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Commentary

‘Batas Militar’ and ‘Dead Aim’

12:14 AM February 27, 2016

The renewed interest in the Eggie Apostol Foundation’s “Batas Militar,” especially by the present generation, has been no less than amazing. This definitive video documentary on martial law was produced by Kara Magsanoc Alikpala, with Fely Arroyo and Eggie Apostol as executive producers, from a script by award-winning writers Lito Tiongson and Pete Lacaba. Fe Zamora of the Inquirer and her topnotch research team made sure that everything presented was fact-checked and historically accurate.

“Batas Militar” was produced in 1997 and first aired on Philippine television about a year later. But its narrative remains as gripping today as it was back then, based on comments from viewers who saw its special broadcast last Thursday and Friday to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Edsa Revolution.

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And yet, a number of young and articulate writers and bloggers continue to get numerous hits and “likes” on their posts (or rants) on social media bewailing Edsa I as a failed revolution and extolling the Marcos regime as this country’s “golden years.” Some of them even go so far as to totally devalue the sacrifice made by the generations before them to reclaim the freedom of expression that they now enjoy.

Indeed, the Marcos name resonates once again with an electorate made up mostly of people born after 1986. It doesn’t help that some of those who actually fought the Marcos dictatorship, and who hold positions of power now, have wavered in their convictions. Whether they like it or not, they greatly influence public perception.

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It pains me to hear well-educated professionals in their late twenties and early thirties say that martial law, the Marcos dictatorship and the People Power phenomenon are things of the past that are of no consequence to them. I recall a female college senior saying in one symposium I attended in a leading university that it’s really so difficult for her generation to relate to things that happened “so long ago.”

My son Raphael, a young digital background painter for a leading Japanese animé producer, sees things quite differently. He says: “I never understood the appeal of a dictatorship. How can the idea of a dictator having so much power over others be enticing?

“I love fantasy and fiction, but the ones I like involve dragons, superheroes and transforming robots. It’s strange to build a fantasy on the idea of a repressive ruler. Being free is scary and hard because it means being responsible for your own actions and often failing miserably. But I prefer to live in a world built on reality, even if it is sometimes tragic and painful.”

In an age where access to accurate historical information—presented in the rich media no less—is so ridiculously easy, why has it been so difficult for many of us to learn from history?

The blogger J. Rufus Fears says that the world suffers from a fatal delusion: “We believe that we are immune to the lessons—the laws—of history. We believe that our modern science and technology has lifted us above the lessons of history. However, the lessons of history endure because human nature never changed. All the human emotions are the same today as in Egypt of the pharaohs or China in the time of Confucius: Love, hate, ambition, the lust for power, kindness, generosity, and inhumanity. The good and bad of human nature is simply poured into new vehicles created by science and technology.”

And so, to help keep the fires burning, here’s an excerpt from Conrad de Quiros’ “Dead Aim: How Marcos Ambushed Philippine Democracy,” published by the Eggie Apostol Foundation: “The struggle did not begin overnight, nor did it end in three years, as happened during the Japanese Occupation. It began slowly, tentatively, sporadically: groups of students wearing black armbands in school one day, clandestine publications and graffiti materializing in public toilets, gallows humor mocking the noose of martial law.

“The more Filipinos he tortured and killed—the more joined the underground. It became a matter of honor to do something against the oppressor. Whether it be merely to contribute money to the guerillas or to commit some act of sabotage against government, whether it be to go to the mountains and take up the gun or stay in the city and take up the pen. Filipinos in tremendous numbers found they were not afraid to die for freedom. The country became one vast concentration camp—except where men dared to be free.

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“It would happen one night, when the stars were bright and the world was still. A massing of nuns and whores, priests and beggars, merchants and medicine men, the sick and whole, the sellers of cures for the body and the sellers for the cures of the soul. The vaunted armies of martial law would evaporate as fast as the vapors in the night with the coming of day. The tanks would roll to a stop, the barrels of soldiers’ guns rendered as mute as Plaza Miranda, and the rolls and rolls of barbed wire wrenched off the heart of the nation. Martial law would be over.

“And it would all seem so—easy.”

Butch Hernandez (butchhernandez@gmail.com) is the executive director of the Eggie Apostol Foundation.

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TAGS: `batas militar’, Eggie Apostol Foundation, Kara Magsanoc-Alikpala, martial law
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