A day before the birth anniversary of fallen dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr and in the run up to the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Martial Law, think tank IBON Foundation and the Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP) held a free public screening of two AsiaVisons documentary films. The groups said that these films are important to preserve Filipinos’ collective memory and fight historical distortions, as well as to remind that Marcos dictatorship-era social and economic problems continue to this day.
IBON said it is crucial to see that the elitist, repressive and foreign-biased policies started by Marcos Sr in the 1970s and ‘80s continue to hound the Filipino public – and, as before, that these will be met by people’s struggles to assert their rights. These policies caused landlessness, low wages, high prices and poor services even as Marcos’ cronies reaped the benefits of soaring national debt.
The film “Arrogance of Power” (1983) tackled the US-backed Marcos dictatorship wielding its might against ordinary people who demanded government accountability for the economic crisis that worsened in the 1970s and ’80s. There were thousands of extrajudicial killings, tens of thousands of abductions, and some 70,000 detentions under Martial Law. Former UP academic Dean Armando Malay, former senators Lorenzo Tañada and Rene Saguisag, and the late Sr. Marianni Dimaranan were among those who gave their testimonials.
“Beyond the Walls of Prison” (1987) featured the imprisonment and plight of Martial Law period activists from various sectors – farmers, workers, and women – at a time when human rights violations against change seekers were rampant. The interviewees included Marcos Sr-era political prisoners Atty. Jose Mariveles (deceased) and Adora Faye De Vera, who was arrested and detained for a third time just a few weeks ago in August. They stressed that rights violations and political prisoners will persist until the country’s economic and social problems are resolved.
Film archivist Prof. Rosemarie Roque of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines Center for Heritage Studies (PUP-CHS) moderated the screening’s talkback. She shared that the two documentaries were among the first batches of tapes from the AsiaVisions AV Collection digitized by the Community Archiving Workshop (CAW) Manila core team of volunteers. The collection is currently under the custodianship of IBON Foundation which is continuing digitization efforts with the help of CAW volunteers and support from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).
IBON executive director Sonny Africa stressed the importance of preserving such films in the fight to sustain Filipinos’ collective memory about what really transpired in Philippine history. He said remembering correctly is vital for the Filipino people to face present and future challenges, especially at a time of brazen distortions and disinformation.
Representatives of KAPATID-Families and Friends of Political Prisoners included Adora De Vera’s son Ron, who appeared briefly in the documentary with his mother, and Xandra Bisenio, daughter of a current political prisoner. They narrated how the social and economic circumstances that triggered people’s resistance before have only worsened in the decades since Martial Law. They also pointed out the growing sophistication of repression with increasing weaponization of the law and the use of modern technologies for surveillance and to manipulate public opinion. They stressed how the times call for further collective vigilance and action against social ills.
The event titled “Featuring the AsiaVisions AV Collection” was held at the Cine Adarna of the UPFI (University of the Philippines Film Institute) Film Center on September 10. The audience included members of people’s and civil society organizations, artist and media groups, students and academics.
IBON also recently released video shorts on its social media platforms that will culminate in a September 14 live online question and answer forum on the real reasons behind the economic crisis during Martial Law and the years that followed.