Speech of CHR Chairperson, Jose Luis Martin C. Gascon, During the Launch of ‘Stories of Struggles SocDem Narratives’

Speech of CHR Chairperson, Jose Luis Martin C. Gascon, During the Launch of ‘Stories of Struggles SocDem Narratives’

Delivered 17 February 2020 at the Bulwagang Ka Pepe, CHR Central Office, Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City

Today, we shall be engaging in a public act of collective remembrance. We do so because in this post-truth world we now find ourselves in – to say NEVER FORGET, NEVER AGAIN shall be our way of standing – like Ka Pepe Diokno’s image outside this hall – defiant (as he exemplified his entire life) against all forms of injustice inspired perhaps by Dylan Thomas’ words: ‘Rage Rage Against Of The Dying Of The Light.’

Past and present authoritarian leaders always engage in myth-making to deceive the people. From their positions of power, they attempt to retell history with lies – denying culpability for atrocities against humanity and their abuse of authority. This is the reality that has emboldened our own former dictator’s widow to confidently assert in a documentary. The Kingmaker: ‘Perception Is Real & Truth Is Not.’

It is for this reason, we should recall now more than ever Milan Kundera’s invocation that: the struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting. He also further stated: remembering our past, carrying it around with us as always, may be the necessary requirement for maintaining – The Wholeness of the Self Without Our Collective Memory Shall Remain Broken & Damaged As A Nation.

In this context, the CHR is interested in these issues because it is committed to the principles of transitional justice which are a set of international standards that include – the right to truth and guarantees of non-repetition of violations. These norms are today threatened by developments such as the burial of the dictator at the libingan ng mga bayani and failure to punish perpetrators.

We must fully take into account the fact that the manner by which society remembers its past influences our public life at present and in the future. The Danish philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard reminds us: ‘life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards’ Historical Memory – that is to say: a TRUTHFUL and COMPLETE accounting of the facts and events that have shaped our nation – reinforces democratic values, human rights, and social trust, and citizens’ participation. Collective Memory contributes to strengthening our public institutions and over time improves the quality of our democracy.

Remembering serves as society’s bulwark against tyranny and the evils of violence, discrimination, social exclusion that come with it. It fosters an active citizenship that constantly affirms democratic values. After all a nation’s history and out collective memory of it, must necessarily go beyond what individual leaders of heroes said of did as they also include the continuing role that the karaniwang tao play in state-building and shaping history.

Thus, the formation of our collective memory is a continuing process involving multiple STORIES OF STRUGGLE for freedom and social justice. The narratives we will share remind us about who we are and our moral purpose to change this world for the common good. Then as now, it will be our steadfastness in pursuing collective public action on behalf of social causes that will be our best guarantee to end impunity and thwart the rise of any form dictatorship.

State institutions have a critical responsibility to ensure both the nurturing of this historical memory and to guarantee public access to it. However, it is also essential to build up partnerships and linkages across society with all stakeholders for proper memorial formation and transmission. Remembrance work must be developed in different dimensions within a framework of inclusivity, truth-telling, social dialogue, and civil participation in order to ensure the imparting of knowledge and values that ultimately bridges the gaps across cultures, regions, and generations about these essential truths and their significance to our common future.

We should all therefore participate in a new social movement that will undertake citizen-based memorialization initiatives that places the people at the center of our narratives in order to push back against historical and denial of public accountability.