From Numbers to Testimonies: Media remembers grim of Martial Law

CHEERS TO the media organizations that produced fact-based reports on the 49th commemoration of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ declaration of Martial Law. Apart from covering the protests that took place on September 21, media also talked to martial law victims and clarified some facts and figures that have been distorted by deliberate disinformation.

TV programs interviewed Martial Law victims who detailed the physical and mental torture and the sexual attacks they experienced during the times, keeping tab of documented numbers of arrests, deaths, and enforced disappearances. ABS-CBN’s TV Patrol and TV5’s Frontline Pilipinas both cited history professor Xiao Chua who pointed out that the abuses during the Marcos regime should be taught in schools. Further, human rights lawyer Chel Diokno told ANC’s Headstart that the “golden years” of martial law was only for the Marcoses and not for the general public. Both Chua and Diokno emphasized the importance of an informed youth vote in the upcoming elections.

AlterMidya, Bulatlat, Manila Bulletin Online, and The Philippine Star’s Facebook accounts published on their different platforms fact-checks that corrected views on how well the economy was doing at the time and noted other controversial projects of the regime.

VERA Files, on July 18 2021, fixed its spotlight on the Marcos family secrets, lies, and attempts at historical revisionism, taking off from the Marcoses’ “ancestral home” in San Juan City. The article written by researchers Miguel Paolo P. Reyes and Joel F. Ariate Jr. was re-published by ABS-CBN News Online last September 21. Reyes and Ariate were also interviewed in ANC’s Dateline Philippines on September 23. When asked about how the people should feel when they enter this ancestral house that has been a “silent witness” to the years of plunder, the researchers said “be skeptical” and “have a critical engagement with it.” 

CMFR hopes that more news organizations will build up on or expand the reach of what other news organizations produce as such cross-over reporting enlarges the reach of truth. 

Meanwhile, Rappler gave greater currency to the anniversary as it pinpointed the similarities between Marcos and current President Rodrigo Duterte —from grave human rights violations; attacks against media and press freedom, widespread disinformation; and cronyism. 

With a new generation of voters, media must clearly step up their efforts to recall this correct historical context. The public needs to know what makes all truths timely, especially the truths of the past which may have been swept away by propaganda. Media are obliged to revisit these as established historical facts. 

The media whose value depends on their freedom and independence, must reckon with regimes that silence them. They must recognize how past journalists used truth-telling as a weapon against tyranny.