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Former UP rivals Samasa, Tugon unite vs Bongbong

Alumni of rival student political parties at UP Diliman unite against historical revisionism as they launch a petition and call for a boycott of Senator Bongbong Marcos' candidacy. (Tricia Aquino,
The online news portal of TV5

MANILA - Former student activists from rival groups in the University of the Philippines have launched a petition to ask their fellow alumni to oppose the vice-presidential bid of Senator Bongbong Marcos, and to protest attempts to revise the history of Martial Law.

In relation to this, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, a former member of the student political parties at the helm of the petition, is being asked to give way to a vice-presidential candidate the majority can get behind, so as to prevent Senator Marcos from winning the election and regaining power for the family.

Former rivals Sandigan Para sa Mag-aaral at Sambayanan (Samasa) and Nagkakaisang Tugon (Tugon) put aside their ideological differences from the 1980s to launch the petition on advocacy platform on Friday.

Titled “UP Unite: Honor our Past. Defend our Future!”, the petition was read at UP Diliman as names of the martyred students who opposed the dictatorship were displayed on a screen, one by one.

The alumni said they stood in solidarity with academics who had already objected to the attempts to whitewash “the Marcos regime’s unrelenting violation of human rights, abuse of power, and plunder of the public coffers.” Likewise, the alumni lauded the historians for presenting the dictatorship and martial law “they truly were: monstrous aberrations that should never again re-emerge in our country.”

The petition reiterates the alumni’s four-point position that they:

a) Condemn the attempts to whitewash the Marcos regime’s vicious violation of human rights, its abuse of power, and its plunder of the economy;

b) Support all efforts to ensure that all generations learn the real facts and lessons from the Marcos dictatorship to ensure it never happen again;

c) Call on fellow UP alumni, especially those involved in the 2016 elections, to take a strong stand against the abuses of the Marcos dictatorship; and

d) Oppose and resist any attempt to give Ferdinand E. Marcos a hero’s burial at Libingan ng mga Bayani.

A dark past

Samasa’s Atty. Susan Villanueva recalled that during Martial Law, people were not allowed to say anything bad about the government. There was a culture of fear and repression, where one’s true sentiments could never be revealed.

She was a student in UP when Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr. was assassinated. It was also her party that ran the first university student council after student councils were restored. Before that, student councils were banned. So were student publications and student assemblies.

Then UP President Noel Soriano signed the order for the restoration of the student council, and Tugon’s JJ Soriano remembers that it was among the most difficult decisions his father had to make.

“It did not take long before Marcos removed him from his office in UP,” the younger Soriano said.

The Marcoses’ plunder was so huge, he said, that in the 30 years after they were booted out of Malacañang, they were able to revise history and make themselves appear good to the present generation.

According to the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), the agency tasked to recover the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses, it was able to recover P170.4 billion from 1986 to last year.

Auction houses Christie’s and Sotheby’s also appraised the Marcoses’ collection of ill-gotten jewelry in November last year, finding that these were worth at least P1 billion.

The Marcoses did not even apologize for pillaging the country, Soriano added.

Asked, in particular, about the human rights violations committed in his father’s 20-year term, Senator Marcos said at Sunday’s vice-presidential debate, “I will apologize – I have said this before and I will say it again. I will apologize for any wrongdoing that I may have done, any mistake that will have caused anyone any pain or hardship. But I can only apologize for myself.”

Giving way

The March 29 to April 3 survey of Pulse Asia, as commissioned by ABS-CBN, shows Marcos leading the rest of the vice-presidential candidates in terms of voter preference, at 28 percent. Behind him were Camarines Sur 3rd District Representative Leni Robredo (22 percent), Senator Francis Escudero (21 percent), Cayetano (15 percent), Senator Antonio Trillanes IV (5 percent), and Senator Gregorio Honasan (4 percent).

Soriano said that he had already asked Cayetano - who, as a student also belonged to Tugon - to exit the vice-presidential race so the vote would be undivided, and more people could rally behind a candidate who could beat Marcos.

“I’ve sent him a message. I’ve already posted on our student party alumni Facebook. I’m asking him that kung hindi naman siya lumalamang, ay tulungan na lang niya ang mas nakakalamang sa kanya, na supporter din naman namin nung araw sa Tugon (if he isn’t leading anyway, he should help the one who is ahead of him, who used to be our supporter in the old days with Tugon),” Soriano said.

Villanueva explained that the “overwhelming majority” did not support Marcos. Rather, they were divided among his five rivals.

The alumni did not specify which candidate the majority of the voters could rally behind, however.

Calling the present “a critical juncture in the campaign,” the alumni called on their peers to go beyond their comforts, go out, and “in typical UP fashion,” argue and act.

It was time to make noise, they said.

Fact-based narrative

Looking forward, the objective was to “ultimately develop a clear narrative that is evidence-based, that is based on facts,” said Tugon alumnus and Commission on Human Rights chairman Chito Gascon.

“So that the future generation will no longer doubt that what happened from 1972 to 1986 was the darkest period in our contemporary history,” he said.

Economics professor and Samasa alumna Cielo Magno stressed the importance of debunking myths with facts.

“They say that during Marcos’ time, groceries were cheap, during Marcos’ time, we had the CCP, the Film Center, a lot of infrastructure… but during Marcos’ time, true, there was infrastructure, but maybe, this shouldn’t be a symbol of development during Marcos’ time. It is a symbol of corruption and plunder. Because in spite of this infrastructure, Marcos’ family stole even more. They say groceries were cheap back then, but in truth, after Marcos’ time, the Philippines was left with such a huge debt, that we are still paying for it today. The salary of ordinary laborers, the minimum wage during Marcos’ time did not increase. So if anyone gained during Marcos’ time, it was the cronies,” Magno said.

Human rights violations

Gascon noted that the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board had received over 75,000 claims by May last year, almost four times the number it had initially expected to receive.

Gascon said that by next year the claimants would be provided reparation after the review was finished. In fact, the Board had asked for a two-year extension to process the claims.

“There has to be an accounting of what happened, and that there has to be retribution against the perpetrators, and there has to be closure,” Gascon said.

There were more than 200,000 cases of torture, illegal detention, arbitrary arrest, and extrajudicial killing during Martial Law, he said, based on “temporary estimates.”