“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” – Galatians 5:1, NIV
It was 49 years ago when our fragile democracy took a downward spiral turn when the dictator, Ferdinand Marcos, plunged the country into military rule. Thousands were arrested, tortured and even killed. Among them were Bishop La Verne Mercado, the General Secretary of NCCP at that time, who was arrested and Deaconess Filomena Asuncion of the United Methodist Church, who was captured and abused before being killed, and many others. The public coffers were plundered, resulting in a domino effect of continuing economic hardships that Filipinos suffer from to this day. Martial law was indeed one of the darkest days in our history.
Our present times are reminiscent of the dark days of the dictatorship. There is rampant suffering of the Filipino people on a daily basis where social services are scant. Public debt grew by leaps and bounds in order to fund a failed militarist approach to the COVID-19 pandemic response where there are reports of unbridled corruption.
We are also experiencing a de facto Martial law under President Rodrigo Duterte. With increasing gravity, there is a repeat of atrocities like killings, arrests, and other human rights violations that are attributed to state forces. Even church people, both clergy and lay from the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, Iglesia Filipina Independiente, the United Methodist Church, the Roman Catholic Church, among others, are not spared.
Any effort to distort history is not only a grave insult to our heroes and martyrs but is also a perversion of justice. We must listen, not to the previous dictator’s family and their enablers, but to those who suffered through their oppression. Let us never forget. Let us resist bureaucratic corruption and tyranny in their present forms and manifestations.
As we commemorate the 49th year of Martial Law today, the National Council of Churches in the Philippines joins the Filipino people in standing for truth and accountability and in resisting tyrannical rule in the country. Let us also acknowledge that it is also the International Day of Peace. On this day, may our memory remind us that our real heroes are the people who at the direst of circumstances continued to struggle and fight for peace based on justice.
To remember the atrocities of the Martial Law is to pay respect to the martyrs who bore the light during those darkest of days and paid the highest sacrifice with their life for championing the rights of people. May the examples of the past remind us to defend the present and our collective future. This is a crucial responsibility that we must bear upon our shoulders.###
September 21, 2021
REV. FELIPE B. EHICAN, JR.
RT. REV. JOEL O. PORLARES
DRA. GAY B. MANODON
MS. CATHERINE KAY F. ALMARIO
BISHOP REUEL NORMAN O. MARIGZA