Remembering the 50th Anniversary of the Martial Law Declaration in the Philippines: Our Continuing Struggle for Truth and Justice webinar

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Remembering the 50th Anniversary of the Martial Law Declaration in the Philippines: Our Continuing Struggle for Truth and Justice webinar

In celebration of Peace Week and the Catholic Nonviolence Days of Action and in commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Martial Law Declaration in the Philippines, the Center for Peace Education and Pax Christi Pilipinas through Pax Christi of Miriam College High School (MCHS) organized the webinar “Our Continuing Struggle for Truth and Justice.” Organized on 23 September 2022, the webinar’s main speaker was Prof. Maria Serena “Maris” Diokno, a renowned historian and truth and justice advocate.

MCHS Assistant Principal for Student Affairs Ms. Sofia de Guzman gave the opening remarks highlighting the importance of the event for Miriam College and for our country. She relayed her appreciation to the participants and the students who served at the forefront of this webinar, and battle against historical revisionism.

Prof. Maris started her presentation by debunking myths about Martial Law. She stated a couple of misconceptions during Former President Ferdinand Marcos Sr.'s regime from 1965 to 1986. These fallacies are frequently made by the Marcoses themselves, and their enablers. The Martial Law era is often mistaken as the country’s "Golden Era,” where human rights violations were low. Prof. Maris provided proven evidence to debunk this. Farmers were poorer during this period, the prices of goods tripled by the last decade of Martial Law, and the external debt during Marcos Sr.’s reign increased rapidly as seen in records. She also listed the notable cronies of Former President Marcos Sr., who contributed to his dictatorship and kleptocracy.

However, Dr. Maris also discussed how we could continue the struggle for truth and justice. She emphasized our capacity to fight misinformation, whether individually or as a group, on social media. She presented five tips to strive for truth: spot false claims, look for evidence, examine the speaker or author’s credibility, pay attention to the words used, and be aware of deceptive arguments.

Before ending her talk, Dr. Maris left the audience with questions for consideration, such as “is the past real only if you experienced it?” and “is history any less important because it did not (directly) affect you or your family, friends and community?”. She ended with a message that although the terrors of Martial Law did not affect everyone, this does not mean it is any less true nor erases the experiences and struggles of our fellow Filipino people.

During the Q&A portion, participants raised questions as to why there are people who remain to deny the occurrence of such a horrifying era and its adverse effects on the Philippines and Filipinos. Prof. Maris shared the probability of letting ignorance get the best of oneself, and the possibility of simply not wanting to know. She expressed deeper concern for Filipinos who think and believe that there is nothing wrong with Martial Law because they were not affected by it.

Dr. Maris cited two types of traumas from historian Dominic LaCapra: structural trauma, where freedom is denied, and you have accepted the restrictions to not be bothered by it; and historical trauma, concerning people who first-handedly experienced the consequences of a situation. She correlates these two traumas to different responses to a certain matter, including the denial of the gruesome leadership of the Marcoses.

On the Post-EDSA administration’s failure to inculcate information about Martial Law and the Marcoses into our education system, Prof. Maris supposed that the government was occupied with reconstructing after Martial Law. However, she noted that it is not a complete failure because there are members of today’s youth who know differently and are aware of the actual existence of the period. She shared her remembrance of how her father was also a victim of Martial Law, in which he was detained for two years in prison with Former Sen. Ninoy Aquino in Fort Bonifacio, now commonly known as Bonifacio Global City.

Moira Alfonso, a Grade 12 youth leader and chairperson of the Kabataan Partylist of Katipunan Senior High School, shared that amidst recognizing that our history is a timeline of defeat and triumphs, the essence of nationalism was missing. She said that we must acknowledge not only the textbook information but also the real lives that were corrupted and the real people who went through human rights violations. She ended with her personal quote: “Kabataan, ngayon na ang tamang panahon para maging pag-asa ng bayan.”

To conclude the forum, Pax Christi President Nadinne Aro underscored the youth’s role who can either enable injustice or become the makers of change. She encouraged the youth to extend their spirit to strive to protect the truth and struggle for justice for those who are victimized by the false narratives about Martial Law and the Marcoses’ regime.

The forum was hosted by Pax Christi Youth Lirei Arcenas and attended by 191 participants from MCHS, Miriam College community and guests.


Written by Jizelle Rose Tuazon, CPE Student volunteer


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