In his book, The Life of Reason, philosopher and novelist George Santayana wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Germans are not proud of what happened during the Holocaust and, to ensure that their people will be constantly reminded of its horrors and atrocities, and that no one will dare toy with the idea of following in Adolf Hitler’s footsteps, museums and memorials are erected all around Germany.
In the Philippines, no such museum or memorial is built to remind us of the dark days of Martial Law.
No serious efforts to educate the youth about what really transpired during Martial Law are launched.
No major actors have been put behind bars for their abusive and oppressive roles in the execution of Martial Law.
To aggravate the situation is the Filipinos’ propensity to easily forgive and forget. And those who are either “enlightened” or who have first-hand experience of the tyrannical rule of the dictator sit in complete, comfortable and prolonged silence, complacent with the assumption that Filipinos must have already learned their valuable lessons from the past and thus would, at all costs, avoid it from ever happening again.
How naïve could we be, right?
Three decades after the country succeeded in overthrowing the dictatorship, we watched in utter shock and horror as Bongbong Marcos, the scion of the late strongman and kleptocrat Ferdinand Marcos Sr., was almost elected as Vice President –a position that is a heartbeat away from the seat his father held with an iron fist for more than twenty years. Through clever deception, half-truths and outright lies, the Marcos family, their die-hard loyalists and shameless cronies managed to delude more than 14 million Filipinos into thinking that Martial Law, as we knew it, never existed.
But, of course, we know better.
We know that Martial Law is not merely a figment of someone’s wild and delusional imagination. It is not some legend or an old wives’ tale. Martial Law is real. And it is up to us to join hands and counter the revisionist accounts being peddled and spread in social media.
In a humble effort to answer this urgent call, I hereby listed some statements and frequently-asked questions that aim to discredit the truth, and answered them to the best of my ability.
Shouldn’t the Marcos rule, which was characterized by a great economy, a myriad of infrastructure projects, and peace and order, be considered the golden era of the Philippine history?
No, the Marcos years should not be considered the golden age of our history!
From 1962 to 1986 (the period before Marcos became president up to the year he was ousted from Malacanang), the country’s total external debt grew from $360 million to $28.3 billion –debts we will pay until year 2025. Peso-dollar exchange rate also surged from P3.50 to a dollar in 1966 to P20.53 to a dollar in 1986. Poverty rate when he first took office in 1965 was 41%. It was 58.9% in 1985, a year before he was ousted. Moreover, our gross domestic product (the total amount of products and services produced in the country) dropped from 3.4% in 1966 to 1.4% in 1986. We fared poorly compared to our Southeast Asian neighbors. From the second richest nation in Asia, we became “The Sick Man of Asia”.
To justify the country’s skyrocketing external debt, the regime embarked on an infrastructure spending spree. All those infrastructure projects, though, were over-priced to accommodate the Marcoses and their cronies’ kickbacks. They also blatantly and wantonly plundered the public coffers and ransacked and sequestered huge local companies until they had almost drained the country and its people of all their resources. PCGG pegged at US$10 billion the total amount of the ill-gotten wealth amassed by the Marcos family during their 21-year reign of terror. Of that amount, only US$4 billion had been confiscated and returned to the treasury. The remaining US$6 billion is yet to be recovered.
Industrialization was neglected under Marcos. Although the Marcos era is remembered by many as an age of industrialization, it was characterized by “crony capitalism” where Marcos’ closest allies were awarded industries and ambitious industrial projects, many of which ended up being inefficient or bankrupt. International Monetary Fund’s Philip Gerson said, “Only Marcos cronies got rich during his rule. The rich got richer, while the poor got poorer.”
Also, the martial law years resulted in poor work conditions as testified by the sharp rise in underemployment which, at one point, afflicted a third of the employed. This dissatisfaction in the labor force (especially among skilled workers) later gave rise to the widespread growth of the OFW phenomenon after 1986. (Read this.)
Prior to his declaration of Martial Law, Marcos suspended the writ of habeas corpus (The writ serves as a safeguard against warrantless arrests and illegal detentions). Freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly were suppressed. Political leaders, student activists, journalists, church personalities, and virtually anybody who dared challenge the people in power or were simply deemed enemies of the state were arrested, tortured, raped or killed. Friends and relatives of the 882 desaparecidos or victims of enforced disappearances gave up hope of ever seeing their loved ones again.
Why is Marcos portrayed as a villain? He is the country’s greatest president ever!
No, he is not! He was a despot, a tyrant, a demagogue, a dictator, a mass murderer, a torturer and a plunderer.
