Let us not forget

IT was so many years ago. We were young then. Martial law was declared in the middle of the night. So few of us can remember it now. Our children can’t even undersand what it really means.

What we now know of martial law comes from stories of those who suffered under it. These are stories of sorrow, of tragedy, of lives lost, of people who left or were taken under cover of darkness never to return.

A gathering of former political prisoners was held recently. There were few of them who attended. There were few of them who persisted. They said they wanted justice. They said they wanted those responsible for their sufferings to pay for it.

It was sad looking at men and women in their 50s, some in their 60s and 70s, sharing stories, still dreaming of justice. We are reminded of World War II veterans who were able to get the compensation that are rightly theirs only on their deathbed.

Will the veterans of martial law get theirs? Will the new administration of President Benigno Aquinoo III, a son of a victim of martial law, be able deliver justice to the victims of those dark years? The victims wanted to believe that there is still hope.

They said they want justice more than the money they will get from the state of the former dictator. They said whatever they get will not return the lives of those who died, of missing sons and daughters, of tortured men and women. They said money is not the issue, justice is.

The period of martial law saw human rights abuses, such as killings, illegal detentions and torture by the military, the victims said. Their story should be repeated over and over again for us and those who will come after us to know. We cannot just depend on the books our Education department will let our children read.

History books are written by those who have the means to write. Poor peasants and workers have nothing to write on or the time to write. They are too busy struggling to survive. The struggle for justice of those who fought martial law should be written in our hearts. We should not forget.

Congressman Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna said the continuing fight for justice of those who were victims of martial law should be a reminder for all of us of the evils that men can do, “not only because we want to exact justice, but also because we cannot allow the future generation to experience what we experienced.”

Filipinos, we, seemed to have forgotten those dark years, those years when we were still young, when many of us were yet to be born, the years of the dictatorship. Let us not make those years become just a distant dream.

Is there hope for justice for victims of martial law? There is if we will not let our memories rust. There is hope if the struggle of those who went ahead of us will continue under whatever circumstances we are in. There is hope only if we don’t allow ourselves to be blinded by hopelessness.

So many years ago, when many of us were still young, martial law was declared. We will, we should, not forget. Joe Torres

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