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Firmly on the road to modernity


Definitely, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) must be firmly on the road to modernity! In a previous article entitled “Towards a Truly Modern AFP” (published in this same daily on March 31, 2011), I quoted a definition of modernity from an internet source which I believed was relevant and appropriate for the on-going changes and reforms in our country’s
military establishment:  “Modernity denotes the renunciation of the recent past, favoring a new beginning, and a reinterpretation of historical origin.”

In my discussion of the three (3) aspects of modernity, I cited appropriate and relevant events, official policy statements, and the announced plans and programs of the military top brass concerned, especially their Commander-in-Chief, President P-Noy, as manifestations of the AFP’s self-transformational efforts. Relative to the first aspect, I argued that two (2) dark periods in its recent past had to be renounced:  First, its active and willing participation in the imposition of an oppressive Martial Law cum Dictatorship from 1972 to 1986; second, the blatantly high-handed corruption at its highest offices which the “Rabusa Expose’” and the  “Mendoza Report” had unveiled during the earlier part of the previous year.

That particular discussion ended with my postulation that the first dark period had already been effectively renounced, and that the second was still in the investigative stage of the renunciation process. Unexpectedly, however, a sublime occurrence had come to pass as an evidence of the AFP’s firm resolve to modernize itself. During the third quarter of the previous year, a surprising two-part phenomenon punctuated the AFP’s renunciation of its leading role during the
infamous Martial Law regime.

Part One took place last September 21st, which coincided with the 39th year of the Martial  Law declaration, when the AFP high command voluntarily turned over the first batch of declassified intelligence files to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR). The turnover agreement was signed by National Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and CHR Chairperson Loretta

Rosales. (Dona Z. Pazzibugan, “AFP turns over martial law papers to CHR,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, September 22, 2011)

During the symbolic turnover ceremony, Secretary Gazmin (heretofore perceived as a fair, duty-conscious and apolitical jailer of Ninoy Aquino in Laur, Nueva Ecija, during the martial law regime) handed to Chairperson Rosales (one of more than 40,000 victims who were illegally imprisoned and tortured by soldiers during the same regime) a two-foot thick pile of folders “that included ‘reports, leaflets and newspaper clippings’ about the late former Senator Benigno ‘Ninoy’ Aquino Jr. and the late Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin, then leading Marcos critics.”

The AFP’s aim in releasing the declassified martial law intelligence files to the CHR was “to make them available for historical and other public purposes and thereby start a process of healing based on truth, transparency, fairness and justice.” Secretary Gazmin himself said that the objective was “to bring closure [to the issue of Martial Law] and to ensure that [the AFP will] never commit the same mistakes again.” He further commented that the “first two years of martial law were good until there were excesses later on. It will be good to study . . . what happened. Why was it good, why did it fail.”

For her part, Chairperson Rosales (who “expected to find records of victims of torture, summary killings and forced disappearances”) declared that the “CHR would open the documents to historians, academicians, researchers and the surviving victims of martial law.” A related development then had it that “a proposed compensation law for martial law victims is still
pending in Congress [and that] the 1995 class suit ruling of a US District Court in Hawaii awarding damages to some 7,000 victims is already being enforced.”

Part Two of the phenomenon occurred last December 10th, when the Department of National Defense (DND) turned over the second batch of “70 additional martial law documents. . . to the [CHR] in a ceremony marking International Human Rights Day.” (TJ Burgonio, “Martial law papers out,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, December 11, 2011)

Some of the prominent titles included the following:  (1) The Agrava Fact-Finding Board; (2) After-operation Report and Security Survey of NAIA Re: Sen. Aquino Assassination; (3) Reassessment of the Communist Movement After One Year of Martial Law; (4) Russian Vessels; (5) MNLF Terroristic Plan; and (6) Batasang Pambansa Election. Included in the same
files was a “1981 special report . . . about a plot to assassinate Marcos.”

During the ceremony, CHR Chairperson Rosales commented that “two institutions [AFP and CHR] that had eyed each other with distrust . . . have come together to start a process of healing [and] a transformative tool for achieving transitional justice.”  She expressed the primary value of the declassified files in these words: “The idea was to make the files available to students, academicians, media, historical institutions, libraries and archives for research; to victims and survivors of rights violations for validating their claim for compensation; to government agencies for legislation and policy reforms; and to security forces for reform policies.”

Ms. Jacqueline Badcock, Resident Coordinator of the United Nations in Manila, “lauded the declassification and transfer of the files from the Isafp [Intelligence Service of the AFP] to the CHR [and that it was] a specially momentous occasion . . . bringing closure to a troubled period [when the] human rights [of Filipinos] were not guaranteed.” She finally said that the AFP’s noble gesture “was one ‘huge step’ toward realizing [that] transparency and accountability [were] important in securing the rights of Filipinos [who] should find inspiration in human rights activists, because ‘it is their often unrecognized bravery and resistance in the face of adversity that changes society, that changes the world.’”

At this point, a pertinent question begs to be asked:  Will there be a “Part Three?” That is, will the military establishment release more declassified martial law intelligence files to the  CHR?  Ms. Gina Barte, head of the Philippine Association of Museums (which, together with the De La Salle University and the University of the Philippines libraries, has volunteered to sort, inventory, catalogue and conserve such papers), “anticipated more voluminous documents from the [defense department].” She ended by saying, “There should be more to come.”

Crowning Ms. Barte’s hope is CHR Chairperson Rosales’s keen observation that “what is most important is that [the military] has opened up to accept the truth that there are these documents that reflect the violence that occurred during martial law. This is part of the paradigm shift in the military.”

Such paradigm shift, I believe, is at the heart of the AFP’s self-transformational strategy, which has inspired it to renounce the two dark periods in its recent past. This clearly manifests that definitely the AFP is firmly on the road to modernity!

By Ric Adjawie

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