Former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos passed away in 1989 but seeing the way people are talking about him lately, it’s as if he is still alive today. This is evident in the way some members of mainstream media keep reliving the “horrors” of the Marcos years. There are quite a number of articles highlighting the same things with one so-called “investigative” journalist admitting it was easy for the Marcoses to slip right back into politics like they never left. Never mind that it was the voters who put them back in power anyway.
It’s a real mystery why so-called “experts” who claim to know a lot about the alleged crimes during the Martial Law years can’t or didn’t even file a case against the perpetrators so the issues could finally be resolved. Had the cases against them been tried in court, the parties involved could have found justice and the Filipino people could have had peace and moved on. Instead, the issues continue to be ‘highlighted’ even after they had dragged on for decades.
One can be forgiven for thinking that the accusers do not really want closure so they can continue pointing the finger at someone to blame for the lack of progress in the country. Perhaps the late former President Cory Aquino herself wanted it this way because she did not really want to know and pursue the people responsible for her husband’s death.
A “Never Again” movement on social media is even actively advocating taking a stand against Marcos and his heirs. The movement aims to remind Filipinos about the atrocities during the Martial Law years in an effort to prevent a repeat of the same experience. Although for a group standing against tyranny and dictatorship, their discussion on the social networking site Facebook is not open to public scrutiny. Likewise, people with opposing views are not welcome. So much for the freedom of expression they supposedly hold so dear.
Despite the efforts of the “Never Again” advocates at reminding Filipinos how ‘horrible’ it was during the Marcos regime, there are still people who become nostalgic for what they say was the “good ol’ years” – back when they still felt genuinely proud to be called a “Filipino”. Their numbers seems to be growing and it is enough to “alarm” a group of artists to wage a campaign to counter what they think is “historical revisionism” in social media. The artists reportedly came up with posters containing critical views of the Marcos regime.
A spokesman for the group was quoted as saying “it’s alarming when people say that they would rather have martial law than the democracy we have today”. The artists seem to think pro-Marcos propagandists are making it out to appear like “the iron rule of Ferdinand Marcos look admirable—and even worth repeating—to the younger generation.”
It is an interesting phenomenon indeed, the way some people are romanticizing the Martial Law years. It is one thing for the older generation – those who actually lived through it to be nostalgic but it’s quite another for the younger generation of today – those who didn’t live through it to also wish they could experience the perceived “order” and “prosperity” in the country back in the 60s and 70s, which some old folks quite often talk about. Young Filipinos also get excited when they see old photos of a cleaner Philippines.
Some Filipinos are of the opinion that Martial Law can bring order and instill discipline again in Philippine society. They believe that Filipinos just need to be ruled with an iron fist to be better citizens. Their eagerness to try this style is evident in the way they desperately clamor for former Davao Mayor and self-proclaimed “strongman” Rodrigo Duterte to run for President in 2016 despite him repeatedly saying he is not interested.
The appeal of dictatorship is quite ironic considering Filipinos got rid of Marcos for his supposed dictatorial tendencies. Some people’s rationale in justifying a dictator style of leadership is that, one will only get in trouble when one violates the law. Of course this is assuming that the laws benefit the majority and not just a few. Considering that the current Philippine lawmakers come up with the most idiotic and self-serving laws, it is doubtful a dictatorship will work in the Philippines.
Going back to former President Marcos, the guy has been dead for three decades but a lot of people still think he is a threat to Philippine society. Granted, his remains are not buried yet, but he is unlikely to rise up and reclaim his post. Those who still talk about his supposed crimes are starting to come across as insecure. They always get nervous when election is near. They think that Senator Bongbong Marcos will commit his father’s “sins”. It’s the same thinking that led to some believing that the son of Ninoy and Cory Aquino will continue his parents’ “legacy”.
If people actually think about it, part of the reason why Filipinos cannot move on from the Marcos years is because of President Benigno Simeon (BS) Aquino himself. First of all, his speeches quite often include mentioning his family’s suffering during the Marcos years. This comes before or right after he mentions the “dark decade” of his predecessor. Second, by reminding people of the “terrible” past, Filipinos expect something better from his administration.
Unfortunately, because not much has changed in Philippine society even after so-called “democracy” was restored in the Philippines, Filipinos get increasingly disappointed at President BS Aquino’s leadership skills. The lack of progress gets highlighted even more when he blames past administrators. In fact, in some people’s opinion, the situation now is even worse than before. They cite the instance that nowadays, most public servants blatantly pocket public funds as compared to the way things were in the past. In other words, the systematic stealing by public servants has become institutionalized thanks to mechanisms such as the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and various Presidential slush funds.
Aside from the mismanagement of public funds, some people say that the current crop of public servants is mostly incompetent and not as intelligent as before. Filipinos are also increasingly getting frustrated at the way President BS Aquino quickly absolves cabinet members who get embroiled in corruption scandals.
The latest staff President BS Aquino cleared and defended is Philippine National Police Chief Director Alan Purisima even before he was investigated on allegations of accepting bribes. Filipinos can see he applies a double standard in dealing with his allies. Further proof of this is the fact that his allies who are embroiled in the pork barrel scam scandal have not been investigated.
Frankly, the way President BS Aquino is behaving in office – disregarding the rule of law, bribing lawmakers and threatening to clip the powers of the Supreme Court — is already tantamount to being a dictator. But he is not the benevolent dictator Filipinos need because he is only looking after the welfare of his allies. The Filipino people can see through his self-righteousness. Despite already having all the resources available to release non-stop negative propaganda against his enemies, the reality still works against him. And the reality is, the country is still mired in poverty and public servants are still corrupt.
There is only one thing that can prove to Filipinos that life was worse during the Marcos years. And that is, real progress.
When the living conditions of the majority have improved, people young and old will realize that life is better even without Martial Law. And those who are working hard to remind us to say “never again” to a dictator do not have to bother with their advocacies. Until then, some people will continue to question which situation they would have been better off living in — the past or the present.
[Aerial photo of Ayala Avenue courtesy LPL Suites Greenbelt.]
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