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Lest We Forget

During his working visit to the US Sept. 19-21, President Benigno Aquino III urged Filipinos at home and abroad not to forget the dark days of martial law. It was on Sept. 21, 1972 that President Ferdinand Marcos became an absolute dictator.

The reminder is timely.

The youth today have no memory of the days when curfew was imposed, the freedom of speech and of the press were muzzled, oppositionists, including Aquino’s father, were jailed, tortured or killed, protest rallies banned and critics simply disappeared.

In 2005, leaked cables from theUSembassy inManilashowed that then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo wanted to impose martial law because of the political uproar over her questionable reelection in 2004. This means that martial law continues to be an option for suppressing political dissent.

Today it is unlikely to be used by the Aquino administration, son of the most prominent victim of the Marcos dictatorship. He is also the son of Cory Aquin, the woman who led the overthrow of the Marcos dictatorship in 1986.

Although democracy has been restored and strengthened, human rights abuses by the police and military have not been completely eradicated. Many cases of unexplained killings and disappearances of militants and journalists since 1986, a number of them believed to have been perpetrated by state forces, are still waiting to be solved.

President Aquino must meet all these challenges. He should act to stop human rights violations and to enact laws that will make it virtually impossible for a future president to impose martial law.

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