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4, 2013

NR # 3005C

Speech of the Hon. Feliciano Belmonte Jr. Recollection 1081 Clear and Present Danger February 4, 2013
To my Colleagues here today and to all our valued guests, good afternoon. At the outset, let me thank the organizer Ms. Norma Liongoren of Liongoren Gallery, and the exhibitors. This exhibit Recollection 1081 Clear and Present Danger is not a mere memorial of the Martial Law era. It is a fitting tribute to the character, perseverance, and courage of those whose lives defined and redeemed that era. I understand that most of the works here today belong to KASIBULAN or Kababaihan ng Sining Biswal ng Bagong Sibol ng Kamalayan, whose colourful and meaningful, however painful, experiences during those dark years gave birth to these works of art that we appreciate today. While their works are recollections of the Martial Law years, they are also tangible evidence of the impact of that notorious period in history on Philippine life. To you esteemed women artists here today, congratulations. You express the innate creativity of Filipino women and reflect their very best values truth, courage, and passionate love of country and people. Todays exhibit is a veritable feast of art. There are paintings and sculptures that visually inspire. There are poems that will have to read and heard. But the form is secondary to their messages and the messengers that bear them. The messages are freedom, justice, democracy, and patriotism. The messengers are the brave people who lived and died so that succeeding generations of Filipinos would live and breathe freedom, justice, democracy, and patriotism. All these amazing flow of creativity stem mainly from a common experience Martial Law. Martial law was imposed on September 21 1972, lifted on January 17, 1981, and continued to be felt long after. Military rule, which was supposed to address the communist threat and civil unrest, resulted to shocking and rampant human rights abuses and outright curtailment of many basic freedoms of Filipinos. But amidst this dark period, there arose activists freedom fighters who refused to bow before the overwhelming force set against them and visionaries who saw, before anyone of us did, a deservedly brighter future for our country. They suffered persecution, harassment, and imprisonment. Many experienced torture of various forms. And still others lost nay, gave up their very lives for the values they believed in and the countrymen they loved and protected. This exhibit celebrates their valor and steadfastness to the future that they envisioned for the Philippines.

This exhibit is also a testament to the power of art. Art is not only a beautiful expression, as you all know. Art is used to communicate ideas, to achieve psychological and healing purposes, and to inspire change. These are what we can expect the pieces of art here to achieve to evoke memories, to provoke deep thought while stirring our emotions, to strengthen resolve, and ultimately, to inspire action. Without question, the Martial Law era was a formidable challenge to our collective spirit as a nation and to our individual selves. Faced with trials and tribulations, we were all faced with that question of how to respond. Indeed, it would have been all too easy if each individual who suffered greatly during that time would have lost all hope and despaired. It would also have been easy to imagine that a nation would self-destruct because of its long ordeal. Thankfully, this was not the case. While we grieve for those who perished during that long and cruel night, we are also thankful that there are many who survived their experiences, emerged stronger and more resolute, and lived to tell their stories. Stories of distress and suffering, stories of redemption and healing, forgiveness and compassion, and of moving forward. We do not shun the historical reality of the armed struggle and insurgency of those years. But in the end, did we see our countrymen fighting with each other? No. While it would have all been too easy to pursue a path of violence, the majority of our countrymen chose differently. We made history during the People Power Revolution by embracing peace as our weapon against the guns and tanks that were brought to bear upon us. We reciprocated hatred and violence with peace and compassion. We held fast to the genuine principles of freedom and democracy. The Martial Law era, in the end, would be punctuated not with rifles held high but with rosaries and flowers offering reconciliation, all representing what is best and brightest within us. Should we forget those dark years? No. We should remember them like they happened yesterday. We should always remain vigilant of threats to our lives and our liberty. But I hold that we should use the Martial Law experience to impel us further into the future that we continue to aspire for our country and people. Let us always remember the past, but we shall not allow ourselves to be shackled by it. Let us forge ahead and carve something new. Today, while we are not under martial rule, we still find ourselves in struggle. We struggle against the persistent and dehumanizing problems of poverty, hunger, disease, unemployment to name but a few. Today, we continue to fight to rightfully claim greater freedom, not from enslavement, but from inequality in opportunity. We still struggle to raise the quality of human life, and ensure that every citizen will have a stake in the countrys future. The good news is that history is now providing us with yet another opportunity to succeed and to do good. As you all know, our economy has been doing well recently, and forecasts of continued growth this year prevail. Notwithstanding, our country and our government has been making concrete efforts towards improving governance of laying a stable foundation for more meaningful development.

You will still recall that the 15th Congress was at the forefront of the impeachment of former Chief Justice Renato Corona a strong signal that our country is determined to be effective in its anti-corruption efforts. Of course, dealing with corruption is only one of many reform areas. Our country needs to attract more investments, enhance its competitiveness, develop its physical and human infrastructure, and provide more jobs and opportunities for its people, among other imperatives. But in order to succeed in dealing with present and future problems, we again have to make a proper response. In the face of problems, we can choose to withdraw ourselves and be apathetic to what happens to our country. We can choose to be pessimistic and even refuse to cooperate in the supreme task of nation-building, further dividing ourselves from others. Even today, there still remain those who resort to armed struggle to achieve their ends. Let us therefore keep in our hearts and minds a great lesson which the Martial Law era taught us. Our victory against the social and economic challenges we face today will once again be attained through peaceful means. It will be through our democratic system that reforms will benefit the smallest and the poorest. I am pleased to inform you that the bicameral report on the bills passed by two Houses of Congress, Providing For Reparation and Recognition of the Survivors and Relatives of Violation of Human Rights and Other Related Violations During Marcos Regime is already up for ratification. This legislative measure provides monetary and non-monetary forms of reparation to and on behalf of human rights victims, including those who died and disappeared, and who were detained or tortured. To insure that we and future generations do not forget the sacrifices and lessons from Martial Law, the soon to be enacted law also mandates the establishment of memorial, museum or library in honor of the human rights victims, and the teaching of Martial Law atrocities and the sacrifices of human rights victims in the basic, secondary and tertiary education curricula. As we continue our efforts to see that justice is done for the victims of the Martial Law era, let us continue to embrace our democratic ideals. In the face of any clear and present danger, let our love for our country and people be our guiding beacon that will see us through to a safe passage. Let me thank all of you for being here in this exhibit today. May you continue to express the very best in our culture and our people. Maraming salamat.