Under Martial Law, 70,000 were incarcerated, 35,000 were tortured, and 3,257 were killed. Historian and writer Alfred McCoy wrote, “the Marcos government appears, by any standard, exceptional for both the quantity and quality of its violence.”
According to the Transparency International Global Corruption Report 2004, Marcos is the world’s second most corrupt leader of all time.
Marcos only declared Martial Law to enforce law and order.
Limited by the 1935 Constitution to only two terms, Marcos declared Martial Law in 1972 and made a new Constitution to legitimize his extended rule. He ruled as the Philippine president for 21 years. His claim that he felt the need to declare ML because the country was threatened by the Communist and the Moro rebels was without basis. From only a handful in 1969, the number of NPA rebels reached 25,000 during his regime because of the human rights abuses and the worsening socio-economic condition during that time.
The Marcoses were rich even before FM became president.
Marcos was not born rich. His father was a lawyer-politician in the province allegedly killed by the Philippine troops for being a Japanese collaborator (Makapili or Filipino traitor) during the war. Regarding the Marcoses’ claim that he made his fortune from the gold taken from the Japanese, former Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Gov. Gabriel Singson had this to say. “It was impossible for the Marcoses to have had 4,000 tons of gold as Imelda once claimed in a newspaper. The BSP only had 650 tons of gold reserves during the Marcos years.
Marcos has been dead for 17 years now. Can’t we just forgive him?
It is easy to ask someone to forgive, especially if you have not been a victim of the same offenses committed against that person. It is easy to tell someone to move on if you have not experienced the same physical pains, emotional trauma and psychological anguish that that person had been forced to endure. It is easy to advise someone to forget if you have not been arrested, abducted, detained, tortured, raped or stigmatized, or if you have not lost a loved one to a heinous crime.
More so, it is difficult to heal without justice.
What we need before we, as a nation, can really forgive and heal from the horrors and nightmares of Martial Law is a full accounting of the perpetrators’ sins (stolen money, corruption of our social institutions, economic sabotage, and human rights violations). Then, we demand from them (or their families) acceptance or acknowledgment of the injustices perpetrated during Martial Law. We also demand remorse and restitution and, finally, retribution. Those are the basic prerequisites for forgiveness.
It is only then that we can accord the Marcoses and their cronies the benefit of human forgiveness, and only then can that forgiveness lead to national healing, reconciliation and peace. And, yes, closure.
Why should we even care about this issue? (Apathetic:) We were living a comfortable and peaceful life during Martial Law! (Millennial:) It happened years before we were born!
To the apathetic:
I can’t actually find the words that won’t betray the extreme disgust and revulsion I feel towards your kind. The world is much worse and much more dangerous because of people like you. You should just be grateful that you and your family were spared, that someone else took up the cudgels on your behalf, that people sacrificed their lives so that others like you could continue living in your little world of apathy and indifference. There’s a special place in hell reserved only for you.
To the millennials:
You are now enjoying all these liberties and rights (to watch your favorite tv show, to express your opinions on social media, to stay out until the wee hours of the morning, to criticize any official of the government, to meet with your friends, to join rallies and demonstrations, and many others) because people dared to fight the Marcos dictatorship. The least you could do is to make sure that you acquaint yourself with the country’s history –not the revised version but the accurate one, the one penned with the blood of the countless Martial Law victims. And if it’s not too much to ask, share those facts and verifiable truth with your friends.
Since the ouster of Marcos in 1986, our country has not progressed much. Weren’t the presidents that came after him equally guilty of betraying the people’s trust?
If you think that our life today is comparable with that during Martial Law, you must be reading only the revisionists’ accounts of history. I suggest that you expand your horizons. Or, better yet, scroll back up and read again.
All the other leaders –before, during or after Martial Law– have their own shortcomings and lapses in judgement. Whatever the post-Marcos presidents did is theirs to answer to the people. They would have their time, with history as the ultimate judge of their respective leaderships. Right now, though, the issue at hand is that of Marcos.
Why all this noise? Isn’t LNMB just a place for dead people?
The LNMB is no ordinary cemetery. It was established as a fitting resting place for deceased
- Medal of Valor awardees
- Presidents of commander-in-chief, AFP
- Secretaries of national defense
- AFP chiefs of staff
- Generals/flag officers of the AFP
- Active and retired military personnel of the AFP (including active draftees and trainees who died in line of duty, and active reservists and CAFGU Active Auxiliary who died in combat-related activities)
- Former members of the AFP who laterally entered or joined the Philippine Coast Guard and the Philippine National Police
- Veterans of Philippine Revolution of 1890, World War I, World War II, and recognized guerrillas
- Government dignitaries, statesmen, national artist and other deceased persons whose interment and re-interment has been approved by the commander-in-chief, Congress or the secretary of national defense
- Former presidents, secretaries of defense, dignitaries, statesmen, national artists, widows of former presidents, secretaries of national defense and chief of staff (Read this.)
