Yesterday, we were swamped with varying opinions about the phenomenon which many have dubbed as the “darkest moment in Philippine history”—and that is the Marcos Dictatorship or simply the martial law regime. It’s surprising, however, that in the social media there are still many people who are deluded to consider the late dictator as the greatest president our country ever had. I won’t waste time here in this essay refuting that absurd or ridiculous statement.
But the question that bugs me is: Why are the people seemingly alarmed as to find necessity to commemorate the date of the Marcos martial law declaration, and in commemorating have to invite resource speakers to talk about the evils of the regime? Why?
I think one disturbing reason why many have to be reassured that the Marcos martial law regime really brought unspeakable ruin to the Filipino nation is the ascendance of the scion of the late dictator to the helm of prominence in our political affairs. In fact, it’s not only Bongbong Marcos — his full name the namesake of the dictator — that is happily trotting about and around the corridors of power. The ever-flambouyant former First Lady Imelda has returned!—not to Malacanang as yet, but as a congresswoman. And Imee Marcos has ruled as governor of a patch of Ilocandia’s political territory for a number of years now. One could say “They’re back with a vengeance!” And so, the slogan brandished on the Facebook walls, and painted on the walls beside city streets, and the voices woven in the airlanes, is a longtime people’s cry: “Never Again to Martial Law!”
There’s a catch in the slogan because of the word “again”. Let’s deal with that in a little while after we have tackled the other reason why there is necessity to commemorate September Twenty One with renewed enthusiasm and vigor.
The other reason, and this one points not to the Marcoses or the conjugal dictatorship, but to the absolutely unacceptable wrongdoings of the current administration of President Noynoy Aquino. And so, the question would rather take on a different sense, namely: Why has the culture of impunity which was an enshrined military dictum in the Marcos era very much a living modus of conduct of the Noynoy military? Why? And they are the same military that swaggered around in the country with ferocity in President Arroyo’s time.
It must be remembered that the essential character of martial rule is the extraordinary role of the military in maintaining the abnormal set-up. And it is naturally the military establishment that carries out this mandate with the least consideration of responsibility and accountability. In other words, the military officers and their soldiers in all their conduct and activities do and act with impunity. And impunity is the tacit or silent license to abuses and excesses in the performance of duties. No one, absolutely no one, have had to answer for the heinous crimes committed by soldiers — massacres, tortures, disappearances, etc—during the martial law days of Marcos. The military’s crime holidays then were a “given” as an integral part of martial rule.
On the other hand, the culture of impunity that prevails in the time of the Noynoy presidency, albeit cloaked in the guise of deceit, such as the Oplan Bayanihan, manifests in the same military crime holidays as in Marcos’ time. Short of a formal declaration by President Noynoy a virtual martial law with the culture of impunity as its ideological foundation exists in our country. The recent spate of killings, massacres, tortures, incarcerations perpetrated by the military and paramilitary groups against the Lumad peoples in the rural areas speak for themselves. They are not unlike the crimes committed by the soldiers of Marcos way back in the 1970s to the 80s.
Of course, the culture of impunity was likewise a living monster during the time of Arroyo, wherein the same mantle of hypocrisy clothed her regime by allowing her military to conduct a reign of terror in the countryside under the pretext of Oplan Bantay Laya. Arroyo’s military swaggered around in the country with ferocity.
Off hand, we are tempted to ask: This Noynoy military—is this the same military as the military of Marcos and Cory and Ramos and Arroyo that sustains itself with terroristic ferocity and with impunity in the countryside today?
Ideologically yes, it’s the same military establishment. But it has new faces—new officers and men who have imbibed the ideology dished out by the military academy—the same precepts of obeisance to the chicanery of the agents of imperialist powers—the same crop of officers and men fired up with the greed for reward moneys and promotions for personal self-aggrandizement — the same warped orientation under the hollow rhetorics of love of country or wrongly placed patriotism that allows for unbridled license to kill kill kill in the name of not-fully-grasped pseudo-democracy.
Now back to the slogan “Never again to Martial Law!”
The word “again” is symptomatic of a quality of fear that the culture of impunity will be as rampant and blatant as the declared martial law of Marcos. It means there is the imminent danger that the continuing nurturance of the culture of impunity will swallow up society to perpetual martial rule. The military must not be given extraordinary role in implementing the government’s anti-people policies such as the Oplan Bayanihan. The word “again” is a form of lament that martial law has come back in new form and shape in the Noynoy style of governance founded on deceit, arrogance and hypocrisy.
The culture of impunity obtaining under this government of Noynoy must be exposed, opposed and consigned to the dustbin permanently! And this can only find realization through a vigilant citizenry, by militant assertiveness of the people. And so the word “again” is a crying call for a continuing fight to expose and oppose the culture of impunity—the veritable doorway to martial law.
Otherwise, society will deteriorate into a state of stupor where impunity inveigles docility or becomes a sibling to apathy, until at last society sinks into the pitfall that is characteristic of a Demo-crazy.