By: Alexander T. Magno
Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Filipinos should be united in saying “never again” to any attempts to imposed martial law in the country.
Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. made this appeal on Sunday (September 20), on the eve of date on which President Ferdinand Marcos signed Proclamation No. 1081 back in 1972.
In an interview with Rey Sampang aired over state-run radio dzRB, Coloma stressed the importance of remembering the “terrible experience” of older generations during martial law, especially now that more than almost two generations had been born since then.
With younger Filipinos having had no experience of that period, he said: “Dapat lamang na maunawaan nila ito at maging kaisa nila tayo doon sa pagsasabing ‘never again’ o hindi na dapat maulit ang malagim na karanasan ng bansang Pilipinas sa ilalim ng martial law.”
[Translation: “They should understand this and be one with us in saying ‘never again,’ so that this terrible experience of the Philippines under martial law would not be repeated.”
The actual declaration of martial law was on September 23, 1972, although the document was dated September 21. Marcos himself appeared on television to make announcement, followed by Press Secretary Francisco “Kit” Tatad.
As Coloma pointed out in his interview, Marcos started implementing martial law on the night of September 22, when he had many of his perceived political enemies arrested, among them Sens. Jose Diokno and Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., the current president’s father.
[Editor’s Note: The website of the Official Gazette has a timeline of the martial law period and some of the diary entries of Marcos himself.]
Sampang asked Coloma to the state of press freedom now as compared to its state during martial law, to which the secretary gave a lengthy answer in Filipino, which in English reads:
“It’s very clear to us and to any other observer that the freedom of the press in the Philippines is one good example of how to respect and implement it in a democracy.
“If we look at other countries, there are just a few of them that have full freedom of the press.
“You see, there are many countries that have laws like the Internal Security Act that imposes restrictions on reporting. And if you remember, this is one of the issues on which President Aquino took a stand.
“Even at the height of the Luneta hostage-taking incident in 2010, the president insisted that he would not allow any form of prior restraint or suppression of freedom of the press.
“So this is one thing that we our country can be proud of — having full freedom of the press, along with freedom of assembly and freedom of expression.”
Coloma also issued a separate statement to media, the English version of which is as follows:
Tomorrow, September 21, the nation recalls the imposition or martial rule in 1972 or 43 years ago, which is probably one of the darkest chapters in the country’s history. We join our citizenry in remembering and honoring the sacrifices of the victims of martial rule.
With courage, they defied harassment, cruel punishment and fear as they asserted and fought for the recognition of basic human rights at a time when the dictatorship demolished the house of democracy in our land.
From their blood, sweat and tears, our people gathered and rebuilt their willpower and strength to mount wave upon wave of protest movements that culminated in the triumph of the EDSA People Power revolution in 1986.
Indeed, the people’s resistance and struggle against martial rule served as the foundation for rebuilding democracy in the Philippines that served as a beacon of hope and inspiration for other freedom-loving people, who overcame dictatorship and rebuilt democracy in their land.
Together with our efforts to ensure sustainable long-term growth, progress and stability that would include the active participation of all Filipinos, it is important to impart to the youth of our land the lessons learned from martial rule and the struggle to restore democracy, as our continuing legacy to all future generations of Filipinos.