The incoming president, Rodrigo Duterte, tells us that for those who suffered abuses during Martial Law: “It’s just a matter of distributing the award. So anong problema? Patay na ‘yung tao.” (So what’s the problem? The person is dead.)
Well you see, Mr. President-elect, my late granduncle Dr. Johnny Escandor died under the dictatorship — his innards in his skull along with his brief, his guts emptied, his skin a deep blue from the blows, and you tell me it is just a matter of “distributing the award.”
My grandfather Judge Ireneo Escandor was imprisoned, leaving my grandmother Lola Celing to raise eight children. They suffered deep hardship, and endured separation from their father. And you tell us it is just a matter of “distributing the award.”
Real people sacrificed life and limb, not to amass cash (how absurd!), but to bring down a tyrant, a plunderer, a murderer. Both my grandfather and granduncle now lie in a humble, marked grave in the small town of Gubat, Sorsogon. They died for country, without a hero’s burial, no marching band, no flag on the casket. There are thousands of them, Mr. President-elect, who died maimed, tied and tortured, in graves marked and unmarked, but they are the fortunate ones because at least their families had a body to bury.
There are immense moral and historical consequences to burying Marcos as a hero. The matter is certainly not confined to narrow legalese, not a matter of just “going to court” as you suggest. If Marcos is buried a hero, what do we make of those who fought his tyranny? Are they now the anti-hero?
We have always said that there is something deeply wrong with a people who cannot remember their history or their real heroes, who are happy with the short-sightedness of a sanitized “peace/healing” rather than one that is based on justice.
I could go on and on about the woeful tragedy of forgetting. But the greatest tragedy is that those who do not remember are bound to make the same mistakes. No wonder then that too many of us — when confronted with another murderer, plunderer, tyrant and all their configurations — are confounded by the discovery.
No matter that too many of us — when confronted with the destructive dismantling of democracy — are at a loss, not knowing what to say or do or make of it.
No matter that too many of us — when confronted with the spreading canopy of aggression and dispossession — are happy with the little spoils from the Master’s table and are quick to trade their freedom for quietude, humanity for comfort, justice for convenience, motherland for self-gain. They have no insight from the struggles of past, and have no collective narrative to moor them to the fate of the larger society.
How many deaths, Mr. President-elect, before we treat a murderer like a murderer? How many billions of national wealth siphoned to offshore accounts before we call a plunderer a plunderer? How many years lost, families separated, people detained and disappeared, lives snuffed out before we call a tyrant a tyrant? How many, Mr. President-elect?
I was truly hopeful when, at the Presidential debates, you did not mince words about the disposession of the Lumads, the Moros; the impoverishment of Mindanao; the inequities induced by “imperial Manila.” You, of all people, should know what justice means, what historical wrong is.
So to your question, Mr. Duterte: “Anong gusto niyo? (What do you want?) You want the Marcos cadaver to be burned? Will that satisfy your hate?” My answer is, it was never about hate at all, it is about JUSTICE.
Postscript: For those who believe in justice, please sign this petition.
[Entry 141, The SubSelfie Blog]
The Communications Head of Ilocos Norte replied to Alaysa with an article entitled
About the Author:
Alaysa Tagumpay Escandor is a development professional who works for Christian Aid, an international charity organization. Her name is a tribute to the silent heroism of her family members before her. She was part of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility and also worked as a Segment Producer for the Special Assignments Team of GMA News and later became a Producer for the network’s data journalism arm, GMA News Research. Read more of her articles here.