Human Rights Chair Accused Of Having ‘Martial Law Amnesia’

by Anne Marxze D. Umil


MANILA – Youth groups slammed Commission on Human Rights chairwoman Loreta Ann “Etta” Rosales’s tirade against them as they started their kick-off protest in commemoration of the 40 years of Martial Law. Kabataan Party-list Rep. Raymond Palatino said the CHR chairwoman has “selective forgotten the integral role of the student movement” during the Martial Law.

In a news report, Rosales said students should “Stop comparing martial law of yesterday to what they are doing now because if they do that they are merely muddling the issue. They should study. Do they know what they’re talking about?” She added that students should go to the library so that they would know the significance of Martial Law.

“She got amnesia by just getting into power,” this was the reaction of Vencer Crisostomo, national chairman of progressive youth group Anakbayan. He also added that it’s either “Rosales is suffering from amnesia and has forgotten what Martial Law actually was, or she is afflicted from short-term memory loss and is oblivious to the rampant human rights violations committed under the current administration.”

Progressive youth and students’ groups such as Anakbayan, National Union of Students of the Philippines, Student Christian Movement, College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines, and League of Filipino Students have announced their week-long protests against the rising cost of tuition and other fees and the spate of human rights violations prevailing under the Aquino administration.

“When I first heard her pronouncement, I could not believe my ears. Rosales has seemingly contracted a rare form of selective amnesia. Has she totally forgotten the vital role of the student movement in toppling the Marcos regime?” Palatino said.

Human rights group Karapatan also criticized the CHR chairwoman saying that the latter’s statement simply illustrates the historical amnesia, opportunism, and bankruptcy of those in the administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III. “They claim to ‘remember Martial Law,’ yet they forget one of the essential lessons during those dark years – that when the people and the youth are faced with anti-youth and anti-people programs, rights abuses, and plunder of our lands and resources, we fight back,” Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan said.

Palatino said that in the 1970s, Rosales was a former activist and also experienced different forms of torture under the hands of the military.

“Muddling the issue? What issue is she pertaining to? This statement is not expected from a veteran of the Martial Law era. Rosales has no right to tell students to study Martial Law. It seems that she herself has forgotten the role of the student movement in those dark years,” the youth solon added.

Palatino said there is no more fitting way to commemorate Martial Law than to intensify the struggle of students and the youth. “The conditions to launch a strike are all present – the spiraling cost of tuition, widening inaccessibility to education, continued misprioritization of funding for education. These are the same conditions that spurred the massive student movement in the years during Martial Law,” Palatino explained.

Policies under Marcos still continues

Crisostomo said Martial Law is still very much alive under Aquino administration. “We cannot simply remember. The ‘legacies’ of Marcos are still very much alive. Marcos’ Education Act of 1982 which legitimized tuition increases is still in full force today.”

For the academic year 2012-2013, there are more than 267 tertiary schools that have increased their tuition by as much as 15 percent. The groups said the actual number could be much higher as government does not monitor the dubious miscellaneous and other fees.

State universities and colleges such as the University of the Philippines (UP), and the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) which are supposed to provide accessible education have also increased school fees. The UP, through a “rebracketing” scheme has increased tuition from P1,000 ($24) to P1,500 ($36) per unit. PUP has meanwhile hiked its miscellaneous fees by as much P500 ($12).

Palabay also said Karapatan has received reports that the Armed Forces of the Philippines continues with their red-tagging campaign against youth organizations in schools in their counter-insurgency symposia with the assistance of the Department of Education.

“These, Ms. Rosales, along with the continuing human rights violations, the poverty that drives the young out of schools and the sheer puppetry of Aquino, are the ‘legacies’ of Marcos that you keep today,” Palabay said.

Lessons of Martial Law

For NUSP secretary general Isabelle Baguisi, the greatest lesson of Martial Law is that the people themselves should fight for their rights against tyranny. “And that is what we are doing now,” Baguisi said pertaining to their week-long protest.

She said it is not only once that Aquino, his spokespersons, Cabinet members – and now the chairwoman of CHR has belittled the youths’ ability to understand the needs of the time. “They have refused to even acknowledge the concrete calls of the youth and the pressing needs of the people.”

“If a callous government that is continuously committing human rights violations, and worsening the crisis does not merit mass protest actions and strong student outrage, then what does? The times are dark with the increasing drop-out rates, increasing unemployment, increasing prices, increasing militarization with decreasing rights, and decreasing social services.”

“The youth will honor that lesson when they march with the people on Sept. 21. And people like Rosales and Aquino will remain like cobwebs in the libraries of our history as a nation,” Palabay said.

Meanwhile, the youth and students’ group will still continue with their week-long protest in different state universities and colleges. Students will join the“unity march for education and human rights” together with faculty, staff and administrators. They will also join the bigger mass action on Sept. 21 as different sectors commemorate the 40th anniversary of Martial Law.

Palatino then urged Rosales to join the students in the upcoming strikes. “Perhaps Ms. Etta Rosales should join the upcoming strike to refresh her rusting memory on the value of collective action in asserting democratic rights,” Palatino said. (


PHOTO CREDIT:  From Facebook

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