25 February 2016

Difficult Question

It took me more than a decade to finally work up the nerve and ask Papa, “Where were you on this day, 30 years ago?”

I was eleven when the internet showed me articles on the atrocities committed during martial law. Though we had already taken up the EDSA revolution in school, I could not understand why soldiers, sworn to protect and to serve, could be accused of such. By this time, I was already living in Camp Aguinaldo. I grew up calling soldiers Kuyas and Titos. I was particularly fond of that one soldier I called Papa. And it always gave me immense satisfaction to meet a soldier to call Ate. To me, they were heroes, not monsters. Many of them joined the Armed Forces with no other motivation than to offer life and limb in exchange for a monthly paycheck to send to their families back home.

During one drinking session (obviously, by this time I was no longer eleven), Papa said that he believed the military was not ready to implement martial law. They were not aware of the extent and limits to their power, of its requirements, of its consequences, of abuses already being committed — by those who used martial law to justify their actions and by those who did not know any better. No, the institution was not blameless. Ignorance and ill-preparedness is not something that any military man will use as an excuse. But with that information in mind, it made more sense to me.

Thirty years after EDSA and I still come across people who either fear or loathe the military. If there is anything I can add to the list of things that people hate about the Marcoses and their cronies, I will personally add this. I will #‎NeverForget the horrors of Martial Law. I will never forget how lucky I am to live in this day and age, enjoying privileges that many of our countrymen have been denied as basic rights. I will also never forget that if those marines, the few who until that crucial point remained loyal to the dictator, had chosen to follow orders, we would be commemorating a blood bath instead of a peaceful revolution. Perhaps we would not even have any commemoration -- we've seen how effective revisionists can be.

Before I forget, this was Papa’s answer to today’s question: “Nakakulong na kami nun, anak. Remember that the spoils of war go to the victors. Kung hindi nag-succeed ang EDSA, na-firing squad na din siguro kami.”

Note: Art. 65 of Commonwealth Act 408, also known as the Articles of War, provides, “Any person subject to military law who, on any pretext whatsoever, xxx wilfully disobeys any lawful command of his superior officer, shall suffer death or such other punishment as a court-martial may direct.”