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PHILIPPINES: Akbayan pushes for institutional teaching of Martial Law atrocities

by Akbayan (Citizens Action Party) Friday, Oct. 19, 2012 at 3:15 PM

On the 40th year commemoration of the declaration of martial law, Akbayan Party filed a resolution urging the institutional teaching of the atrocities committed during martial law under the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos in all levels of education.

1972-september-21-marcos-martial-law.jpg, image/jpeg, 346x277

House Resolution No. 2608 authored by Akbayan Representatives Walden Bello and Kaka Bag-ao strongly urged the National Historical Institute (NHI), Commission on Higher Education (CHED), Department of Education (DepEd), Commission on Human Rights (CHR), and the National Youth Commission (NYC) to convene a task force that will draft the guidelines for teaching the atrocities committed under the Marcos dictatorship.

Akbayan Vice Chairperson Marie Chris Cabreros said the resolution aims to educate the youth of the democratic values and practices the nation adheres to and experiences today in contrast to the oppressive social order installed by Marcos 40 years ago.

“While it is the task of the older generation especially those who experienced martial law to always remember what happened during the Marcos years, the new generation has the important responsibility to know and learn from it. The important task of safeguarding and deepening democracy needs the benefit of hindsight deeply rooted in truth and justice,” Cabreros said.

Akbayan likened the proposal to the compulsory teaching of the Holocaust in Germany, Austria, Israel and Switzerland. The Holocaust committed by the Nazi regime under Adolf Hitler reportedly killed 6 million Jews. On the other hand, Akbayan noted that the Marcos dictatorship, through the utilization of a brutal military establishment, was responsible for 3,257 murders, 35,000 torture cases, and 70,000 incarcerations.

“Those countries ravaged by Hitler’s atrocities brought it upon themselves to memorialize and honor the victims of his regime and celebrate the courage of those who defended freedom and democracy. We must do the same,” according to Cabreros.

Cabreros stressed the state’s shortcomings in reminding the youth of the facts and events which surrounded the Martial Law years contributed to the failure to put final closure to the country’s dark past.

“As a result of our lack of collective and institutionalized memory, victims of great injustices committed during the Marcos years are to this day still crying for justice. The Marcos Compensation bill is still pending before Congress. The government is still locked in an uphill battle to completely recover the Marcoses’ ill-gotten wealth. Worse, the unrepentant Marcos family are back in power inching their way back to its highest echelon,” Cabreros said.

“Our lack of institutional efforts to remember constitutes not only a grave injustice to the victims and martyrs of the Marcos dictatorship who have valiantly fought the late dictator, it also serves as a hindrance to our aspiration to exact complete justice from the impunity of a long dark past. We must not let this continue,” Cabreros added.

Akbayan said the mandatory teaching of the Marcos dictatorship’s atrocities is also an institutional response to the Marcoses’ historical revisionism.

“The Marcoses are engaged in an aggressive campaign to revise history to their favor. They are exploiting the young generation’s lack of knowledge of the Marcos years to paint a rosy historical account of the dictatorship. For the sake of those who were killed, abused and incarcerated for standing up against tyranny, we must not let them succeed,” Cabreros stressed.

Cabreros said history will only be kind to the Marcos family if they acknowledge and made themselves accountable for the atrocities committed during the Marcos dictatorship. Akbayan said the Marcoses should completely and unconditionally return all their ill-gotten wealth and compensate the human rights victims of the Marcos regime.

“No amount of historical revisionism will completely sever them from their despotic past until they made themselves fully accountable. Forgive, yes, if genuine justice is dispensed and accountability has been exacted; forget, never. Until then, those who refuse to forget will find ways to surface the truth. The compulsory teaching of the Marcos dictatorship’s atrocities is one of these, Cabreros said.

Last year, Akbayan Party filed House Resolution 1756 seeking to declare the late dictator an "enemy of democracy". The resolution authored by Akbayan Representatives Walden Bello and Kaka Bag-ao also called on Congress to "strongly oppose" the revival of any proposal that would portray Marcos as a hero.

Mandatory teaching of Martial Law atrocities gains support from CHR, NYC and stude leaders

As the nation prepares to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the declaration of martial law, two government institutions gave their backing to Akbayan party-list’s call for the mandatory teaching of martial law atrocities at all levels of education.

At a press conference in Quezon City, which was held a day before the 95th birthday of the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and the National Youth Commission (NYC) registered their support to House Resolution No. 2608 authored by Akbayan lawmakers Walden Bello and Kaka Bag-ao which urged the government to convene a task force that will draft the guidelines for the teaching of atrocities committed under the Marcos dictatorship.

“We support this initiative as this would help in the promotion and protection of human rights in the Philippines,” said Atty. Byron Bocar of the human rights commission.

“The Marcos dictatorship was marked by unparalleled human rights violations. No less than an institutional teaching of its history is needed to remind the people of the need to safeguard their rights against systemic abuses and to fend off attempts to curtail their rights in the future,” Bocar added.

NYC Commissioner Gio Tingson, for his part, said the teaching of martial law atrocities will educate young people of the nation’s cherished democratic values and practices in contrast to the oppressive social order installed by Marcos 40 years ago.

“We support the proposal as it is geared towards the building of a strong human rights and pro-democracy constituency among our young people. It will guide them on the road to democratic leadership and governance,” Tingson said.

Tingson’s statement was echoed by Akbayan Youth Chairperson Caloy Tejano.

“We are happy that different government institutions are very supportive of this proposal. At a time when there is an aggressive campaign to rewrite history to paint a rosy picture of the Marcos dictatorship, the Filipino youth must have all the available institutional tools to discern the truth from the lies,” Tejano said.

Tejano said they will conduct “Martial law classes” this month to teach students of the atrocities committed during the Marcos dictatorship and to draw attention to the need for the government to seriously consider their proposal.

Akbayan likened the teaching of martial law atrocities to the compulsory teaching of the Holocaust in Germany, Austria, Israel and Switzerland.

Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello said the Philippines must follow the example set by the countries ravaged by Hitler’s regime.

“In their strong desire not to slide back to a dictatorial and atrocious past, they tasked themselves to put strong institutional mechanisms to memorialize their victims and honor those who fought on the side of freedom and democracy. We must do the same,” Bello said.

“We must constantly remind our people of our greatest tragedy so we can achieve our greatest victories,” Bello concluded.

The press conference was also attended by members of the Student Council Alliance of the Philippines (SCAP) and several history professors from the Ateneo De Manila University who likewise gave their support to the proposal to teach martial law atrocities to students.

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