LNMB, as its name implies, symbolizes heroism. It is in our best interest to recognize and value symbols and what they stand for. Otherwise, the flag would just be a piece of fancy cloth, the Noli and El Fili just storybooks, and the monuments and statues just overpriced slabs of rocks.
Ferdinand Marcos’ family should not be held accountable for the late president’s transgressions.
Yes, they should be. And they owe the Filipino people an apology over the Martial Law atrocities. Big time!
According to the Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses to Malacanang (CARMMA), Imelda Marcos was the biggest Marcos crony, whose free rides in the Philippine Airlines made its debt balloon to $13.8 billion in 1986. She was also the head of the Metro Manila Commission (precursor of the Metro Manila Development Authority) which, by the end of 1985, had accumulated debts of P1.99 billion (which included $100 million in foreign loans) in its 10 years of existence.
Bongbong, meanwhile, continues to whitewash the Marcos dictatorship’s crony capitalism, of which he had been a part. In 1985, when he was 26 years old, his father appointed him chairman of the board of the Philippine Communications Satellite Corporation (Philcomsat), receiving a monthly salary of anywhere between $9,700 to $97,000. (This, despite that fact that he rarely went to the Philcomsat office.) In 1986, government auditors discovered that Philcomsat was one of the many corporations and organizations used to siphon ill-gotten wealth out of the country.
When the Marocses fled to Hawaii, US Customs inspectors found around 300 crates filled with jewelry, gold, as well as 1,500 documents described by then US Lawmaker Stephen Solarz as “an encyclopedia of corruption.” The documents included a Marcos memo to the PNB that ordered transfer of P20 million to him, a list of expenses for Imelda’s overseas trips, a memo showing deposits and interests in overseas banks amounting to $30 million, around $11.2 million in commissions from Westinghouse (the designer and builder of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant), a listing of precious gems, deposit certificates and bearer bonds worth $4 million, as well as stock transfer deeds, bank documents, financial information about hotels, and payments made directly to the former dictator and his wife for “Disaster Relief Projects.” Marcos was indicted in the US in 1988 for racketeering. He was accused of stealing more than $100 million to buy buildings in New York. He died later, before any verdict was handed out. (Watch this.)
Bongbong once said that, “The sins of the parents, if there are any, are not for the children to inherit.” That may be correct. It is not correct, however, to shamelessly live off the fruits of the legendary Marcos plunder while arrogantly peddling the lie that his father’s unbelievable wealth is legitimate. He also committed a grave injustice to the Martial Law victims when he said, “Pera-pera lang ang habol ng mga ‘yan”, referring to the 9,539 human rights victims in the Hawaii class suit who won the case against the Marcos estate. (Read this.)
Recently, Imee Marcos said that she cannot make a categorical admission of guilt over what happened during Martial Law because she was still “too young” then. I think, we should help Ms. Marcos refresh her failing memory by reminding her of Archimedes Trajano’s unfortunate fate. Trajano, a 21-year-old Mapua student in 1977 questioned Imee, during an open forum, on the latter’s appointment as the national chairman of the Kabataang Barangay. He was seized and dragged out of the venue by the presidential daughter’s bodyguards and, hours later, “his body was found severely tortured and beaten to death.” (Read this.)
As a former president and soldier, doesn’t Marcos deserve to be buried at the Libingan Ng Mga Bayani?
No, and I have four arguments to support my unequivocal answer.
First, according to no less than the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), Marcos is unfit for a hero’s burial, stating that his records as a soldier during World War II “is fraught with myths, factual inconsistencies, and lies”. Based on the NHCP study, Marcos “lied about receiving US medals (Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, and Order of the Purple Heart). His guerilla unit, the Ang Mga Maharlika, his leadership of it, and his claimed rank promotion from Major to Lt. Col. were never officially recognized by the US officials. Most importantly, some of Marcos’ actions as a soldier were officially called into question by the upper echelons of the US military.” These include:
- his command over the Allas Intelligence Unit (described as “usurpation”)
- his commissioning of officers (without authority)
- his abandonment of USAFIP-NL presumably to build an airfield for Gen. Roxas
- his collection of money for the airfield (described as “illegal”)
- his listing of his name on the roster of different units (called a “malicious criminal act”)
NHCP added that, “A doubtful record does not serve as sound, unassailable basis of historical recognition of any sort, let alone of the burial in a site intended, as its name suggests, for heroes.” (Read this.)
