Martial Law victims: Never forget

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Forty-four years after the declaration of martial law, some have called for President Ferdinand Marcos to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

Read: Marcos’ 99th birthday: Supporters plead to allow late President’s hero’s burial

Others have appealed to Filipinos to never forget the period that martial law victims describe as one marked by monumental corruption, brutal violence and the suppression of fundamental rights.

Read: Martial law victims: Marcos burial in heroes cemetery mocks our sacrifices

The victims said the fight for democracy and justice goes on. Former labor leader and organizer Danilo Dela Fuente remembers his incarceration and said the martial law years continue to haunt him.

"Inangat yung aking blindfold ng konti, nilagyan ng bala, tapos pinaikot," he said. "Tinutok sa sentido ko."

[Translation: They lifted my blindfold a bit, placed a bullet inside and wrapped it around my head. The bullet was on my temple.]

"Ang sumunod yung electrocution na, tawag nila Meralco," he said. "Kinabitan ako ng live wire sa middle finger ko tapos sa mga toe ng aking paa. Binasa yung kinatatayuan ko."

[Translation: Next came the electrocution, which they called Meralco. They put live wires on my middle finger and on my toes. They doused me with water.]

Dela Fuente said the experience should be remembered at a time when the spirit of what they fought for is slowly fading.

"Hanggang ngayon, kailangan akong uminom ng anti-convulsant, anti-depressent. 'Yun na yung pinaka-maintenance medicine ko kasi 'pag hindi ako umiinom, aatakihin ako."

[Translation: Until now, I need to drink anti-convulsant and anti-depressant medication. Those are my maintenance medicines because if I don't take them, I'd have a heart attack.]

Youth need to know

Former University of the Philippines professor Helen Mendoza, now 91 years old, still recalls how her students stood their ground to fight for democracy.

"I'm very proud of our young people who lost their lives protecting our freedom and fighting the perpetrators of Martial Law," she said.

Mendoza is fully aware that millennials have little or no knowledge of martial law.  And for her, this is the very reason why remembering what the country went through during the martial law period matters.

"I don't want them to forget because we don't want a repeat of that," she said. "It can happen again and I'm very afraid. I'm not sure about our new President."

Although President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly said he will not declare martial law while in office, some world leaders and human-rights advocates have criticized his 'war on drugs,' which has killed thousands of drug suspects who never got to see a jail cell or a courtroom.

Read: Human rights group urges President Duterte to stop killings

Meanwhile, youth groups are out to debunk the impression that they've forgotten that period in our history.

"Sa darating na September 21, 'yan ay mamarkahan natin ng mga pambansang walkout at malalaking protesta ng estudyante at kabataan," said Kabataan Party-List Representative Sarah Elago.

[Translation: September 21 will be marked with a nationwide walkout and large protests by students and the youth.]

No acknowledgement, no forgiveness

During the celebration of President Marcos's birthday on Sept. 11, Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos appealed to their detractors to forgive her father's sins.

"Sana, anuman ang kasalanan ng aking ama, sapagkat hindi naman niya kailanman sinabi na siya ay hindi tao lamang na nagkakamali at nagkakasala, mahanap na rin nila ang kapatawaran," she said. "Sapagkat sa pagpapatawad sa aking ama, sana mabawi na rin ang galit nila at sila mismo ay mabigyan ng kapayapaan at katahimikan."

[Translation: I hope that whatever faults my father had, for he never said that he was not a mere man who did wrong, they would find forgiveness. Through forgiving him, they would hopefully lose their anger and find peace and quiet.]

Dela Fuente said there is nothing to forgive if there is no acknowledgment of what they've done.

"Wala silang klase ng admission, acknowledgement na mas mahigit pa doon sa kanilang pagbibigay ng apology," he said. "Kahit apology, hindi sila nagbibigay."

[Translation: There is no admission or acknowledgement more compelling than their giving an apology. But they have yet to give even that.]

Myles Garcia, author of "Thirty Years Later... Catching Up with the Marcos-Era Crimes," said Gov. Marcos's plea for forgiveness is an "unofficial" admission that they did something wrong.

"Hopefully, it might lead to more concrete admissions," she said. "But I wouldn't hold my breath for more mea culpas."

For martial law victims, the fight they fought decades ago is still relevant. They will continue to safeguard our democracy, so there will be no repeat of martial law, even if justice remains elusive for them.

CNN Philippines Digital Producer VJ Bacungan contributed to this report.