It’s been 44 years since the declaration of Martial Law, and though it has long been removed, we feel as if it is still in effect. Killings, abductions and other abuses continue to happen. But even worse is that people turn a blind eye to some other problems that are contributing to this, leading to my conclusion that blaming everything on Martial Law is a distraction from these issues. I make the point that our violent culture is part of our Filipino Heritage.
One of the points I make in this article is that while Martial Law indeed saw a significant dip in the country’s fortunes, it was never the start of what was wrong with the Philippines. It was more a result, a product of the very same culture that produces the dysfunctions of society today. For example, killings did not start during this era, as they have been carried out ever since warlords took over. Before the Escalante and Culatingan Massacres attributed to Marcos, and other massacres like the Mendiola and Lupao ones, there was the Maliwalu Massacre in 1951. There was also the case of Rafael Lacson of Negros, who had his opponent Moises Padilla killed in 1951. Killings by warlords continue unabated. The current warlords are the drug lords, but you can say this has been going on for decades.
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Of Killings and More Killings
So the question: why haven’t they stopped? Killings occur in many provinces that never get reported, martial law or none. Is it because of Martial Law making killings a “rule?” No.
The problems of today are the same problems that started post-World War 2. The warlords were among these. And those problems have intensified today. Along with the warlords who might kill anyone who even just annoys them (these obviously inspired the killings during Martial Law), we have regulatory capture that keeps prices prohibitively high and keep job openings from flourishing, so Filipinos have to go abroad to earn sufficient wages for supporting their families. Squatters that won’t be cleared because they provide votes. High crime rates, including the laglag-bala racket that victimizes our very cash cows. New problems came to augment the old. Because of this, many older people say Martial Law was a better time!
Anyone who says the country’s problems are only because of Martial Law and not because that other people can be massively corrupt are the Martial Law Crybabies, which includes the moochers mentioned above as well. They are actually defending the status quo and protecting the current vested interests from accountability. In addition, they are denying the more obvious problem: that our culture, our heritage, is to blame.
And when you think of Martial Law reparations being given to terrorists who actually wanted to take over the country, that should make one’s skin crawl. Only the true victims deserve the reparations, those who were captured and tortured, and families of those unjustly murdered, even if they did nothing wrong. But there are actual insurgents or terrorists who perpetrated bombings or killings. They raped and killed innocents, as much as the government did then. They are pretenders who have taken advantage of and free-rode on the claims for reparations (also, don’t forget, corruption existed in the Presidential Commission on Good Government, so it’s likely these guys made off with some cash). If they get such payments, then that’s impunity at work!
Why They’re Back
So, about the question on why are the Marcoses back? The Marcoses returned in 1991 because Cory Aquino allowed them to, likely with the hope of catching them in court. So the Marcoses went to the courts. But it seems none of the local courts were able to successfully convict them. Only a U.S. court was able to hold them liable for contempt, but not for charges related to corruption. This might be why Comelec cleared the Marcos son to run this 2016 (I mentioned this because anti-Marcos activists somehow did not bark up Comelec for letting him run). In addition, there are other people liable for Martial Law abuses, but many of them remained unscathed. As an academic opined, this happened because Aquino was actually never interested in putting the Marcoses away, but was concerned only with her political survival. With how things turned out, it’s as if the Aquinos were helping the Marcoses.
Why have the Marcoses regained popularity today? There are people who have always been loyal to them. If there are “millenials” who seem to think Martial Law was a golden era, remember that there are older people who tell them that. But there are a few things to think about. One, the achievements of Marcos look more attractive today than those of both Aquino administrations. Instead of looking at the buildings and other things, perhaps one worth mentioning is the 13th month pay law, which we are still benefiting from today. Contrast that to Aquino, who thumbed down several measures that are pro-employee, including the pay hike for nurses and SSS payout hike. Marcos looks more attractive to the ordinary workers – who form a much bigger number of our population.
Another is this interview by the late Conrado Balweg, an NPA leader during the 1980s. He later surrendered to the government and helped established the Cordillera Autonomous Region in the 1990s before his murder in 1999. In the following interview before his death, he claims insurgents took more lives than the government did in Martial Law times, and that the insurgency even strengthened during Cory Aquino’s time. Again, this makes Marcos look better, and disputes the claim that Marcos had more abuses during Martial Law.
It’s also been mentioned before that laws created as a reaction to Martial Law themselves led to some problems. As James Robinson said, they weakened institutions and put more control in the hands of the vested interests. Oh, and about Marcos years as a “golden age,” I agree that we should look at the article by New York Times writer Floyd Whaley (I wonder if the anti-Marcos people today thought of barking up his tree). Maybe he got the idea from an Inquirer article that quotes the Marcos years as the golden age of fashion. Marcos Jr. Himself never said it.
So people worried about a Marcos return to power decided to vote Leni Robredo. Problem is, is she really free of corruption as people assume? Time will tell.
Martial Law Slacktivism
The Martial Law era was never a “golden age,” but neither does it make other times golden ages. It certainly should not be used as an excuse to deliberately ignore the other problems today. When we see laglag-bala, some might say, “ignore that! Martial Law is worse!” When we call out pork barrel being stolen, again, “ignore that! Martial Law is worse!” When someone point, “Aquino vetoed a lot of good policies,” the retort could be, “Martial Law will veto your life!” When I say, “Filipinos are arrogant when spouting ‘Pinoy Pride,’” crybabies will say, “No! Marcoses are gone! We must be proud!” Or if I say, “Filipinos must stop their misbehavior in other countries,” the reply, “No! Only Marcos misbehaved! We Filipinos are OK!”
