Thursday, September 21, 2006

PD 1081: Remembering Martial Law

I woke up early this morning to celebrate the six o'clock mass in the church. After the mass I went out to the lawn for taichi. Then I joined the community for the morning prayer. During the prayer of the faithful, one of the seminarians prayed for the victims of martial law. I became aware that I was one of those he was praying for today, the 34th anniversary of the declaration of martial law by President Ferdinand Marcos. The tattoo in my arm- a clenched fist in chains with the number 1081 - won't allow me to forget. PD 1081 - that's the presidential decree declaring the state of martial law.

Early in the morning thirty-three years ago, on the first anniversary of martial law, I was picked up by military agents in Cebu. I was interrogated and tortured for a week and imprisoned for seven months. The psalm that I wrote later sums up my experience and those of others:

Psalm from Prison

From this dark and lonely cell
I cry out to you
Lord, hear my groaning!

I don't know where I am
I don't know whether it's night or day.
I don't know what will happen next.

My throat is sore, I cannot scream anymore.
My finger is swollen, I cannot clench my fist.
My ribs are broke, I cannot stand erect.

I hate the sight of water I can no longer bear a single drop.
I loathe those cigarettes that penetrate my skin.
I dread the sound of foosteps and the opening of the door.
I prefer this darkness that face the glaring light.
I can just imagine what they are going to do next.

They said only I can end my suffering
if I cooperate with them
and sign the confession they manufactured
and bear false witness against myself
and those that oppose this diabolical regime.

How much longer, O Lord, can I hold on?
How much longer can I maintain my sanity?
How long will they keep me in this limbo?

Will I ever see again the sun?
Will I ever see again the faces of those I love and serve?
Or will they make me disappear forever?

Lord, deliver us from these kidnappers and murderers
who are trying to maintain peace and order.
Deliver us from these mercenaries
whose obsession is to defend national security --
the security of this bloodthirsty and power-hungry dictator,
the security of his cronies and their big business interests,
the security of his alien lords and their bases and investments.

O Lord my God.
I know that you are neither blind nor deaf.
Your mercy and compassion endures forever.
You have always been a subversive God.
You scatter the proud, you depose the mighty
your empty the rich, you lift up the lowly
you free the oppressed, you fill the hungry.

I cry out now to you:
subvert this evil kingdom and empire!
Let your spirit fill the hearts
of those who struggle to build your kingdom
of justice, peace and freedom.

From this dark and lonely cell
I cry out to you.
Lord hear my prayer.

Into your hands, O Lord
I commend my broken body
and my wavering spirit.

Late this afternoon as the sun was setting down, I joined the interfaith prayer service at the freedom park in front of Ateneo de Davao. It was just a small gathering. In my sharing, I told the crowd who were holding lighted candles that we should never forget that dark period in the history of our nation. Martial law may be gone but its legacy remains with us. The present Arroyo regime continues to abuse power, trample civil liberties and human rights, engage in corruption, and perpetuate the culture of death. Like martial law, those accused of being leftists or criminals are being executed by death squads. A policy of total war is being implemented by the likes of General Palparan who has been using the same methods reminiscent of martial law. The peace process between the government and the NDF has been abandoned. There is an escalation of war in the countryside.

NEVER AGAIN! This is what we said when the dictator was deposed by people power. Sadly, it is happening again, even without a declaration of martial law.

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