Betrayal of EDSA: A Throwback to Martial Law era?

Tue, 25 Feb 2014 09:25:39 +0800

National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers <>

Press Statement
25 February 2014

Betrayal of EDSA: A Throwback to Martial Law era?

After twenty-eight years of platitudes and grand rhetorics, this year is the height of insult and affront for victims of the Marcos dictatorship as President BS Aquino seems to ignore years of efforts at fundamental change for the benefit of the majority of our people.

In a fundamental sense, the Aquino presidency has practically put us back precisely to the Martial Law era: to the age of widespread corruption and the systematic marauding of government coffers; to monopolies and oligopolies by a tiny elite living ostentatiously amidst penury; to degrading quality of life and diminishing economic power of the ordinary Filipino deprived of basic social services; to flagrant state violence and vicious attacks on human rights and callous denial of such; to the failure to attain real justice in a discriminatory system despite the “rule of law” shibboleth; to US intrusion and domination in political, military, social, and economic affairs; to unresolved roots of the armed conflict raging in the countryside.

Indeed, the only thing missing might be the blanket military and legislative powers exercised by Ferdinand Marcos. Or essentially maybe not.

One outstanding betrayal among so many is BS Aquino’s appointment of a police general as head of the Human Rights Victims Claims Board. It is reminiscent of Marcos’ own dependence on a loyal army and police and his revolving door policy – one important facet of which is appointing retirees to political positions.

In selecting a State law enforcer with no natural affinity, track record, or known advocacy for human rights, Aquino with one fell swoop demolishes whatever gains and progress Martial Law victims have achieved.

The human rights victims are not beggars and are not concerned merely with seeking compensation for themselves for past and continuing atrocities. It is the re-writing the history of human rights violations during the martial law regime that is the bigger picture. By insisting on his choice that escapes reason and common sense, BS Aquino is effectively exonerating the entire system that perpetrated the abuses, justified their occurrence, and concealed them with a veneer of impunity. This is nothing short of contempt and revulsion for “fellow” victims of the Martial Law regime.

The present has become the sum of all our fears: that “never again” will happen again.

Do not the headlines of today – spiraling consumer costs, dissatisfaction or distrust with government, unbridled corruption, breakdown of “law and order,” echo those of past?

Are not the perils of before – extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture, and lack of certain accountability– still menacing us today? It may come in different shapes and sizes, but fears will always feel the same. The sheer dread of losing out to an “unjust” rule of law permeates our society, as the same ruling elite play around with the system.

Or as more things change, the more things indeed basically remain the same? In the end, no real sense of history comes from the ivory tower of caciques.

But as the people become increasingly perceptive, our governors can no longer take comfort in pedigrees or camouflage pretentious self-righteousness.

But it will take only a little before it becomes obvious that, from the point of the view of the people, the beginning of the end of the old society must genuinely start anew, a chance to squeeze out of the gridlock of the long and winding road of so many things that are wrong in Philippine society.#


Edre U. Olalia
NUPL Secretary General


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“By calling yourselves the ‘people’s lawyer,’ you have made a remarkable choice. You decided not to remain in the sidelines. Where human rights are assaulted, you have chosen to sacrifice the comfort of the fence for the dangers of the battlefield. But only those who choose to fight on the battlefield live beyond irrelevance.”

– Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno, in his message at the NUPL Founding Congress, September 15, 2007

“After long years of experience as a people’s lawyer, I can honestly say it has been a treasured journey of self-fulfillment and rewarding achievement. I know it will be the same for all others who choose to tread this path.”

– Atty. Romeo T. Capulong, NUPL founding chairperson, in his keynote address at the Fifth Conference of Lawyers in Asia Pacific ( COLAP V), September 18, 2010