"Hindi tayo maaring makalimot"

(This timely speech by Sen. Jovito R. Salonga's was delivered in November 28, 1998 during Bantayog ng mga Bayani's annual celebration of martyrs and heroes. In that same year, proposals were being floated to the Estrada administration to have dictator and former President Ferdinand Marcos buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. After being turned down for almost a decade, the move has been surfaced again this year. The above photo was taken by Mandy Navasero.)

Magandang hapon po sa inyong lahat. Bayaan ninyo na batiin ko kayo ng isang maligayang pagbati at pasasalamat sa inyong pagdalo sa ating pagdiriwang ngayon.

Dumating na naman ang tanging araw ng pagpaparangal sa mga tunay na bayani at martir ng ating lahi.

As long as we continue to remember the martyrdom and the heroism of those who in the darkest period of our nation’s history since 1946 gave their lives that we might become free, and as long as we resolve never again to allow the forces of darkness to prevail, this annual celebration will be truly a day of meaningful tribute to the men and women whom we honor here, including all those we honored before and the four new martyrs and heroes we shall cite today.

Sunod-sunod ang mga pangyayari sa ating bansa na dapat ikabahala ng mga nagmamahal sa kalayaan at katotohanan. You will recall there was a move to honor the man who imposed martial law and dictatorial rule by burying him in the Libingan ng mga Bayani and thus making it appear that he too should be acclaimed as a hero. The excuse was a masterpiece of deception – namely that by burying Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani, we not only honor him, we can also bury the past. Fortunately, it was the collective resistance of an outraged people which defeated that move.

Now we are told that the man who carried out the orders of the dictator, the man whose remains have just arrived must be given military honors befitting his rank. We are being reminded again of the need to bury the past by honoring those who caused so much sorrow and suffering not only in the past but also up to the present. They seem to forget that by their brutality and inhumanity, these men who once commanded the military had also dishonored their office and their uniform.

What they really want is for us to forget the ugly past instead of facing it and doing something about it—they want us to forget the torture, the salvaging, the disappearances, the extrajudicial executions and assassinations, on top of the plunder of the nation’s wealth, the extortions, the larcenies and the acts of graft and corruption.

Ngunit hindi tayo maaring makalimot. Itinatag natin ang Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation upang laging maalala natin ang lahat ng kalupitang ginawa nila at sa kabilang dako ang kabayanihan ng mga dakilang tao na ating pinararangalan ditto. That is why, apart from the monument at the entrance, we have this Wall of Remembrance. Not just to remember the atrocities and the gross violations of human rights of those in power but also to remember the heroism, the martyrdom, and the supreme sacrifice and nobility of those whose names we honor here from year to year, regardless of their political beliefs.

The question may be asked, are we not willing to forgive and reconcile with those who caused us so much grief and misery? Yes, we are prepared to forgive and reconcile—but only after truth is recognized and justice is served. Truth and justice first, then forgiveness and reconciliation later for the sake of national unity. For forgiveness without truth is an empty ritual and reconciliation without justice is meaningless and, worse, an invitation to more abuses in the future.

Inuulit ko ang malugod na pagbati sa inyong lahat. Welcome to this Annual Celebration of the Bantayog ng mga Bayani which happens to be the Centennial of our Independence.

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