Reward, punishment

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Friday, February 1, 2013

BECAUSE of the initially baffling reluctance of previous administrations the pursuit of justice for Martial Law victims was launched in a Hawaii court. Reluctance to pursue the other side of the issue still persists but the recent passage in both houses of Congress of the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013 is definitely a cause for big rejoicing.

At last we are officially recognizing the heroism of the victims of Martial Law and our obligation to compensate all of them, not just the 9,539 who sued Marcos in Hawaii. This is most encouraging as it is a landmark appreciation and respect for basic human rights.

The provision is also very sweet that Filipino students will learn of the woes of the victims and the atrocities of the perpetrators in all three school levels. This ensures that Filipinos will get the true and original version, not the revision attempted by some quarters, of that dark period in our history.


That is the reward part. Now to the punishment part.

Officially recognizing the heroism of victims is clearly an indictment of the victimizers. But why is it that so far there has not been even a feeble attempt to bring the authors of those atrocities to justice? The leadership of this country has so far not only failed to prosecute and punish the beasts of cruel torture, disappearances and death but has even allowed them to climb back up the country’s ladder of power.

Indemnifying victims is only half the work. If we want to write our history from the victims’ point of view, as histories should be but are seldom done, we need to bring the perpetrators to justice. We should be able to teach Filipinos not just the heroism of victims but the punishment meted on the victimizers. We do not want future Filipinos to be asking why a wrong was recognized and victims rewarded but oddly no perpetrator was ever judged and punished.

Social analysis explains why “bad” dynasties are not punished by “good” dynasties even as the latter recognize and reward victim-heroes. “Bad” and “good” political dynasties (as even Malacañang lamely puts it) are really indistinguishable from one another in their resolve to keep power within their small elite circle and to simply take turns ruling the victims. Hence, they’ll do everything to recognize and reward the victims but never to punish the victimizers who are their own.

The bottom-line issue is not about “good” or “bad” dynasties. It is whether or not either “good” or “bad” dynasty is willing to share power with the rest of us, their victims. The answer apparently is “No” as shown by their willingness to give victims their just reward but reluctance to give victimizers their just punishment.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 01, 2013.


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