IN a span of a lifetime, and with regard to the Marcos era, we are seeing the truth of a quote attributed to Bavarian playwright Ernest Toller: “History is the propaganda of the victors.”
Winston Churchill revised that to the more well-known: “History is written by the victors.”
That itself is in a way proof of the adage: The notion is almost always attributed to Churchill, one of the leaders of the victors of World War II who rule the world to this day. A Jew and a communist, Toller was driven to exile by the Nazis, and then to suicide, forgotten.
Consider what happened right after EDSA I in February 1986.
The Marcos camp was so stunned at how quickly the US, as well as military leaders Juan Ponce Enrile and Fidel Ramos, abandoned the strongman they supported for more than two decades, that they had to abandon their dinner and leave Malacañang. Even Eduardo Cojuangco, the most capable to lead the Marcos camp, joined the strongman in his flight out of Manila, to their Ilocos redoubt they very mistakenly thought.
They ended up in Hawaii, all treated as stateless refugees, with Marcos given a small slip of paper by the Immigration Service declaring he was the “State Department’s guest”. Gratitude isn’t a value in US foreign policy.
Enrile and Ramos led the defection of the entire armed forces to Cory Aquino’s camp. Without a leader (except perhaps for the aging Arturo Tolentino, who won the vice-presidential post in the 1986 elections), the “Solid North” acquiesced to the victors. After a few days insisting he was Marcos’ legitimate successor, as he had been elected prime minister by parliament, Cesar Virata just stayed home, and started asking his World Bank and big-business cronies for consultancy jobs.
The many, many businessmen, local politicians, and government officials that made up the political base of Martial Law all went home or abroad to enjoy their wealth.
Enter the victors, led by the houses of Cojuangco and Lopez.
Having run the biggest media empire before martial law—the ABS-CBN/Manila Chronicle behemoth—as well as having been consummate politicians, the Lopezes were experts in propaganda, or rather, how to mold a nation’s consciousness for its benefit.
Even Marcos had not been as skilled in, or as appreciative of, the value of propaganda as the Lopezes. When he was the victor after declaring Martial Law, his accusation that the Lopezes led the “extreme Right” that allied itself with the “extreme Left” never got traction.
The Lopezes in contrast were propaganda masters. The Marcos era was portrayed as an Asian equivalent of Nazi Germany, so that Filipinos forgot that it was oligarchs like the Lopezes who gave the strongman the excuse to impose martial law, and that it has been, and still is, a greedy oligarchy that is the root problem of the country.
The Lopezes financed the building of the Bantayog ng mga Bayani, which supposedly is where the heroes of the anti-Marcos struggle are commemorated in a monument mimicking the US Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Commission on Human Rights chairman Chito Gascon wants it to be converted into a P500 million museum on anti-Marcos “atrocities,” to ape the many Holocaust Museums all over the world.
The root of the Philippine quagmire is the Marcos era, and now his ideological descendant, which President Duterte allegedly is, not the rule of oligarchs. That has been the Martial Law history as written by the Yellow Cult.
The Yellows’ “Never Again” slogan was even copied from the Jewish Defense League’s now universal chant to protest the Holocaust in which six million Jews were exterminated by the Nazis. The principle of propaganda of course is to exaggerate to the extreme.
The heyday of the Marcos era—from 1972 to roughly 1979—when GDP grew at an average of 6 percent, rice self-sufficiency was achieved, and massive infrastructure never before seen built was deleted from Filipinos’ memory.
The Lopez-Cojuangco elite didn’t find it so difficult to write their martial-law history as propaganda, thanks to three groups.
First was the US “Deep State”, who had scrambled to oust Marcos on the calculation that a grateful Cory Aquino would extend the presence of US military bases, when it expired in 1991.
The Philippines’ “People Power Revolution” also became its “Down-with-Dictators” template for getting the former Soviet Union satellite states to its camp: Poland’s Lech Walesa and his Solidarity movement wrested power in 1989, Singing Revolutions broke out in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in the Baltic states, an East German democracy movement surged that finally tore the Berlin wall down; and Czechoslovakia’s Velvet Revolution erupted in late 1989. The template even nearly toppled Chinese Communist Party rule through the so-called Democracy Movement that peaked in the Tiananmen protests, also in 1989.
