Cuizon: Lest we forget

IN A democratic country, there are ways for the young to know who to trust and vote for as leader to lead a nation. Knowledge of history can help new voters make decisions.

Take the declaration of martial law in the Philippines, say for one who wasn’t even born on Sept. 21, 1972, the date of the declaration of a military rule. Young voters could find strength from the family’s own experience during the “dark days” as President Benigno C. Aquino III put it in a recent talk before graduates during a university’s commencement exercise.

We can’t appreciate enough the gift of freedom in a democratic nation without our knowledge of the past. The country’s 20th general election, which will be held a few days from now on May 9, has presidential, legislative and local candidates freely vying for positions in the democratic process.

And this is how candidates like Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., running for vice president, can run in the electoral fight in the exercise of freedom that his father Ferdinand Sr. took away from us in Proclamation 1081.

Let’s go back in years. The story doesn’t have to be from a history book. I could start with my own simple experience of the first few days when Marcos declared martial law.

In that morning, I got ready to go to an appointment in an office in Makati where I applied for a job. I had just graduated some months earlier in a journalism course, I tried to get a job in Manila or come home back to Cebu.

From inside the cab I took, I sensed a bit of quiet on the road, as though traffic was less. I didn’t connect it with the latest gossip of Marcos having declared martial law. The talk tripped across the room in parties, like one I attended. But nobody was taking it seriously.

Only a few people were at work in the office where I got an appointment, some of them ready to get out, surely to go home, which I also did. It was another cab driver who confirmed the declaration. He said the roads leading to Malacañang Palace were barred from vehicles.

When I arrived back at my rented apartment, I learned from my niece who got frantic phone calls that a friend or two in college were arrested quietly at dawn in UP Diliman. The talk was also about politicians who ran away from the country earlier.

We rushed to the mall for groceries and found it almost empty even as newcomers came rushing in to pack what was left. The bus we took back to the apartment was full but no one was talking to anyone, the passengers were mute as though after a fight lost. They kept so much quieter when a military vehicle overtook us.

There was no more voice in media except one or two radio and television stations. Proclamation 1081 placed governance under control of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, closed the Philippine Congress, suspended civil rights and set a curfew country-wide.

With the curfew set throughout the country, social parties were reduced although there were still gatherings of families and friends with socializing noise reduced at 10 p.m. The party could go on quietly without any one rushing out to beat the curfew. The guests would go back home only at dawn—the guys sleeping in the sala, the women in the guest room.

In the first few days after the martial law proclamation, many of my friends left for the home provinces. Imagine the count of the decrease of the population in Metro Manila within just a few days.

Media outfits were closed, some allowed to continue operating under close military watch. Months and years after that, thousands of opposition leaders were detained in military compounds.

The new generation going to voting places to choose the nation’s leaders should look around, read history or ask about it, and watch out. Can we make another Edsa Revolution?


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