The Martial Law Papers

The Intelligence Services of the Armed Forces of the Philippines is set to sign Memorandum of Agreement with the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in Malacañang this Saturday, Dec. 10, the 66th anniversary of the signing of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. the agreement will pave the way for the turnover of all declassified papers covering over a 10-year period that began on Sept. 22, 1972, the day after president Ferdinand Marcos placed the Philippines under martial law.

Why do I know this? Well, yesterday, the national board of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) Philippines met at the University of San Carlos Museum to decide, among others, whether to assist the CHR in inventorying and cataloguing voluminous documents that we think would occupy at least an entire container van if not more. we all agreed that this is a task ICOM Philippines can very well do given its long list of members who are experts in archiving and museological work. (ICOM used to be a body under the United Nations until recently when it separated to become a partner NGO comprising thousands of museums worldwide. In our last triennial conference alone, held during the Shanghai Expo 2009, some 7,000 delegates participated in seven days of plenary sessions and meetings, which gives one some idea about the network of the organization.)

The initial turnover of the so-called Martial Law Papers actually happened last Sept. 21, the 39th anniversary of martial law in the country. but only about 30 files, mostly about Ninoy Aquino, the assassinated father of President Benigno Aquino III, had been turned over. This time around, the signing, to be witnessed by President Aquino himself, will signal the transfer of more documents after these will be catalogued hopefully by ICOM-Philippines if plans push through.

Already there are doubts from some quarters, mainly those who suffered the brunt of the military regime that lorded over the country for more than a decade.

There is valid suspicion that what will be released are sanitized and censored versions. inasmuch as many of the anti-martial law activists are still very much alive, some of them probably still active in the underground movement, I can imagine that some files will not see the light of day yet. those of us who have gone back to our “capitalist decadence” and have “strayed from the path of revolution” will probably find our files being released.

One can fairly say that I was a rabid anti-Marcos activist from 1982 until 1986, when I “bolted” the “movement” to campaign for Cory Aquino. Shortly thereafter, I worked for human rights groups documenting the 1987 vigilante killings in Talisay, Minglanilla and nearby towns until the gore and blood wore me down. Eventually I went on to cultural heritage archaeology where I now deal only with skeletons (hard tissue) and not chopped (tadtad) soft-tissue bodies. My memories of those gut-wrenching and emotionally trying times have not left me, of course. I still choke back tears when I remember those years of suffering and death, especially of fellow activists.

But like all of us who live quiet lives now, I am eager to see whether I was in anyone’s order of battle or was a subject of someone being trained at spying or infiltration. who knows? As my last column indicated, even during the Katipunan’s revolt against Spain, there were many in the Katipuneros’ midst who reported to the authorities.

For me it would be personally interesting to see who these were and what have become of them now. the all-important question is of course, will those files tell all?

Apropos the cement overlay of the Malabuyoc Church facade, Fr. Brian Brigoli, the foremost conservation specialist of the Archdiocese of Cebu, has informed me that it was he who advised the parish priest there, Fr. Brandit Bohol, the correct mixture of slaked lime, pozzolanic cement, white cement and fine sand to apply ever so thinly on the coral stone surface of the church.

So everyone can heave a sigh of relief as it is now clear that it is not cement that has been applied but a thin lime mortar mixture, what is referred to in conservation as “sacrificial render” just to cover cracks and small crevasses where water might seep into the structure and eventually bring it down.

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The Martial Law Papers


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