The right to be forgotten

By September 25, 2022Andromeda's Vortex

By Farah G. Decano


THE right to be forgotten is a relatively new concept in the legal arena.  It first arose in 2014 when a man from Spain asked Google to erase his links that pertained to his past records of bankruptcy.  Because of the giant search engine’s refusal, the aggrieved individual elevated his case before the European Court of Justice claiming that the information he sought to erase was already outdated and that he has already paid his debt.  He won his case.

This entitlement to be erased from cyberspace gives every individual the chance to restart their lives with a clean reputation and to move on.

“Never Forget!” recently shouted the crowds in many parts of the country in commemoration of the Proclamation of Martial Law last September 21.  Some Filipinos refuse to forget the tyranny and excesses of the deposed president, Ferdinand Marcos. The shame that the living heirs of the deposed President Ferdinand Marcos undergo every year must be penetratingly painful.  I would understand if they would want this two decades-long episode in their lives to be forgotten.

Can the Marcos family claim their right to be forgotten?

Unfortunately, no.  The right to erase arose from data privacy laws and pertains mostly to personal data of private individuals on the internet.   President Marcos was a public official who imposed Martial Law on the Filipinos, the consequences of which were publicly recorded in books and newspapers worldwide.  It is repeatedly discussed in classrooms all over the world as the classic example of how not to run a government.  In this digital age, there are links to websites that carry past accounts of the dark years of the Marcos’ presidency.

With the right to be forgotten as a forgone conclusion, some loyalists have two major strategies to counteract the proliferation of these disgraceful memories about President Marcos’ leadership: 1) inundate the web with emotionally-laden historical distortion; and 2) propose to the Filipinos that forgetting is moving on.

While historical falsification aims to supplant fact-based and research- based knowledge embedded in our consciousness, this tactic only works when presented with so much drama and emotion.  Hence, PR strategists attempt to propagate false facts to appeal to the emotions of the Filipinos.

“We must move on.” “Forgetting is love.”

Above are the well-thought of slogans by propagandists.  They seem to be convincing because these catchphrases urge us to disregard our history.  Of course, who would not want to move on from a horrific past?

But, why must we not forget?

In an online event hosted by the College of Law of the Lyceum-Northwestern University on September 22, 2022, Former Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes A. Sereno said, “When we remember, we remember what we almost lost permanently.  And because the lessons are deep and very painful that so many people died, so many families were broken because of Martial Law, we will be able to find the pieces to help us build our country.”

Chief Justice Sereno enumerated the reasons why Martial Law must not be forgotten.  She said, “[w]e remember Martial Law so we will never again allow ourselves to be slaves to an ideology where only one man knows the answers… we also remember Martial Law to strengthen our resolve to avoid the mistakes of the past.   Be who you are to meant to be. You can only do that, if you remember.”

Towards the end of the virtual meet event, the good Chief Justice claimed that recalling our past, builds our identity and our resolve to improve our country for the better.

Don’t forget.  Never again.  Remember that.

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