Unforgiven

THE controversial reunion of former Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) officials at the University of the Philippines last week shows that the hatred against the late President Ferdinand Marcos and his family remains deep albeit among a small but vociferous group who keep this aversion for the Marcoses alive. It seems that the Biblical injunction of the iniquities of the father visiting their children and their children’s children even unto the fourth and fifth generations remains a reality in this Christian country.

We are taught forgiveness and mercy by our Christian faith, although it is a personal decision and oftentimes depending how far and how deep the hurt or damage had been. If the crucified Christ be our model as we are taught to follow His example, then forgiveness though painful in itself can be a burden we can unload. As is often said, we can forgive but cannot forget – a contrast that loses the luster and grace of forgiveness. True forgiveness means to forget the hurt but all to learn from it.

To repeat, forgiveness depends upon a person though most will say that time heal if we really wanted to forgive; it does not mean that the aggressor remains unpunished. Punishment, sadly usually escapes us and so our Christian faith assures us in the words of the Bible, “’Vengeance is mine’, says the Lord”.

Let us go back into recent history, World War II. Over 60 million people died from the aggression by the Axis Powers – Germany, Japan, and Italy and a few small countries that wanted to share in the spoils of the victorious Axis. The murders and sufferings of this war pale compared to previous world conflicts although relatively World War I, which was limited in Europe, had more victims.

Unimaginable killings of demonic minds inflicted on mankind the horrors that could make the rampage of the Romans as they conquered Europe an easy ride. Numerous books had been written of the horrors of man’s inhumanity to man and yet after the war, we began the slow process of healing. While all German and Japanese nationals were participants and therefore morally complicit in these tortures, only the leaders were punished by a swift but final and ultimate end – hanging.

In the Philippines, many Filipinos collaborated with the Japanese, despite all the rosy acclaims about our resistance to Japan. In the euphoria and through ingenious manipulation of the public mind, Filipinos practically forgot and quickly forgave the collaborators and the Japanese. There was personal vengeance, like the Moises Padilla killing, but the nation completed the process of forgiveness.

Hardly known is that a People’s Tribunal was set up after the war on advice of the Americans. The Tribunal charged as many as 80% of the members of our Congress and thousands of local officials and even military officers for collaboration and for actually helping the Japanese against their own people.

Many of the Filipino soldiers who were “reeducated” in prison camps were used as Japanese constabularies, ironically to hunt down their former comrades. Many political rivals were appointed into local governments and even in a national assembly. Benigno Aquino, yes, the grandfather of President Aquino, headed the Kalibapi that established the Japanese sponsored Philippine Republic and declared war against the United States.

The collaborators were never punished and most politicians returned to high positions in the government. How did this come about?

Against the desire of General Douglas MacArthur who had instructed the punishment of war criminals and collaborators, newly elected (1948) President

Manuel Roxas, the grandfather of Mar Roxas, issued a general amnesty, erasing all crimes of collaborations and acts related to the war. In this mass forgiveness, many culprits had to account for their acts only before the Judgment Seat of God.

IIocos Governor Imee Marcos urged the anti-Marcos to move on, a remark that generated sneers even from people who never suffered under the martial law regime but found the residue of hate against Marcos an issue to ride on. After the downfall of Marcos, the succeeding governments indeed rode and abetted this hate and prevented the natural process of forgiveness.

But the hate is in fact regressing. Political developments indicate this “forgive and forget” mantra. But, why do some keep the hate alive?

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