Secondly, according to the rules of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFPR G 161-375 dated 11 Sept. 2000)), Marcos, as a former president, is entitled to a cemetery plot at the LNMB. Stated on that same regulation, however, are two important conditions under which qualified personnel can be disqualified to be interred in the Libingan Ng Mga Bayani. These are:
- Personnel who were dishonorably separated/reverted/discharged from the service
- Personnel who were convicted by final judgement of an offense involving moral turpitude (Read this.)
Marcos cannot be disqualified on the basis of the second condition because he was never convicted by final judgment of any offense involving moral turpitude (Bouvier’s Law Dictionary defines moral turpitude as anything “which is done contrary to justice, honesty, modesty, or good morals”). Although we can cite countless offenses involving moral turpitude committed by Marcos, he died before he could be charged, tried and convicted.
But the first condition is an altogether different matter.
There is only one way for any president to be dishonorably separated, reverted or discharged, and that is by revolution of the people who, as the sovereign authority, had temporarily vested its governmental powers in that official. The EDSA or People Power Revolution of 1986 “dishonorably discharged” Marcos not only for conduct unbecoming of an officer but, most significantly, for the slew of crimes he committed during Martial Law.
Thirdly, Section 1 of the Republic Act No. 289, the statute that provides for the creation of a national pantheon for Presidents of the Philippines, National Heroes and Patriots of the country, states that a pantheon which shall be the burial place of their mortal remains (in this case, the LNMB) shall be constructed “to perpetuate the memory of all the Presidents of the Philippines, national heroes and patriots for the inspiration and emulation of this generation and generations still unborn.
The question to be asked then should be, What is it exactly about Marcos that would be worthy of inspiration and emulation?
Prof. Winnie Monsod has this to say. Is it “his forcing himself on the Filipino people for 13 more years after his last term had expired? His stealing from the people (P170 billion, and still counting)? His being considered the second most corrupt leader in the world? His abuse of powers to incarcerate his opponents? His violations of human rights? His cheating in the 1986 “snap” election—the final straw for the Filipino people?”
Finally, Imelda Marcos was made to sign an agreement with the government when they were allowed to bring to the country the late dictator’s remains in 1992. The four conditions thus expressly stipulated in the agreement were:
- the body was to be flown directly to Ilocos
- Marcos would be given honors as a Major, his last rank in military service
- Marcos’ body was not to be paraded in Metro Manila
- Marcos was not to be buried at the Libingan Ng Mga Bayani, but in Batac, Ilocos Norte, beside his mother (as apparently requested by him)
We all know that the Marcoses, being Marcoses, did not feel the need to comply with those conditions.
The body was not buried but put on a refrigerated display for more than 13 years. Apparently, the family was waiting for a “friendly” president to come along –a president who would grant their wish of immortalizing their patriarch at the Libingan. Well, they finally got it when Duterte won the presidency. On November 18, 2016, in a sneaky attempt to elude the outrage of the Filipino people, the Marcoses snuck in into the LNMB the late dictator’s body for a secret burial. According to anti-Marcos activists, it was clearly an unscrupulous move to preempt their appeal of the SC’s decision. (The group already filed with the Supreme Court a manifestation that they will be appealing the latter’s decision to allow the burial, and the petitioners were supposed to have 15 days to do it.)
According to Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, “This is a continuing deception and underhandedness of the Marcos family and they are just continuing the abuses and atrocities committed during Martial Law.”
Sen. Risa Hontiveros couldn’t have said it better. “There is no grave, no mausoleum, no decision of any court or order from any president that will keep the truth that Marcos is not a hero.” Also, I wonder what the Marcoses would have felt when, at the end of the military gun salute and when the triangular-folded flag was handed over to them, these words were spoken, “on behalf of a grateful nation…”
The Supreme Court has already decided. Shouldn’t that decision put an end to all these protests?
I read this somewhere. “Apartheid was legal, the Holocaust was legal, Slavery was legal, Colonialism was legal.” And now, with the nine SC justices’ affirmative votes, the burial of the late dictator Marcos at the LNMB is also legal. Clearly, legality does not establish morality.
The Supreme Court decision is an utter “disregard to the historic truths and legal principles that persist after Marcos’ death,” Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno said.
