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HOWIE SEE IT: A Haunting Memory

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By Atty. Howie Calleja

In a couple of days, September 21 to be exact, our country will be reminded that it was on that day, 50 years ago, when the late Pres. Ferdinand Marcos Sr. forced martial law all over the Philippines. That day ushered in the beginning of a 14-year regime of dictatorship amidst the spectacle and display of extravagance, horrifying human rights violations, deceit and ill-gotten wealth — until the popular uprising in February 1986. So, 50 years later all we remember are but HAUNTING MEMORIES.

We remember the HAUNTING MEMORIES when curfew was in effect, and anyone caught after 10 p.m. was arrested, imprisoned and in the following morning, all curfew perpetrators were forced to clean up trash, sweep the throughfares and dig up wildflowers (weeds). Long haired males were forcibly given crew cuts. All these were in the name of Marcos’ slogan for those years, “Para sa ikauunlad ng bayan, disiplina ang kailangan”. Citizens were cautious of what to say since there was an air of fear that there were stoolpigeons around barangays spying on us. This muffled free expression of opinion and thoughts.

We remember the HAUNTING MEMORIES when all media were controlled by Marcos. When we were sifting for news in “mimeographed” sheets, hungry for substitute news from alternative media. We saw individuals pass them around or photocopied for everyone to read. We were critical of the stories that came from Malacañang. We wanted to know beyond what was forced into our throats by the Marcos manipulated TV, Radio and Print. Radio Veritas became a household name in a time when news and duplicity became synonymous.

We remember the HAUNTING MEMORIES when in 1972 the declaration of Martial Law mirrored the fascist playbook of pointing to a threat; and propaganda that people will only be safe and secure in the hands of a strongman who stands in the way of the abyss. As Marcos said in the martial law declaration, only he can “save the Republic and reform society.” As such making many of us to accept as true that the country needed a strong leader and disciplined people. We were made to accept to jail, torture, and kill to save society from unruly and dangerous elements. Even good citizens must be surveyed, and if necessary, suppressed and silenced.

And, we remember the HAUNTING MEMORIES when the increase in “our debts explain the growth, especially in infrastructure, primarily touted by some to assess the economic gains of the Marcos regime. A debt-driven growth is growth that sacrifices long-term benefits for short-term gratification, and ultimately leads to more burden than boon for the future generations that must pay these debts” (cf. the Martial Law Museum); that from $0.36 billion in 1961, the external debt of the Philippines “skyrocketed” to $28.26 billion in 1986.

Truly, 50 years have passed but still we have not learned from the haunting memories. Variations on the repeating-history theme appear alongside many thinkers … Irish statesman Edmund Burke is often quoted as having said, “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.” Spanish philosopher George Santayana is credited with the aphorism, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” while British statesman Winston Churchill wrote, “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” but everything sums up by simply remembering to LEARN FROM THE MEMORIES OF THE PAST.

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