Thursday, June 24, 2021

Velez: Witnesses and an empty theatre


WATCHING that conversation between 95 year old Juan Ponce Enrile and Bongbong Marcos, my mind drifts to other things.

The conversation is made on an empty theatre. It’s not Ted Talks, or CNN Town Hall. It’s just two people. The son of a deposed dictator, wanting to vindicate his father’s Martial Law, by calling out one of the Martial Law administrator or architect.

Enrile said he is a witness to history; he wants to get the facts straight. He says this to an empty theatre. The Beatles’ Eleanor Rigby comes to mind: “Writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear. No one comes near.”

Enrile defends Martial Law. There was peace. People can leave their homes open.

My mind drifts to those farmers I interviewed during the Marcos’ human rights victims’ claims application four years ago. Two old farmers from Davao del Sur remembered being stirred awake at night with knocks on their doors. Soldiers demanding all men to come out, checking their identities, some getting hit by the butt of rifles. This is peace and order in homes in rural communities. The peace and order lorded by the military.

Show me one person who was executed, or arrested, Enrile challenged critics. Many Martial Law survivors have gladly opened their stories, and their families or comrades’ stories.

I heard this story recently in a September 21 mini-forum, abot a labor union organizer during the Martial Law days remembers he was riding a jeep home when he was shot by a gunman in CM Recto Street. He survived to tell the tale.

I remember human rights lawyers, the late Laurente Ilagan, the late Marcos Risonar and Antonio Arellano were arrested in 1985 on a mission order made by Enrile. They appealed their case to the Supreme Court and lost. The decision is known as the Ilagan Doctrine, which activists said is still being used to justify the detention of activists even when warrants are illegal or questionable.

Enrile must also remember during a forum in Davao, Duterte’s mother, the late Nanay Soledad “Soling” admonished him: “You are guilty of persecution of the people.”

If Enrile claims he is a witness, his is a version of history told from the point of view of power, like his former boss, Ferdinand Marcos. Enrile tries to fashion facts to fit the line of the Marcos’ family.

But history has to be accurate. A historical fact such as Martial Law bears the fact that lives were sacrificed and rights were trampled on. No amount of justifying the cause of Martial Law will erase that fact.

We should also see the irony that on September 21, Enrile and Marcos talk of their history to an empty theatre, while all across the country, the protest marches that say never forget has decided their fate in history. (


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