Thirty short years after the downfall of the dictator Marcos, the Marcoses are back with a vengeance.
And soon, they hope, all traces of their disgraceful exit from Malacañang will be expunged from public memory. The hated despot — the villain who wrought so much suffering on our people, the crook who sold the country down the river so he and his family could live like royalty — will be given a burial that befits a national hero.
Certainly not because he is a hero; he was the epitome of a heel. Marcos will be buried as his family and loyal followers wish, with the dignity and honor they claim he deserves, because the time is ripe, so they say, for “moving on,” for “national unity,” for “healing.” Or is it ripe because finally, a close Marcos ally is a popular yet maverick President?
According to the ones most immediately responsible for this looming despicable deed — the majority in the Supreme Court and President Rodrigo Roa Duterte — 1) Marcos was a former bemedalled soldier and president of the republic no less; 2) the Libingan ng mga Bayani (LNMB) is reserved for one such as he; 3) the President has the power to order Marcos’s burial at the LNMB. And all else is irrelevant.
Rather than be a balm for healing, Marcos’s impending burial in LNMB has only opened festering wounds and stirred up unsettled questions.
And well it should. For the greater tragedy would be to allow the Marcos family and their political cohorts to pull a fast one. That once the dictator’s touted remains are buried at the LNMB, the way forward to retaking Malacañan Palace will be all clear for Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr.
One obvious question: hasn’t Marcos shown unmitigated evil by managing to impose Martial Law, usurp all power and call it a “constitutional dictatorship”; suppress all dissent with an iron hand; monopolize business for his clique and still gain the backing of the US of A; the so-called citadel of democracy itself?
To say yes to that would be to give Marcos too much credit. Philippine society Pre-Martial Law was in one of its paroxysms of social and political crises. The social volcano was threatening to erupt due to the sharpening contradictions between the oligarchy of big landlords and comprador bourgeoisie versus the broad masses of the Filipino people — peasants, workers, urban poor, youth and students, low-earning employees and small business folk.
The political duopoly of the Nacionalista and Liberal Parties alternated in deceiving and repressing the populace and in using their official positions to fatten their pockets and perpetuate their political dynasties.
The air was rife with social discontent and revolution. The Communist Party of the Philippines had been reestablished, soon to be followed by the founding of the New People’s Army, both dedicated to overthrowing a decaying semicolonial and semifeudal order. The times also saw the birth of the Moro National Liberation Front with the objective of liberating the Moro people from national oppression by means of secession.
Competition among the factions of the political elite was turning more violent and irreconcilable. And Ferdinand E. Marcos was on his last term in office.
In sum, the ruling classes could no longer rule in the old way and needed to resort to Martial Law to preserve and bring stability to the moribund status quo. Marcos provided the brains and evil design to pull it off. He led his faction of the elite, with its hold on the military and constabulary generals, to establish authoritarian rule. He got the backing of big business, the Catholic church hierarchy, the foreign chambers of commerce and most important of all, the US government.
All sources and avenues of dissent, he simply shut down in the name of “saving the republic” from invented Left and Right conspiracies. Martial Law heralded the coming of a “new society” supposedly marked by discipline and progress. Remember the “new society” anthem with its promise “Magbabago ang lahat tungo sa pag-unlad” (All things will change for the better) ?
Why, even much of the public was initially duped (of course, most people found it less dangerous to simply acquiesce and hope that even only half of the Martial Law propaganda of good things to come would turn out to be true.)
It took 14 years for the fascist dictatorship to become fully exposed for what it was. It took an armed revolution in the countryside to shatter the illusion of its armed invincibility. The broad anti-dictatorship movement grew by leaps and bounds bringing hundreds of thousands out into the streets by the time of the assassination of Marcos’s nemesis, Benigno “Ninoy” S. Aquino, Jr.
The political spectrum ranged against Marcos included the communist-led and Moro liberation movements, the legal progressive movement of democrats and human rights advocates, the conservative Catholic hierarchy led by a wily Cardinal and the various anti-Marcos reactionaries who wanted to remove Marcos so that they could take over.
A failed coup d’ etat attempt by disgruntled military officers sparked an unarmed people’s uprising that precipitated the downfall of Marcos. EDSA 1 was hailed as a “people’s revolution” that was unique because it was nonviolent. It catapulted Corazon C. Aquino to the presidency and allowed her to declare a “revolutionary government.”
However EDSA 1 was not a social revolution by any stretch of the imagination. It merely restored the old ruling order with its trappings of democracy — Congress, the courts, nongovernment mass media and periodic elections where the different factions of the ruling classes could contest whose turn it is to screw the people. The system of feudal land ownership, neocolonial domination by the US and anti-people regimes run by bureaucrat capitalists that nationalists and democrats had been denouncing and calling for a complete overhaul continued unimpeded.
EDSA 1 didn’t even achieve the minimum post-dictatorship imperative to completely hold Marcos and his ilk to account for crimes against the people and against humanity (given the scale and gravity of human rights violations). There was no thoroughgoing investigation and a definitive historicizing of the Marcos legacy. The pursuit of ill-gotten wealth was mired in legal tussles not to mention questionable concessions and under-the-table wheeling dealing with the Marcoses and cronies. The Marcoses themselves managed to reinvent themselves — from complicit perpetrators to hapless victims of injustice, no less! — and mounted a horrific political comeback that is causing nightmares to their victims and the rest of the Filipino people.
Political accommodation has taken over. The politicians and bureaucrats complicit in propping up the dictatorship have gotten a new lease in life. It is business as usual with the competing factions obsessed with taking power and keeping it. Imelda Marcos and her children, heirs to the Marcos loot and residual clout, have proven too enticing as political allies for anyone who would aspire for the highest post of the land.
Over time, Marcos’s crimes would gradually be obscured in the collective amnesia of a population inured to rampant and high-level corruption, impunity in human rights violations, shameless puppetry and subservience to foreign interests. Widespread desperation over continuously worsening living conditions have made people susceptible and vulnerable to the canard that “things were better during Marcos’s time.”
But it would take a boldfaced Marcos ally and chief executive to take advantage of this and dare to declare: it’s time to bury Marcos along with all his crimes and our bad memories of him.
Carol Pagaduan-Araullo is a medical doctor by training, social activist by choice, columnist by accident, happy partner to a liberated spouse and proud mother of two.
Published in Business World
Nov. 14, 2016