ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews/22 August) – The country’s top military official on Tuesday expressed apologies to the victims of the martial law regime of President Ferdinand E. Marcos.
Speaking at the 17th anniversary of the Ateneo de Zamboanga University as a full-fledged university, Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff General Carlito Galvez Jr. assured the pain and suffering the people endured during the dictatorship “will never happen again.”
He added the AFP commits to “observe human rights” in implementing the martial law declaration in Mindanao.
President Rodrigo Duterte placed the entire Mindanao under martial law on May 23 last year, the same day Islamic State-inspired militants staged a siege in Marawi City.
The martial law declaration has been extended twice, the second extension to end on December 31 this year.
Galvez, along with Mindanao scholar and Lumad rights advocate Bro. Carlito “Karl” Morante Gaspar and the late press freedom fighter Antonio Ma. Nieva received awards during the commemoration.
Galvez received the Ateneo Peace Award “for his achievements as a peace-oriented leader in the military, his leadership role during the Marawi Siege as Commanding General of the Western Mindanao Command, and his contribution to the peace process in Mindanao as Chair of the Coordinating Committee on Cessation of Hostilities.”
Gaspar was given the Pro Deo et Patria (In the Service of God and Country) Award “for his achievements as a scholar, community development worker, theologian, and friend-advocate of the indigenous peoples, faith organizations, the Church, and the poor, especially of Mindanao.”
Gaspar, a Redemptorist brother, suffered torture as a political detainee during martial law.
Nieva was conferred the Mayor Cesar Climaco Award “for his critical leadership role as founder of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, and his contribution as a journalist to the struggle to restore Press Freedom during a most turbulent time in Philippine history.”
Galvez and Gaspar personally received the awards. Nieva, a native of Zamboanga, was represented by his daughter, Aletski Nieva-Nishimori.
The ceremony coincided with the 35th death anniversary of Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. which the university commemorated “for his heroism in defense of Philippine democracy.”
Aquino, a leading critic of the Marcos dictatorship, was assassinated upon his arrival at the airport in Manila that now bears his name. (Frencie L. Carreon/MindaNews)