Letranites Commemorate 51st Martial Law Anniversary

By: Atlas Hope, Kara Sauvina
September 22, 2023

Letranites wear black ribbons to commemorate one of the darkest times of our history. Photo courtesy of Ramon Kalaw of The LANCE.

Several students of Colegio de San Juan de Letran- Manila joined in the tying of black ribbons on the Letranites’ wrists as part of their contribution to the Martial Law’s 51st commemoration year yesterday, September 21.

It is recognized as one of the country’s dark years during the 1970’s to early 1980’s under the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos Sr., father and namesake of the country’s incumbent president Ferdinand “BongBong” Marcos Jr. 

3rd year Journalism student, Leon Victor Velasquez, who spearheaded the black ribbon initiative, stated it was the students’ form of silent protest in remembering, honoring the lives of the people affected by the attacks and oppression in the Martial Law years, and a protest against the former and current Marcos regime. 

“I wanted to [put] emphasis on the commemoration of the martial law not just as a celebration but the commemoration of the victims of this dictatorial regime which dumanak yung mga dugo. Maraming nag siwalan, maraming mga pinatay na student activists which I am professing,” Velasquez explained.

He also expressed how even the simplest idea or act or protest, barred by limitations and have impacted fear for the integrity of the people’s voices and stories.

“Up until now, in the form of the senior [Marcos] himself but the junior of himself in the marcos ruling, nakakatakot siya kasi in this kind of student initiative, we have this in creation kasi alam namin na we’re still in this kind of institution na well we tolerate these kind of initiative but there are some certain of limitation,” said Velasquez.

“What I fear there might come to a point na hindi na ako makapag-kwento and much worse makalimutan yon ng taong bayan. So, I created this initiative to remember the terrors and the horrors of it,“ Velasquez added.

In the contemporary time of persistent historical revisionism, misinformation, and disinformation, Velasquez encourages his fellow youth to have the courage in speaking the truth through available resources and platforms such as the wide reach and influence of social media.

“You may not be able to be a part of an organization or may not be able to speak up for yourself but the least thing you can do is to speak truth into power on other platforms. If you cannot do it in a literal sense, you can do it in social media or if you have the full confidence to do it then do it. There might come to a point that you might not be able to tell a story again because the freedom that you have has been curtailed and has been censored,” stated Velasquez.

A CBAA student who took part in the event shared strong sentiments in agreement with the purpose of the black ribbon initiative. The Letranite also shared that the recognition of Martial Law is relevant to honoring justice for the oppressed.

“Dito natin makikita yung dark past na diktadorship ng dating pangulong marcos and I think it is still relevant na hindi dapat mawala siya sa isipan ng maraming tao kasi maraming buhay yung nawala, maraming buhay yung naitaya and wala man lang naibigay na justice for that,” said the CBAA student.

“Malaking factor siya as an individual kasi dito natin naivovoice out yung mga paninindigan na dapat hindi lang itinatago, na dapat hindi maiabon sa limot dahil lang sa nagkaroon ng panibagong pwesto yung pamilya nila [Marcos],” the student added.

Further marking the anniversary of Martial Laws declaration, some Letranites also participated in the public protest held at the COMELEC marching towards Liwasang Bonifacio along with other youth members and organizations. 


The Dark Era of PH History

Former President Marcos Sr. signed Proclamation No. 1018 on September 21, 1972, which suspended the Writ of Habeas Corpus and the 1935 Philippine Constitution, attaining legislative and executive powers. However, it was not publicized until the night of September 23, 1972, when he televised the proclamation.

Despite the intense edifice complex during that era, where infrastructures, such as the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), and Philippine Heart Center (PHC), came to be, the atrocities that happened cannot be disregarded.

As history goes, life in the Philippines was not as pampered and peaceful as some believe it to be. Poverty, corruption, and human rights violations in the country became worse; not to mention the ill-gotten wealth and unpaid debt that is still being paid to this day. 

An infographics from the Official Gazette detailed what went down the day Marcos Sr. publicized the proclamation. Public utilities and numerous media outlets were shut down nationwide. Arrests and disappearances of senators, journalists, activists, and even ordinary people were also reported starting that day.


Today’s Relevance

In an interview with The LANCE, a professor from the Colegio stated that the happenings in history are relevant in contemporary times as it affected how the nation was formed. They said that different factors shaped the social and political aspect of the country. 

They also explained that there was a paradox during Martial Law, stating the country was free from colonial rule but still experienced restrictions. With regards to freedom during that period, they stated that it should be seen from another person’s point of view and anything that could curtail it could not be categorized as freedom.

The professor also mentioned a German term “geschichte,” which they defined as “a personalized happenings of activities which has happened in history.” They then related it to the commemoration of Martial Law, stating the experiences of the event vary from person to person.

“There is some kind of personal experience to it; how people experience Martial Law then and how it is being experienced- How the effects of Martial Law has been experienced now,” they said.

When asked about how other people can be encouraged to hold those people accountable, they shared that people should always find and learn the truth. They further shared that academic institutions must collaborate with their students to become critical on discovering truth and knowledge. 

“What has really transpired, ano nga ba talaga ang tunay na nangyari? Is it simply a political rivalry between the red and the yellows? I think not. It is more so a social movement by the people that we want you to be accountable for what you did,” they stated.

They also said to not sugarcoat the events that had happened and led to what the nation is today. “Because anuman ang gawin natin, anuman ang mangyari we may have different interpretations of what has happened. It was good, it was bad. What’s important is that it was real.”


Dictator hereinafter 

The recent news on not affiliating Marcos Sr. and his family to the word dictatorship met oppositions from the masses, sharing their dismay on the Department of Education’s (DepEd) memorandum. 

When asked about whether the first Marcos regime will be forever seen as a dictatorship, Velasquez said that it still runs in the bloodline of the family. 

“...in order for you to disassociate those kinds of remarks those kinds of insinuation then create the better conduct, then create a better governance in which hindi ka icicriticize ng tao. Pagbayaran mo lahat ng ginawa na atrocities ng tatay mo. Bayaran mo lahat ng utang na ginawa ng tatay mo in order for the Filipino people itself take into consideration all of the atrocities have been forgiven.”

A CBAA also stated they believe that it will forever be seen as such, saying the atrocities that happened during that period should not be removed from the minds of the people. 

The Letran professor also stated that if a mandate that orders to strike out the word dictator is a form of curtailment of academic freedom. 

“We can only do as much as teachers and it would depend on the interpretation of our receivers, which is the students. My take on the stand … That is very very much unsound. That is very much a curtailment of the academic freedom of the teachers,” they said.

“Because even if you write the word dictator in that textbook, the mode as to how it will be delivered to the students will very much depend on the pathology of the teacher. Hindi ba parang nagiging biased ka if you were to strike out the word dictator,” the professor said.

They also shared that the first Marcos regime was a dictatorship as it had the quality of that kind of government. With regards to being viewed as such forever, it is not possible.

“As members of the academe, you as students must always have this point of view that we must always guard the truth and we must be bearers of the truth. We must be the embodiment of the manifestation of the truth.”

“It would be a shame to the academic institution if we do not- If we try to pervert something which has been qualified as is already,” the professor added.

They ended with mentioned their struggle about facing the students and colleagues who justify the unjustifiable.

As Marcos Sr. is laid to rest in the Libingan ng mga Bayani - despite not qualifying as one - and the country is under another Marcos regime, people nationwide continue to collectively protest to never again and never forget.