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Dateline Seattle: Nunquam Iterum

The recent statement by Juan Ponce Enrile in his one-on-one interview with Bongbong Marcos that no one was ever arrested, tortured or killed (except for one Chinese drug lord) during the Martial Law years should serve as a wake-up call for all Filipinos.

How can Enrile dispute the thousands of Filipinos he put to jail and tortured, and are still alive, like former Congressman Satur Ocampo, former SVD priest Leoncio de la Torre, former teacher and politician Etta Rosales, community organizer Trining Herrera, and the many Juan and Juana de la Cruzes some of whom I personally know.

Others I knew were not as lucky like former seminarian Billy Begg, former UP student Jun Quimpo, former Ateneo de Manila student Manny Yap, worker organizer Rolando Federis and Flora Concepcion – they were all murdered by the fascist Philippine military under Enrile in his capacity as Defense Minister.

For me, one thing is clear – that Enrile is probably no longer in his right mind or is already suffering from dementia or senility due to old age. His statement indicates a state of confusion or disorientation in light of the testimonies given by those who have survived the Martial Law years.

If Enrile’s ability to recall or remember what happened during Martial Law is the result of memory loss due to dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, I forgive him. He needs to see a doctor to give him a little respite before he meets his Maker.

But if he is playing politics and wants to revise the course the way Martial Law was experienced by the Filipinos, Enrile is nothing but a congenital liar. He is back to his own self.

Remember it was the same Juan Ponce Enrile who claimed that he was ambushed on the night of September 22, 1972. His “ambush story” was one of the reasons that President Ferdinand Marcos used to declare Martial Law. He lived this lie for years.

It took 14 years – this time it was during the 1986 People Power Revolution – for him to admit that he faked his ambush in 1972 to justify the imposition of Martial Law. I happen to interpret his change of heart in a different light. I consider him an opportunist who had to jump from a sinking ship to save his skin.

What is troubling to me is that Enrile is yet again allowing himself to be used by the Marcoses. This time it’s not a “fake ambush story” but fake pronouncements of what happened during the Martial Law years: no political prisoners, no killings, and no massacres.

He is lying again. And he had the audacity to say, “I do not manufacture facts. I have not lied to the people. I have not manipulated events. I dealt with them as I faced them.”

Common, Johnny! You are not getting any younger.

I am glad that the reactions to Enrile’s lies of those who experienced Martial Law and are still alive to debunk him were immediate.

Judy Taguiwalo, former Social Welfare Secretary under President Rodrigo Duterte and herself imprisoned during Martial Law, asked: “How can you believe him now when he talks about history, when he himself was part of making the lies, the scenario that helped create the justification for martial law?”

Former Senator Rene Saguisag believes that Enrile’s attempt at historical revisionism shows his support for Bongbong Marcos who can be a president someday.

“Kapal naman ng mukha nyo at ang lakas ng apog nyo,” echoed Satur Ocampo.

If all this means anything, it means that the time to push harder for our people, especially the young, to understand our past is urgent. The Marcoses and its entire machinery will use anybody like Enrile to distort history and erase from our nation’s memory the brutality of the Martial Law years.

US-based Filipino journalist, Boying Pimentel, explains, “As the Philippines reels from another period of polarization and disillusionment, young people should know and understand about what we went through. And I’m not talking about Nazi-style brainwashing, in which young Filipinos are made to swallow drab, meaningless information about the evils of dictatorship.”

At the end, it is not just about Enrile. It is about us and preventing the past from repeating itself.

Nunquam iterum. Never again.

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