Leni Robredo at Bonifacio Day rites: Truth doesn’t depend on majority
“Truth does not depend on the majority and heroism does not change according to who’s in power,” former Vice President Leni Robredo said at the annual honoring of heroes and martyrs who fought against tyranny during the martial law years.
“No matter the political climate, the meaning of being a ‘hero’ never changes,” she said at Bantayog ng mga Bayani (Monument for Heroes) in Quezon City on Thursday, Andres Bonifacio Day.
“[Being a hero] is not based on where one is buried, but on how they lived. [It is based on] how they sacrificed themselves for a cause that is greater than their self-interest. That means being a hero is based on real actions,” Robredo said.
The ceremony on Thursday saw the formal unveiling of six names of modern-day heroes newly etched on the Wall of Remembrance at the Bantayog shrine. They are Manuel “Buyog” Sampiano, Melecio Marimon, Emerito Rodriguez, Jesus Antonio Carpio, Luis General Jr. and Isagani Serrano.
In keeping with tradition, the event honored three past honorees Julieta Cupino-Armea, Filomena Asuncion, and Haydee Yorac.
According to Robredo, the memorial for heroes does not just “remind us of a dark period in our history” but also serves as a “beacon of truth that Filipinos do not lack patriotism.”
At a time when the late dictator’s son has risen to the presidency, Robredo, who lost the 2022 presidential elections to President Marcos, lamented that many people now see the martial law years, marked by human rights abuses and corruption, as a period of prosperity.
“There are times, just like where we are now, in which the meaning of having a memorial like this is being challenged … wherein martial law, dictatorship, poverty and killings, issues that these people have fought against and died for, are now known by most as a ‘golden age,’” she said.
But “history is history,” Robredo said, adding: “No matter how many say otherwise, the truth does not depend on the majority.”Speaking to the honorees’ families in attendance, Robredo urged them to continue speaking the “truth” even to those who chose to believe lies.
Lawyer Chel Diokno, Bantayog chair, said the event was the 32nd annual honoring since it began in 1992, but it was “extra special” this year because of the attendance of Robredo, a “leader of substance.”
During her speech, Robredo noted that the context would often change with each year of the honoring.
“We compare the stories of those who we honor today to the stories of those whom we know of in the present,” she said.
While the Bantayog was made of stone, it is also “made up of the body and blood, lungs and throat, and collective voices” of heroes throughout history, she said.
But Robredo said the actions of the nine honorees could never be forgotten and denied.
“It is true that Julieta Armea fought for the rights of workers … It is true that Ka Liway Asuncion fought in the name of farmers abused by higher-ups … It is true that Haydee Yorac stood for a just government. The people we are honoring today, and those that we have already recognized in over two decades, did everything they could for the country,” she said.
Robredo also hailed Sampiano, who stood for the rights of the Ata community; Carpio, a lawyer and writer who helped abuse victims; his partner, General, considered the “conscience of the community”; Marimon, who fought for farmers’ rights; Rodriguez, an “intellectual” who taught the poor; and Serrano, a community organizer, as heroes.
Paraphrasing a poem by Jane Hirshfield, Robredo urged the audience, “Don’t let them say we didn’t see. We saw. Don’t let them say we didn’t speak or write. We spoke with our voices and hands.”
Relatives of the honorees expressed gratitude for the recognition.
“I am grateful because I thought that the Ata Tribe were the only ones who knew that [Buyog] was a hero of our tribe,” said Sampiano’s sister Joy Abalardo. Serrano’s son Karl noted the return of the Marcos family to power proved that “the fight of Isagani and all the others here are not yet done.”
“They serve as matches that ignite the flame in our hearts,” he said.