MANILA, September 19, 2012—As the Philippines commemorates the 40th year of President Ferdinand Marcos’ declaration of Martial Law on the 21st of September, several bishops shared their reflections on this dark chapter of history.
Sorsogon Bishop Arturo M. Bastes, SVD said there are still traces of Martial Law in his ecclesial province as many extrajudicial killings have remained unsolved for many years. He said the killings have been perpetrated by both government troopers and Communist guerillas.
“There were times when mayors came to me for help because it was impossible for them to identify the killers or the brains behind,” he told CBCPOnline radio.
He added they organized a protest-rally against the killers.
“I cursed the killers during my homily at the Mass the people organized,” he added. Bishop Bastes said the curse must have terrified the killers and their masterminds because the killings suddenly dropped though they resumed later with lesser intensity.
“The war against the NPAs (New People’s Army) in Sorsogon is another reminder of Martial Law years,” he concluded.
Basilan Bishop Martin S. Jumoad recalled he was 16 years old when Martial Law was declared. He said if the early days of Martial law were sustained, “we could have become disciplined persons and the country could have moved forward.
“However, the regime left more evil like the war in Mindanao as it favored few persons who later owned vast tracks of land and big business,” he added.
For Balanga (Bataan) Bishop Ruperto C. Santos human rights should always be protected and promoted as human dignity must be respected.
“Authoritarian rule endangers and undermines human freedom and basic human rights,” he further said.
However, Lipa Archbishop Ramon C. Arguelles was most concise on his views on Martial Rule. He simply said “Never again!”
Even the Catholic church had its share of Martial Law victims which included Redemptorist missionary Rudy Romano who has remained missing to this day.
Then strongman Ferdinand Edralin Marcos declared Martial Law allegedly to stop Communist insurgency. He declared Martial Law a little over a year after he suspended the writ of habeas corpus or the right of the individual in custody to be brought to court to determine whether such incarceration is lawful.
President Marcos declared Martial Law on September 21, 1972 after signing Proclamation 1081 which eventually placed the archipelago under his grasp.
Known activists have either been arrested or gone underground. Conflicting numbers of Martial Law victims have been reported along with those who survived to tell their tale. (Melo Acuña)