Anti-Marcos activists will say jailing any or all of the Marcoses today is a great thing. I find it a mere symbolic gain; not a significant gain. Because some of the activists will say, “OK, Marcoses are in jail, it’s all OK! There’s no more corruption!” But of course, that can never be true. There are other corrupt people aside from the Marcoses. If activists will discourage you from going after other corrupt officials, and tell you to just be satisfied with Marcos (as what I wrote about Arroyo before), then it’s obvious that they’re not activists; they’re shills.
Perhaps that’s the issue: despite Martial Law being lifted, some Filipinos can’t just accept that corruption and murders can still happen even without the Marcoses. They can’t accept that there are other “villains” aside from the Marcoses. So they just deny it. “It just simply can’t be true! Heroes and villains must be clear cut in real life as in the movies!” But there you go. Real life is not the movies.
The worst thing probably thought of by anti-Marcos people is that, as long as someone is anti-Marcos, he’s OK, he’s good. Never mind that he may be stealing funds through pork barrel, or that he had innocents killed when he was in the insurgency. As long as they’re anti-Marcos, they’re OK, they’re great, they’re awesome! Then when someone calls out the shortcomings of these people, saying a corrupt person can also ride the anti-Marcos bandwagon, they are suddenly accused with, “you are pro-Marcos!” There you go, one of the things that actually blocks change in the country.
What if Martial Law Never Happened?
There’s the question of what if Marcos and Martial Law never happened. Some will say, “we will be a great country then!” I doubt. Corruption and red tape would still be around, and stuff like pork barrel would still be invented. Squatters would still be around; they have been around since post-World War 2. Inequality would still be around. We’d still have massive traffic. Marginalization of the far-off provinces would still happen. Killings like the Maguindanao massacre would still happen. Impunity? It would still be a fixture in society even if Marcos never happened; it only needed to grow slowly thanks to our “pagbigyan mo na” culture. We would still be susceptible to the 80s, 1997 and 2008 financial crises. Hoaxes like the Tallano gold story and Filipinos chocolate scandal would still happen. Even without Martial Law, there are things that can bring us down. We would still fail to be a “great” country.
Marcos’ opponents were mainly the communists of the time. You think we’d be better under them? Recall the purges during the time of Stalin and Mao, the famine of China under Mao and the recent purges the CPP-NPA have been doing within its ranks. Imagine them doing it all over the country. Back to Balweg’s video, if you’re seen it all, you know what he said about communist leaders: they never had the people’s interests in mind. All they wanted was to rule over the country.
Perhaps a few things would change, such as some people still being alive today; but others would be dead. The control of oligarchy and the business lobby would still be around today. We would still feel the hardship of life, brought about by our rabid consumer culture and our flaws.
But our own traditional culture is also to blame. Let’s take a lesson from Carl Bankston III, who I linked to above: “The heritage that created Marcos is still around today.” So don’t wonder that people like Ampatuan and the late Jaguar were around. Bankston used the right word there: heritage. That heritage, something we embrace as part of our own Filipino culture, enables such people to remain powerful today.
I apply the same thing to President Rodrigo Duterte: even if he didn’t win as president, we’d still see a lot of murders and killings. Detractors of Duterte are claiming he is bringing back Martial Law with the murders that have been lately happening. But really, is he really behind them? That same underlying current of violence and impunity in our culture will persist no matter who’s president.
Just look at ordinary life examples. Perhaps you’ve heard of something like what my family’s former helper (sadly, she had already passed away too) from Cebu told us. Her older brother was poisoned by someone who mistook him for the lover of a girl the poisoner desires. So the brother died, and the poisoner went into hiding. I could not find out anymore if that poisoner was ever caught. If he was never caught, no surprise. But look at that: a Filipno poisons someone because he desires that someone’s girlfriend. Life is cheap in the Philippines. I also heard a story of a certain warlord-politician who desired someone’s wife, so he had that someone killed and he took the wife in as a mistress. That may be a tabloid-type story, but who knows, it’s likely not farfetched as it seems. And it shows: rich or poor, politician or not, they can kill and get away with it if they want to.
Filipinos still have faults and problems they have to fix. These faults and problems are part of our heritage. This heritage causes Filipinos deep down inside to desire dominance over each other. As Benign0 wrote, with Martial Law long gone, we have to look beyond it and see the problems that are facing us right now. These problems point to things that we as Filipinos should stop doing. We have flaws that pull us down, and we must fix them. Unfortunately, many “advocates” are still trying to deny these flaws, trying to convince us that our flaws are part of our identity, and make us support the politicians (themselves the also created by what created Marcos) who help build up this fake feeling of pride. We have to stop listening to them and start listening to real common sense. We should get out of this mentality of blaming only Martial Law for our problems, because the more we do so, the more we become the ones bringing back Martial Law.
Unless we learn to question our “heritage” and realize that we can change it, we will remain the murderous society we are now. Murderous in that not only are lives taken, but even the quality of life for those still alive.
I believe, as my cohorts here do, that what Filipinos embrace as their culture is what actually pulls the country down. And those who seem to be anti-dictators, who may also believe themselves to be “heroes,” are the real dictators.