The SC, as well as the international judicial tribunals, in several decisions in the past have acknowledged and documented the plunder and human rights violations committed by Marcos. It was because of this very acknowledgment that our present Constitution was framed in such a way that out rights are tightly safeguarded, democratic practices and principles are ensured, and the possibility of another Martial Law would be subject to the most stringent of requirements. It was also because of this very acknowledgment that the State recognizes its moral and legal obligation to provide reparation to the Martial Law victims through the RA No. 10368 or the Reparation of the Human Rights Victims Law. Finally, it was because of this very acknowledgment that the PCGG was tasked to recover the billions of dollars that comprise the Marcoses’ ill-gotten wealth.
With its controversial decision, SC had somehow contradicted all their earlier decisions that suggest that Marcos was a plunderer and human rights violator.
Also, the Supreme Court chose to scrutinize the technicalities of the petitioners’ arguments rather than contemplate the latter’s fervent appeal for truth and justice when the SC asserts that the case should have been filed first with the proper RTC and when it maintains that the LNMB is not a national shrine but is merely a military shrine. It also claims that the interment will not, in any way, confer upon Marcos the status of a hero because the purpose of LNMB, despite its name, is “neither to confer to the people buried there the title of hero nor to require that only those interred therein should be treated as a hero.” It also alleges in its decision that the matter of contention has become a political issue.
How could the Supreme Court be that insensitive? Part of their mandate as an independent, impartial, effective and efficient Judiciary is to defend the welfare of the people and to protect their rights.
The Supreme Court further declares that “Marcos should be viewed and judged in his totality as a person. While he was not all good, he was not pure evil either. Certainly, just a human who erred like us.” (I know, I also had difficulty believing that these words were penned by our judicious magistrates.)
But we have to remember that the SC justices are just men and women who could be as fallible and corruptible as any of us. They could also commit grave mistakes. And, definitely, they and their decisions are not beyond reproach.
Pres. Duterte has been elected into office by an overwhelming landslide win. We, the voters, through our votes, authorized him to do what he promised during the campaign he would do should he win.
I swear, this argument did not come from an unsophisticated mind of a troll. This came from no less than Salvador Panelo, the Chief Legal Counsel of Pres. Duterte (yes, he is the same man who lawyered for these personalities: Marcoses on the cases of ill-gotten wealth against them, Andal Ampatuan, Jr. on the Maguindanao massacre case, Bong Revilla, Jr. on his PDAF plunder and graft cases, former Laguna Mayor Antonio Sanchez on the double murder case of two UPLB students, former Comelec Chairman Benjamin Abalos on the electoral sabotage case, Philip Medel on the murder case of actress Nida Blanca, Deniece Cornejo on her rape case against Vhong Navarro, Dennis Roldan on the kidnapping case of a Chinoy boy, and of course, Pres. Duterte on the case of hidden wealth filed against him by Sen. Trillanes.)
Anyway, to answer his argument, I did not vote for Duterte, and his vocal position on the Marcos burial at the LNMB was one of the reasons why. However, when he won the election, I endeavored to respect the choice of the greater number of voters while making a vow to be vigilant with my duties to question, to guard, to challenge and to seek truth and justice at all times.
It is in keeping with that vow that I am questioning the reason behind the President’s decision to allow that burial.
According to the SC decision, it is because of his desire for national healing and reconciliation (which I wrote above is not feasible without meeting the basic requirements for forgiveness) –- a statement which is not in harmony with his public pronouncements on the subject. His decision is borne out of his desire to fulfill his promise to the Marcoses during campaign and as a payback for his debt of gratitude to Imee Marcos for financially supporting his presidential bid.
He also said that the issue over the burial is a fight between two families. With that single carelessly-thrown statement, he was able to reduce the Filipinos’ struggles for two decades, the fear and horror and nightmare of Martial Law, the lives lost and the billions of dollars plundered from our coffers, into one inconsequential, capricious issue that requires minimum scrutiny and deliberation.
Another one of his reasons is because Marcos “was a soldier. He was there to fight for his country. Even if he is not a hero, he is a Filipino and he is, once upon a time, a president. That’s the law, we cannot go out of the law. I am not dwelling on his exploits.” Let me answer this with a statement from someone who is adept at history. Maria Serena Diokno, the Chairman of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) who resigned following the controversial burial, said “The justice of history, anchored on historical truth, is far greater than that which any court, including the highest court of the land, can render (or in this case, fail to render). As President of our Republic, you have the unique opportunity and obligation to heed the demands of the justice of History, and thereby lead the way to true healing.”
As for me, let me leave the President with this image
…and the readers with this message:
Wake up, kabayan! Fight historical revisionism NOW.
Tomorrow may be too late.