Press Release
September 20, 2012


I join the multitudes recalling the horrors of Martial Law today, 40 years after it was slapped on the Filipino people. For the 14 years that followed the imposition, freedom-lovers all over the country had to fight pitch battles against the State in hills and streets. Thousands offered lives and limbs to regain democratic rights and civil liberties that were lost in the military dictatorship.

A life-changing part of my youth was spent in a jail especially built for the enemies of Martial Law. My prison cell was shared with my mother and father, former Vice President and Senator Teofisto Guingona, Jr., along with Senators Joker Arroyo, Aquilino "Nene" Pimentel Jr., and Soc Rodrigo.

But my experience is nothing compared to the sacrifices of those who perished in Martial Law's wake. And those who were raped and tortured in military stockades and safe houses. To this day, it is hard to wipe away the bitterness of families of disapericidos that still await the return of missing sons and daughters.

Denouncing Martial Law every year is most appropriate. It is a cure to memory lapses that make people forgive-and-forget tyranny. It is a reminder to men in uniform that, in the words of Lord Acton, "power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely." It is a warning to those who wish to toy around with Martial Law, like the Macapagal-Arroyo administration did.

The evils of Martial Law must furthermore be written in textbooks and integrated into school curricula so succeeding generations will know what the Filipino people went through. It should be made part of works of fact and fiction - documentaries, telenovelas, artworks, websites, and short stories - to breed a culture of intolerance for tyranny and abuse.

It is sad that Human Rights lawyer Romeo Capulong, who committed his life defending the victims of Martial Law, is not with us on this day of remembering. He passed away a few days ago and, together with the nation, I mourn the death of another Martial Law hero.

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