Velez: Finding history beyond EDSA

A SENIOR journalist remembers one of her early assignments late in the Marcos dictatorship in 1985, which was a rally of lawyers calling for the release of the Davao 3 lawyers Larry Ilagan, Marcos Risonar and Antonio Arellano. In the middle of their silent march came a thin man in barong with thick glasses and long hair who joined the handful of lawyers in their march for a few minutes then left away.

Curious, the journalist asked the protesters who that guy was. He is Fiscal Duterte, she was told.

It was daring at that time for a government prosecutor to join an anti-Marcos rally. But those times, as the group Konsensya Dabaw remembers, was extraordinary and many leaders in Davao stepped up despite of the local officials' loyalty to the president.
The group recalls Davao's contribution to the protection of people's freedoms during those days. There was Duterte's mother Nanay Soledad 'Soling' Duterte as one of the leaders of Davao's "Yellow Friday Movement". The first Catholic pastoral letter against Martial Law was issued by Davao's Archbishop Antonio Mabutas entitled "Reign of Terror in the Countryside" lamenting the abuses in Catalunan Grande. And it was in Davao that the first Welgang Bayan or people's strike by activists was held in 1984 that paralyzed the streets for two or three days.

There are also several activists, students, church leaders, academe and journalists who contributed to the struggles for freedoms. I had met some as teachers, colleagues in media, companions in development work and campaigns.

This history needs to be told, retold and remembered, as Konsensya Davao points out, for the purpose of remembering "Davao's connectedness to—rather than superiority over—the rest of the peoples and communities of Mindanao laboring for societal transformation."

Such remembering must guide us in the present. For we have to look at how many presidents have come, and how many local leaders like Duterte, Binay or Pimentel have risen. Yet looking at the state of our country, the ideals of what we wanted are still not there.

Our country seems to take a strange path of repeating the wrongs after EDSA. As a song by The Jerks says "And the names and faces of the tyrants change/ But poverty, pain and murder remains/ And the voices of truth are locked up in chains/ Darkness remains, freedom in flames"

It's strange that Duterte who marched against the dictatorship has now revised judgment on Marcos, and does a Marcos himself by implementing Martial Law.

It is true that we can't simply fall comfortable that there is this false sense of security. For one has to look out at communities where the poor are still wanting and waiting for change.

As another song by Yano asks "Kaya ba natin paglabanan ang sumpa ng kasaysayan" (Can we break the curse of history?)".

It's a challenge for us to take. And we need to look back at lessons from heroes and martyrs, and that will help us move forward to know that democracy is being fought and coming together for the common good.

(tyvelez@gmail.com)
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