Nilda Sevilla, Co-Chairperson of the Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND) pointed out.
“Martial law stoked the flames of resistance as hundreds of fearless activists steadfastly fought for freedom and democracy,” Lagman added.
Lagman and Sevilla’s brother Atty. Hermon C. Lagman, a labor and human rights lawyer, was forcibly disappeared along with labor organizer Victor Reyes on May 11, 1977.
From day one, martial law unleashed its fury on those conveniently labeled “enemies of the State”. Among the victims were the desaparecidos. According to Sonny Resuena, FIND’s Documentation Officer, the organization has documented 882 reported desaparecidos under the Marcos dictatorship, but the number of unreported could be much higher.
Enforced disappearance is a tool of repression that the implementers of martial law used to stifle dissent, silence the critics of the regime, eliminate political opponents, and intimidate their supporters.
Reacting to those who urge the martial law victims to now move on, Sevilla said that “without truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-repetition, martial law will continue to haunt the families of the disappeared and those who surfaced alive.”
She elaborated that “they need to know the truth about the fate and whereabouts of their disappeared loved ones. The passage of time is no reason for the authorities to no longer diligently investigate and bring the perpetrators to justice. At the very least, the State must acknowledge the enforced disappearances and other human rights violations and give the victims due recognition as heroes and martyrs who courageously resisted martial law.”
FIND calls on the people to resist any threat to democracy and say, “never again to martial law.”
20 September 2014
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