Archimedes Trajano is on the mind of the youth these days. Noise has been raised, only rightly, as Imee Marcos prepares to step into her position as senator, proving one of two things: that the Filipino consciousness is terribly good at forgetting, or that there are machinations more powerful than our collective political will and memory. Yesterday’s Inquirer editorial, “She lies again,” describes how, in a habit curiously repeated by the Marcoses, daughter Imee managed to “waltz off” from her just deserts despite a court conviction which established her involvement in the death of Trajano.
He was a 21-year-old student who, in 1977, questioned the President’s daughter in a public forum about her political appointment. As news and social media will repeat, he was found later, dead, and “black and blue” with signs of torture. No mention was made in the papers of this series of events, and his interaction with Marcos before his death, which was even attributed to fraternity-related violence. It took his family almost a decade to file a case against her.
Growing up I heard the name of the student Archimedes Trajano, not because of books, but because of stories passed on by my parents and those who had been with them in the so-called trenches. It was a story that survived due to the tenacity of the victim’s family in pursuing the case, and because of journalists who bravely wrote about it, but it was a story also very much passed on as oral history. Any student activist would have known his name, and thanks to them, so did we.
On this day, we are able to write without fear. A Twitter user addressed @ManangImee’s account directly, with accusations that those of my parents’ generation would have been quaking in their boots to make: She pointed out that Imee Marcos was in no way “too young” to have been linked to the murder, as “Both were 22 at the time. So enough with the lies… you are a senator but you should be known for who you really are—a murderer.”
One reflects on the change that more than 40 years have brought: a long time ago, you couldn’t address the dictator’s daughter without fear of capture or murder. Now, with the cloak of anonymity—a flimsy cloak, since all accounts are traceable with the right resources—a twentysomething is able to thumb her nose directly at said daughter in all caps, and still live to see the next day. If the incident itself had happened today,
Marcos might still swan off to impunity,
as politicians do, but the headlines and all
manner of media would still recount the
incident. There is gratitude there, because that 40-year difference came about with the struggle and bloodshed of the Archimedes Trajanos, the Liliosa Hilaos, the Edgar Jopsons and other victim-leaders of the time.
But there’s also a rising fear that the tides are turning again, and we have awarded yet another Marcos scion with power, during the rule of a president who is also ruthless and bereft of conscience—qualities that must sound familiar, as one strongman is the
mirror image of another.
The mind reels at the fact that we have awarded Imee Marcos with a senatorial seat, when this is on her record. One victim might be nothing to those sacrificed to martial law or to the drug war, but it was the taking of one life that was directly linked to her—and isn’t one life enough? It might be a different matter altogether if she weren’t so remorseless or dismissive, calling accusations against her unjust and illogical, at turns saying she was “too young” to be connected to Trajano’s death, and at times saying she doesn’t remember the case in question. How fortunate for her that she should have the luxury of forgetting.
To #NeverForget isn’t enough. We must put names to the victims, and keep on talking, writing, recording and even tweeting. The moment we fall silent, we might become as permanently, deathly silent as one morning in 1977, when no words were printed about a young man’s death and torture from the day before.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.