US media and academia followed the US Deep State’s wishes, with nearly all books on Martial Law—except those of Carmen Pedrosa and Primitivo Mijares—written by Americans.
In much the same way that the foreign-financed website Rappler spread its manufactured figure of 7,087 killed in Duterte’s war against drugs as at September last year, it was an American scholar Alfred McCoy who had succeeded for three decades in propagating the lie that 3,257 people were summarily executed during Martial Law. McCoy fabricated that figure, pretending to use empirical data. I have totally debunked his claim in my column, “Human rights abuses under Cory as bad as dictator’s record – Marcos critics’ own data” (Manila Times, April 17, 2016).
Philippine academia has mostly been US academia’s monkey, since those who occupy the highest posts in universities, get their PhDs in US universities, and you don’t get that degree, and have your dissertation approved if you don’t subscribe to their worldview. Strangely though, no Filipino academic has managed to write a history of the Martial Law period.
The second group that has helped the oligarchs in the manufacture of anti-Marcos history is media, more precisely a group of media men of the last generation. Media men, especially columnists, who occupied high standings in society suddenly found themselves out of work when Marcos closed down their newspapers and TV stations, with a few fleeing abroad, even to Australia. Several wouldn’t have reached such high standings in the profession after martial law, and would have been only feature or life-style writers, if they had not boldly written anti-Marcos articles during martial law.
Can you blame them if, after the dictator fell, they would come back to media with a vengeance? From 1987 to just a few years ago, Philippine print media has been dominated by the Philippine Daily Inquirer and the Philippine Star, both founded by anti-Marcos journalists and whose editors don’t hide how much they hate Marcos.
The third group responsible for the anti-Marcos propaganda is the Communist Party and its fronts, whose dogma is that Marcos was the ruthless dictator in the mold of Hitler, Mussolini and banana-republic strongmen.
I frankly cannot understand why three decades after Marcos fell, these leftists continue to be so fixated on Marcos. Is it because most of those they claim were human rights victims were in truth their members who were deep in, or advocated, armed struggle to topple Marcos – like myself? Is it because they think that by invoking Marcos as a ruthless tyrant they fought, they can claim to be patriots and lead this generation of Filipinos?
Blame of course also the Marcos family itself for the continuing demonization of its patriarch.
Imelda mostly has tried to live her life as if it was still the Marcos era, enjoying the life of a sought-after member of high- society circles. While becoming politicians to prove that the DNA they got from their father is not of a thief, but of a patriot who served the people, the strongman’s children seemed uninterested in history, to have it paint a balanced portrait of their father.
Maybe we are a people after all who don’t seem to care about history, as truthfully written. That has been, and could be our tragedy.
For your easy reference, some of my Manila Times columns that have tried to crack the Yellow propaganda-as-history:
• “Enrile: CPP-NPA — and China — provoked Martial Law imposition, “ March 31, 2017
• “The communist insurgency: The Marcos-Aquino curse on the nation,” February 8, 2017
• “Ninoy believed Martial Law was necessary and supported it,” January 9, 2017
• “Ninoy Aquino: Hero or miscalculating ‘throne’ gamer?” December 5, 2016
• “Inside Marcos’ prisons.” September 23, 2016.
• “What Marcos prisons were really like,” September 25, 2016
• “Human rights abuses under Cory as bad as dictator’s record – Marcos critics’ own data,“ April 18, 2016.
• “If the Marcos economy was so bad, why is his economic tsar Virata so respected?” March 28, 2016.
• “It is Ramos who should apologize over Martial Law ‘abuses’,” March 18, 2016
• “Virata and technocrats ran the Martial Law economy,” March 3, 2016.
• “ Helped by communists, oligarchs demonized Marcos to conceal their rule,” September 28, 2016
• “Liberal and Communist parties provoked Martial Law imposition, “ September 23, 2015.