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Word from the Institute - September 2014 By Prof. Nene Pimentel

To the ever optimistic Filipino, September begins the joyful, annual three-month journey into the happiest month of the year, December.

As early as September, Christmas carols begin to creep into the radio-tv air-lanes of the country. Their lilting tones that carry the Christian message of love and hope enliven the whole country’s environment, and help make people gloss over life’s difficulties that they inevitably meet in the first three quarters of the year.

Historically, however, September in 1972 was something else.

For on the 21st day of September, 1972 martial rule was declared. And it turned that month’s normally positive joyous  meaning into something negatively dreadful which lasted for some 14 horrific years in the lives of our freedom-loving people.

Martial rule, for instance, scrapped the people’s fundamental rights and subordinated them to the whims of a dictatorship. And during the long nightmare of its existence until the dictator was ousted in 1986 - people lost their right to speak and move around as free citizens, and worse, so many lives were sacrificed on the altar of freedom and democracy.

The recall of the bloody implementation of martial rule is justified by the wise saying: unless we learn from history, we are bound to repeat itself.

Most of the youth of today does not know how the authoritarian government really dealt with our people in those deadly years.

They do not know that the people were treated like subjects whose only right was to follow what the martial ruler decreed. Or else!

The “or else!” alternative meant incarceration for indefinite periods, or worse, extrajudicial executions - death without due process - as the ruler and his minions pleased.

Democracy abhors such atrocious practices.

Let us make sure they do not happen again.

And we can begin by denouncing people seeking public office who brazenly justify such practices or who deny their having been done in the country’s recent past, along the current lines of the Holocaust deniers of Nazi atrocities that were perpetrated in the ‘30s up to the ‘40s in Europe.

Only fools are doomed to repeat their errors. Happily, our people are no fools.