We honor our heroes; we do not demean their memory

Of those named in the military’s recent propaganda campaign against “terrorists,” four have been honored in various times by the Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation, namely:

  1. Purificacion Pedro, a social worker and church worker who in 1977 is suspected to have been tortured to death by intelligence agents inside her hospital room in Bataan
  2. Ishmael Quimpo Jr., student activist who joined the armed resistance, and in 1981 was killed in Nueva Ecija by a “comrade” who changed sides and became a military asset
  3. Behn Cervantes, multi-awarded film and theater director, taken to jail for his critical stance against the Marcos regime’s abuses, died in 2013 from diabetes complications; and
  4. Ma. Lorena Barros, a teacher and feminist leader, one of the most recognized young leaders in the anti-dictatorship resistance, imprisoned for a year, in 1976 was captured again in Quezon and was executed.

Bantayog counts them as among the heroes and martyrs of the Filipino people against dictatorship. For them to be used in the government campaign against terrorism is to demean their memory and belittle their heroism.

These individuals are among the best examples from that generation that suffered under a dictatorship but refused to suffer it willingly. They resisted it. They put their safety and their family’s safety on the line. They fought the dictator. They gambled with their lives for a dreamed-of future that would give the country freedom, justice, democracy and sovereignty.

It is ironic that if we do reopen the pages of history, it is the Marcos-led military that terrorized the population, jailed members of the opposition, abducted or murdered local leaders, burned houses, tortured prisoners and raped women. These terroristic acts can all be found in reams of documentation painstakingly collected by human rights activists during that time; recorded in thousands of written affidavits now in government keeping; and cited even in law under Republic Act 10368 as basis for granting government compensation to victims of that regime.

This anti-terrorist propaganda offensive was launched on the eve of the scheduled oral arguments at the Supreme Court over the Anti-Terrorism Act. If the mistaken labels and libelous memes are meant to promote this law, they merely reveal how the bitter lessons of our history have not been learned.

The Anti-Terrorism Law will totally obfuscate again the reasons why dissatisfied and desperate citizens resort to bold protests. It is a law that will not bring about harmony; instead disharmony. It will not create peace; instead greater disorder. It will lead to iron rule. It will lead to a repeat of the past.

Our Bantayog heroes teach us a powerful lesson they had paid for with their lives, that Filipinos will fight for their freedom. If we still do not get this, if we let this oppressive law operate, if we let our heroes be called “terrorists,” if we do not jealously guard our rights as citizens, I fear we are headed towards another dark period in our history. #

(Sgd.) Wigberto Tañada
Chair, Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation Inc.
February 15, 2021

Additional signatories:

  • Representatives of the family of the late Behn Cervantes, through niece Rosario Juan
  • Representatives of the family of the late Purificacion Pedro
  • From the Quimpo family —
    Elizabeth Q. Bulatao
    Norman F. Quimpo
    Emilie Mae Q. Wickett
    Catherine Q. Castañeda
    Lillian Q. Walsh
    Nathan Gilbert Quimpo
    Ryan F. Quimpo
    George F. Chiu
    Sarita Quimpo Chiu
    Adriana Quimpo Chiu
    Bernardita A. Quimpo
    Maria Cristina P. Bawagan