MANILA, Philippines – When former Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. then won the presidency by landslide in the May 9 election, Karl Patrick Suyat, a student at the University of the Philippines (UP) said he felt “unable to move in frustration and fear.”
In fact, Suyat’s father was an activist during the term of President Marcos ’father and name, who ruled the country with an iron fist from 1965 to 1986. He was also the first to expose young Karl to horrific and cruelty experienced by many Filipinos. during martial law.
Suyat is not only concerned about the recurrence of such injustices but also the bleaching of this dark period in history. His fear was not put elsewhere. Nearly a week after Marcos won, state agents red-tagged a series of children’s books about martial law and accused the publishing house, Adarna House, of radicalizing young minds.
The 19-year-old UP student immediately thought of setting up an archive to preserve the memory of a foregone era.
“The thought of martial law books and other archival material [being] another Marcos regime broke up I was scared, ”Suyat said. He texted a friend, who immediately began looking for funds for a scanner and getting more materials.
Over the weekend, they finally launched their initiative. Called “Memoirs: Pages From the Dictatorship Era,” the archive is a repository of dozens of digitized martial law-era reading materials.
It features scanned copies of newspapers and magazines from that period, including We Forum, The Free Newspaper, The People’s Voice, The Weekly Guardian, Mr. & Ms., at Philippines Free Press.
There are also PDF copies of martial law -related books such as “The Conjugal Dictatorship” by Primitivo Mijares, “Policing America’s Empire” by Alfred McCoy, and “Waltzing with a Dictator” by Raymond Bonner.
Many of these, Suyat said, came from Filipiniana booksellers and antique shops, or from the personal collections of donors. Other UP students volunteered to digitize most of the materials.
This process, in addition to procurement, has not been cheap. Suyat said that so far, they have spent 98 percent of the more than P100,000 raised through donations.
War against historical distortion
“[But] the sweetest thing about the project is we took a massive step in fighting the historic distortion of the Marcos family and their army of trolls and spin masters with kindness and support [of] Filipinos stand for truth, freedom and justice, ”he said.
The Gunita archive complements similar efforts at the academe and at the Monument of Heroes, which also maintains a repository of materials related to martial law.
Suyat added that they will upload more materials in the coming days, including a copy of the Agrava Fact-finding Board report on the murder of former Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr. in 1983, also published by Mr. and Ms. in 1984..
There have been varying degrees in the number of victims of human rights abuse under the Marcos regime.
The Human Rights Violations Victims Memorial Commission, an independent quasi-judicial body formed to investigate rights violations from 1972 to 1986, during Marcos Sr.’s term, identified a total of 11,103 such cases. These are from accidental exile; arbitrary detention; torture; cruel, inhumane, and distressing treatment; and murder and enforced disappearance.
However, according to Amnesty International, there were approximately 107,200 primary victims of rights violations in the same period. A few weeks after the proclamation of martial law in 1972, an estimated 50,000 people were arrested and imprisoned.
But Amnesty said that in total, 70,000 people were arrested, most arbitrarily without a warrant of arrest; 34,000 people were tortured; and 3,240 others were killed by the military and police.
—REPORT FROM INQUIRER RESEARCH
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