May 10, 2007

The Cause for and the Costs of Remembering

Indeed. How many times must the Burgos family pay the price so that we may be able to remain free? (picture lifted from Malaya online)


I reprint a Statement I drafted for FLAG three (3) years ago on Human Rights Day, December 10, 2004; this became the guest Editorial of the late, lamented Today newspaper on December 10, 2004.

One of the people I was thinking of when I was writing this was the late Joe Burgos, publisher of Ang Pahayagang Malaya and WE Forum--back when writing about the truth was really detrimental to one's health and, in fact, one's continued existence on earth.

He was one among many people I admired back then because he had principles and stood by them--at the great personal prejudice. When freedom came in February 1986, he remained, to my delight and great admiration, consistent and true to his principles---unlike many of his contemporaries during that time, whom I also looked up to then, who turned out to have feet of clay (one of them is running as Senator under Gloria's party, guess who? Sorry, bad ako.)

Although not so titled, this statement could very well have been written yesterday and could have been subtitled--For Joe Burgos.


One day every year, we remember.

We remember years of infamy and days of darkness: when law was perverted to suit the needs of one man, his family and his minions; when freedom was but a myth and a mantra; when human rights and social justice were but beautiful words that stared us in our faces and mocked us.

But we remember also very many shining moments of courage, of inspiration, of unity, of selflessness, of martyrdom: when freedom was no longer a myth but our muse—to spur on struggles for greater freedoms; when human rights and social justice became beautiful words that allowed courageous men and women to stand fast and mock the tormentors of freedom.

One day every year on December 10, International Human Rights Day, we remember for we have cause to remember. Yet we should stop not at just remembering one day every year for the cause for remembering brings with it costs of remembering.

Remembering our freedom and how we regained it carries with it the costs of keeping that freedom:

Vigilance. Constant learning.

Commitment to the cause of freedom, social justice and human rights and all that that commitment entails. Selflessness, courage, inspiration and a love for country that transcends the love for self.

The costs of remembering.

In the face of already grinding poverty, the reality of rising prices of water, fuel, electricity, food and transportation threaten to bring new days of darkness. A bankcrupt culture of corruption and patronage politics threatens to resurrect years of infamy. Every day, the news brings little comfort: more and more of the poor become poorer and more powerless even as more and more of the rich and powerful become richer and more powerful.

On its 30th year and on the occasion of Human Rights Day 2004, the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) renews its commitment to the Filipino people even as we remember the many causes for and the costs of our freedom.

As the days of darkness once again threaten, we have cause to remember the shining moments of courage, of inspiration, of unity, of selflessness, of martyrdom—when freedom, this time from economic and social shackles, may become once again our muse and when human rights and social justice once again become beautiful words that allow courageous Filipinos to stand fast and mock the enemies of our freedom.

30 years ago, FLAG committed itself to the cause of human rights in the Philippines and the ASEAN region. This year, we remember and we stand fast by that commitment for the next 30 years, if need be: “to struggle for justice in time but under the aspect of eternity.”

Ka Joe.

I remember. I am grateful. I will not forget.

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