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The "M" Word

Joaquin Villareal


Talking about this topic tends to start controversy, but I see it as a way to start a conversation. I believe the Philippines has a revised history, in which the masses empower the ideas of a false narrative of our past. We never should allow it.


On September 23 1972, former president Ferdinand Edralin Marcos declared Proclamation No. 1081, otherwise known as Martial Law, across the Philippines in response to civil unrest in the country, which he believed was caused by communist insurgents. One notable event prior to the declaration of Martial Law was the “Plaza Miranda Bombings” incident which was believed to have been caused by communist rebels.


What happened during that is common knowledge amongst the survivors. The suspension of the writ of habeus corpus led to several cases of human rights abuse. The 1973 Constitution completely shifted the form of government, from a republic to a parliamentary-style government. The new constitution gave more direct powers to Marcos, who used his power to usher in his own sense of justice.


The Martial Law period of the Philippines remains a dark period in our history. I could go on talking about the injustices that occurred during this time; widespread corruption, graft, torture, EJK, and restriction of the press. These anti-democratic actions occurred during this period, and yet the masses seem to have turned a blind eye to the truth.


The Return of the Kingmaker


Ever since the Marcoses returned to the political landscape of the Philippines in 1991, they have pushed for their dark history to be wiped clean.


Imelda Marcos, the wife of the former president, came back to face several charges against her. Instead of attempting to clear her name to the courts, she pushed to be nominated as a presidential candidate the following year. She failed to gain the support, and instead the Marcoses first step back to politics was through her son, Bongbong Marcos. He ran for a congressional seat, representing his home province of Ilocos Norte.


But surely the revolution against the despot would not be wasted? The Filipino people wouldn’t vote for the son of a dictator, and moreover the son who shared the same ideals as his father?


Bongbong Marcos won that seat in congress, thus bringing the Marcoses into the fold.


What followed was the slow but sure political climb of the Marcoses. By 2016, the Marcoses children cemented their position in modern Filipino politics, with Imee Marcos winning her place at senate, while Bongbong Marcos ran and lost the position of Vice President. Of course, that didn’t stop him for vehemently demanding a recount. Despite no recount, he was appeased by the president.


Modern Filipinos pondered how could they have won. How could they win when there are uncountable amounts of evidence of their father’s crimes? The answer to that is as simple as lies and deceit.

Denial in the Family


The constant denial of the family regarding ill-gotten wealth and human rights abuse is what helped them. They denied everything, with Imee Marcos even stating in 2018 that the family will “…never admit the faults under my father’s rule”.


Despite their persistence, the evidence against the crimes of the Marcoses stack up. The case of Archimdes Trajano is but one case where the insulting the Marcoses would lead to death. Torture was commonplace against activists, with “communist sympathizer” being a justification. The declaration of Martial Law allowed Marcos to gain control of private companies, giving him the chance to siphon funds into his own pockets. The deceit of the Marcoses and their supporters that there was a “booming economy” led to a massive misinformation campaign.


Filipinos know about the discord between those who believe that Martial Law was a prosperous period, and those who believe the Martial Law period was disastrous. Based on the evidence provided, it is clear that there were atrocities committed during this time. From witness accounts to independent investigations on their bank accounts, there is enough proof that there should be a unanimous decision that Ferdinand Marcos was indeed a dictator.


The question we have to ask is this: why does a discord even exist, if there is so much proof against the Marcoses? The answer would be the spread of misinformation and the lack of focus of the era in academics.


The Mass Spread of Misinformation


Our history books don’t talk about the atrocities in details. It usually starts off with Marcos’s first term, a summary of the Martial Law years, and finally EDSA. After that, the story ends, and the books don’t talk about it anymore. The summary of the Martial Law period itself is shallow, as if it was staying neutral. It talked about some atrocities, but refused to dig any deeper on the actions of his administration which shunned freedom of speech.


Personally, I heard stories of the era from my parents and grandparents who had lived in the era. They told me the stories of people “disappearing” after speaking out.


This led to people relying on other sources. One common source that spreads the most misinformation is social media. Facebook posts of the so-called great projects of Marcos are highlighted, along with inaccurate statistics of the economy during his time.


What annoys the majority of the Filipinos is the recently declared holiday for the Ilocos Norte province glorifying Ferdinand Marcos. I recall reading a comment stating that it is embarrassing that the Philippines has a holiday to celebrate the ousting of a dictator and a holiday to celebrate the same dictator’s birth. I have accepted that Marcos’s body lies in the Libingan ng Bayani, but I cannot accept that congress had the audacity to pass this law. What makes it even more infuriating is that they did it in the middle of a pandemic, where bills regarding the safety of the Filipino people are cast aside.


The misinformed public ate up these posts and promoted them as facts. The masses believed in the words of “conspiracy theorists” rather than actual historians. The blind fanaticism has caused even the youth to believe that what the Philippines needs is a dictator, and that the Filipino people are the most undisciplined race that needs strict measures.


There are even cases where videos in YouTube talk about the “undocumented history” of the Philippines. I am open minded to skepticism, but if you believe that Jose Rizal wasn’t shot by the Spaniards and became a legal partner to Ferdinand Marcos, then you are a part of the problem.


Spread Facts, Not Propaganda


The solution to this problem would be an educational reform, specifically towards the History subject. Be more in depth with the Martial Law period. Make it informative enough to start conversations, even if there are disagreements.


Highlight the truth of those dark days by providing facts. We, as Filipinos, have to do our best to prevent another dictator from rising up. To do that, we have to show the uncensored truth.


Name those who were killed for speaking out. Show the real statistics of the Filipino economy during his time. Show the oppression of the free press. Don’t sugarcoat the reality for the children, because they need to know the truth. If they don’t, they will only grow to spread lies and deceit.


Of course, I’m not proposing of showing a full on biased anti-Marcos history. That would be propaganda. Talk about the reasoning of Marcos’s Martial Law and the communist insurgents. Educate students with facts, and let them decide what they want to believe.


We need to talk about this period in depth. Putting it behind us and pretending the atrocities never happened is as similar to denying the holocaust. We have to educate the masses in order to progress as a society, and to one day end hopefully the discord between the two groups in our country.


Knowing our past is essential to the growth of our nation. If we don’t, we will only grow ignorant and our country will not survive the future.

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