Burying Our Ugly Past Invites Future Abuse
Yesterday was the 96th birthday of the late Jovito R. Salonga, founder, chair and then chair emeritus of Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation, Inc. and former Senate President of our country. We take this occasion to remember his contributions to our country and honor his beloved memory by reasserting once again our foundation’s basic stand on what it takes to be a hero in our country, and how we can move on towards justice and reconciliation for the sake of national unity.
Senator Salonga’s guidance serves us well on these points. In a speech he made in 1998 during the annual honoring of heroes and martyrs at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani grounds, he said:
“As long as we continue to remember the martyrdom and the heroism of those who in the darkest period of our nation’s history since 1946 gave their lives that we might become free, and as long as we resolve never again to allow the forces of darkness to prevail, this annual celebration will be truly a day of meaningful tribute to the men and women whom we honor here…
“Sunud-sunod ang mga pangyayari sa ating bansa na dapat ikabahala ng mga nagmamahal sa kalayaan at katotohanan. You will recall there was a move to honor the man who imposed martial law and dictatorial rule by burying him in the Libingan ng mga Bayani and thus making it appear that he too should be acclaimed as a hero. The excuse was a masterpiece of deception, namely that by burying Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani, we not only honor him, we can also bury the past. Fortunately, it was the collective resistance of an outraged people which defeated that move…
“What they really want is for us to forget the ugly past instead of facing it and doing something about it – they want us to forget the torture, the salvaging, the disappearances, the extrajudicial executions and assassinations, on top of the plunder of the nation’s wealth, the extortions, the larcenies and the acts of graft and corruption.”
“Ngunit hindi tayo maaaring makalimot …
“The question may be asked, are we not willing to forgive and reconcile with those who caused us so much grief and misery? Yes, we are prepared to forgive and reconcile – but only after truth is recognized and justice is served. Truth and justice first, then forgiveness and reconciliation later for the sake of national unity. For forgiveness without truth is an empty ritual and reconciliation without justice is meaningless, and worse, an invitation to more abuses in the future.”
We repeat the timely warning: Forgiveness without truth is an invitation to more abuse. With these statements in mind, we now address this heartfelt appeal to the incoming Duterte administration:
Heed our heroes. Don’t do it.