A discussion on Marcos and the Martial Law years inevitably results in someone making a comparison between Marcos and World War II-era Nazi Germany. Oftentimes, parallels are drawn, such as the use of propaganda, the culpability for hundreds of thousands who lost their lives, etc. Perhaps, most strikingly, the two are often put side by side in order to demonstrate the difference in “remorse” between the two entities.
Through the years, the Germans, for the most part, have seemingly done everything to distance themselves from the Nazi years collectively; Holocaust denial is a crime in Germany and some other European countries. More striking is how Germany has managed to emerge as one of the most powerful economies in Europe and the world, despite going through tumultuous times after World War II, and during the Cold War era.
In the Philippines, however, public opinion is still deeply divided over whether the Marcoses were good or bad for the country, and whether they should apologize for what happened during the Martial Law years. Compounding the dilemma of those who oppose the Marcoses is that the Philippines generally remained impoverished after the family was ousted; the Aquinos, the family at the center of the anti-Marcos movement, had turned in underwhelming and lackluster performances as public servants. Unsurprisingly, Filipinos have been inclined to give “the bad guy” a second look due to the mediocrity institutionalized by Cory Aquino and her son, Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino III.
The latest slap on the face for the anti-Marcos movement is President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to allow Ferdinand Marcos Sr. to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. People who agree with the anti-Marcos movement have taken to social media to make known their staunch opposition to the burial. An example of commentary on this issue is from ABS-CBN TV personality Atom Araullo:
Ferdinand Marcos is no hero. He does not deserve honors from the state, representing the people. Did we not settle this debate 30 years ago?.
The simple answer is, no, Filipinos have settled nothing; the simple reason “this debate” has not been resolved is: Filipinos have not been able to definitively and decisively defeat the Marcoses.
Let’s discuss world history a bit for a moment once again. Historians generally believe that the Romans sealed the defeat of Carthage by sowing salt into the earth to keep it from being rebuilt. The end of World War II was that both the Japanese and the Germans surrendered unconditionally. Surrendering unconditionally is an example of a definitive and decisive defeat. We must mention, of course, that the leveling of German and Japanese cities with bombs helped get the message across: surrender or endure more of it.
In the case of the Marcoses, what would have been a definitive and decisive defeat? The key figures, if not all of them, including Ferdinand Sr.’s immediate family, put in jail with the key thrown away, or executed. Filipinos could have prevented them from setting foot on Philippine soil ever again. All Martial Law supporters and sympathizers could have been made “to disappear”. Legislation could have been passed in order to block any possible return of the Marcos influence. Putting into action the maxim, “success is the best revenge”, Filipinos could have shown that they could sustain economic, social, and political development after and without the Marcoses.
All of these and much more could have been done to make the Marcoses irrelevant. Alas, count on Filipinos to screw something up. Whatever methods the influential people and “the victors” used to shape public opinion, as time went by, lost their effectiveness.
What happened? The root cause is that Filipinos, in no uncertain terms, allowed the Marcoses, when they were still unequivocally “the enemy”, to escape alive and regain their strength and support base. Now it has come back to bite them in the ass; the anti-Marcos movement seems dumfounded that there is still substantial support for the Marcoses despite everything that has been done to discredit them.
What options does the anti-Marcos movement have at this point? After 30 years, what evidence can they chase down to get a court to send the Marcoses to jail? What ideas and logic can be used to counter the resurgent positive regard for that family, if Filipinos feel that life after them has not improved at all?
The anti-Marcos movement, if they can manage to keep themselves in check, has the option of sitting down with other elements, those who have a more favorable view of the Marcoses and Martial Law, and discuss and form a more comprehensive, more balanced, more objective assessment and account of Martial Law. As a colleague of mine said, it should also include a detailed discussion of the geopolitical landscape of the time, and thus, provide the overall context for the declaration of Martial Law. As Manila Times columnist Rigoberto Tiglao has pointed out, the Marcos issue is one where media and the academe have failed the Filipinos.
The Laban (fight) to hold the Marcoses accountable seems, unfortunately, a lost cause. 30 years of blaming that family for the continued impoverishment of the Philippines, and the consequent dropping of the ball by subsequent governments, have rendered attempts to close the issue useless. The mere fact that they have been able to eke out political careers since they returned in 1991, above all things, would make them think, “what apology?”
In accounting terms, two items under Accounts Receivable, the Marcoses’ allegedly ill-gotten wealth, and the apology for the Martial Law years, may need to be written off.
The sad part is, Filipinos have only themselves to blame for the lack of closure. To date, the lack of any collective resolve by Filipinos as a people to put to bed this “debate” and others like it once and for all is a character flaw that will indefinitely impede the progress of their society.
[Photo courtesy: Sydney Morning Herald]
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