As part of the Ateneo de Manila University’s Talab: Alternative Class Program, the Ateneo Alumni Association (AAA) organized a screening of the documentary film Batas Militar. Ten members of the production team reunited for the screening: Kara Magsanoc- Alikpala, Veronica Pantig , Jeannette Ifurung ,Mike Alcarazen, Jaime Fabregas, Pete Lacaba Fe Zamora, Zonia Timbol , Zita Graganera and Reggie Gule. Also present was Doris Nuval Baffrey, the woman who detonated an explosive during a speech of then President Ferdinand Marcos in 1980.
“We want the young to know what happened so that they don’t forget. We want the young to know that the price of democracy is eternal vigilance. We want the young to know that absolute power corrupts absolutely,” Magsanoc said. She served as the film’s producer.
Creating the Documentary
Zamora, who was the documentary’s researcher, said almost 100 personalities were interviewed but only 40 or 50 went on camera. They had sources who not only gave tips but hard-to-find documents like an original copy of Oplan Sagittarius, the allegedly master plan that the former dictator used to lay out his Martial Law agenda.
Another vital informant, Zamora recalled, was Bernabe Buscayno. Known as Commander Dante, Buscayno showed at 7 pm for their 7 am interview in Tarlac.
“It was so dark and then he appeared,” she said. “Wala kaming narinig. Nothing. After the interview, he stepped out and then he vanished.”
Zamora believed that these key personalities not only wanted to share the role they played during martial law but also to clear themselves for their posterity.
“In the military they wanted to clear themselves. Imelda wanted to reinforce the supposed golden era of Marcos.”
“All these footage that you’ve seen, hindi mo na makikita sa mga library kasi hindi na siya na preserve,” said Timbol, who was the documentary’s production assistant. The Marcos footages were taken at the UP Film Center but 10 years later when she returned, the videos were gone.
Gule, the film’s editor, recalled how the busy streets of Binondo went silent the day Ninoy Aquino was assassinated. He saw how big the impact was. “It was all true. Hindi niyo lang naabutan pero I can tell you it’s all true.”
Recent events have brought to light the divided opinion of Filipinos about the martial law. The burial of Marcos and the attempt of historical revisionism created uproar among the mass. Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter were turned into battlefield and of course, the phenomenon of internet trolls and fake news.
Alcazaren said that fake news is intentional disinformation. Today, people get information from two platforms: social media and mainstream media, he said. For Alcazaren, who directed the film’s OBB and served as its creative consultant, there is no accountability for those who use their own social media accounts to share and spread news. “It’s the wild, wild west. There are no boarders.”
Zamora, a researcher at Philippine Daily Inquirer, said that there is danger when fake news is on mainstream media and is propagated by an official platform.” Fake news, she said, is continuously repeated and if people believe, becomes more dangerous. When asked how to counter fake news, her advice is simply to start “telling the truth.”
“Not the alternative truth but the real truth, the verifiable truth. Because that is what journalism is all about. It can be verified, it cannot be accurate if it’s not verifiable. There has to be a source verified and is backed by data,” she said.
Passing the Torch
Nuval encouraged the youth to stay vigilant and keep the truth as shown in the documentary. “What I ask of you is to tell your fellow students and your young siblings to tell what really happened”
Co-executive producer Pantig noted how only a few of their interviewees are still alive. “Iilan na lang ang makakapagkwento ng katotohanan sa atin. Narinig niyo na dito, may katotohanan sa mga nangyari,” she said.
She thus reminded the students that now it is their responsibility to share the truth to others, know, search and continue fighting for it