SEN. Koko Pimentel the other day said that only the victims of Ferdinand Marcos’ strongman rule have the right to say that, “It’s time to move on.” He was reacting to Imee Marcos’ recent comment for people to “move on” from what she described as the “Aquino-Marcos feud.”
Well, in that case, I do have the right to urge us to move on, since I could be classified as a martial law victim. I, with my late wife Raquel, was arrested in 1973. I was beaten up (just a bit, since I was from a school for the rich, the Ateneo), injected with truth serum, and incarcerated in three different political prisons for two years.
There’s an important detail left out there—the kind many “martial law victims” of course also omit in their outrage at Marcos, and their desire to show that they deserve to be compensated. I was heading then the metropolitan Manila organization of the Communist Party of the Philippines, financed by Mao Zedong and the anti-Marcos oligarchs, which had vowed to overthrow through violence the electoral system and install its dictatorship in the name of the “proletariat.”
Another detail: We were organizing then the first “sparrow units” in Manila. That romantic label, copied from Mao, referred to teams tasked to assassinate police and military men in the metropolis, to signal that the armed revolution had arrived in Manila. Two decades later, those kinds of teams would become the dreaded Alex Boncayao Brigade.
Marcos’ trusted cousin
Filipinos in fact have implicitly rejected the narrative of massive human rights abuses during Martial Law, and have moved on: They elected as president in 1992 Marcos’ trusted cousin, the Philippine Constabulary’s head, Fidel V. Ramos. The general had total control of the police apparatus during almost the entire martial law regime. If there were state-directed human rights abuses during Martial Law, Ramos would be responsible. But Filipinos have obviously moved on, with Ramos still a very respected former president, sought out for his views and even writing a column in a national newspaper.
To be honest though, even after I left the Communist Party in 1974, disgusted over its refusal to admit to its cowardly bombing of the Liberal Party’s miting de avance in Plaza Miranda on August 21, 1971, I couldn’t “move on” for many years more.
My decision to be a journalist in fact was to some extent motivated by my aspiration to expose the “evils” of the dictatorship—which I did during my Business Day years, when one of my exposés was the central bank’s padding of the country’s international reserves to portray a healthy economy.
A decade later, I would realize that faced with a financial meltdown, Marcos technocrats had to do everything they could to stave that off. They were just too stupid to think they could pull it off.
One has to move on, if one is loyal not to comrades or ideologies trapped in that era, but to one’s rationality.
I find it a bit funny that those who refuse to “move on” and are so vociferously anti-Marcos are people who had never been “victims” of martial law or were blissfully apolitical during those years.
Many of these hypocrites – like Liberal Party stalwart Chito Gascon and two academics-turned- columnists – became anti-Marcos activists only in the last waning years of the regime in the 1980s, which was triggered not really by the Ninoy Aquino assassination nor by outrage over human rights abuses but by the severe economic depression that resulted from the oil crisis in 1980, and the far worse global debt crisis of 1983.
That adage attributed to Bavarian playwright Ernest Toller and popularized by Winston Churchill is so true: “History is written by the victors.”
The faction of the oligarchy that Marcos had beaten to a pulp, led by the Lopez and the Osmeña clans, returned with a vengeance after his fall. Marcos’ toppling was crucially helped by the US, which made the calculation—very wrongly as it turned out—that Corazon Aquino would ensure that the US military bases would stay after the 1947 treaty expired in 1991. The bases had become very strategic for the Americans at a time when the Cold War with the Soviet Union was intensifying, even to the brink of a nuclear war, recent disclosures show.
The Cory years, it has become crystal clear now, meant the return to power of the oligarchs Marcos had routed and the rebirth of the overall system for the rule of the elite. Disguised as electoral democracy, this was a clever scheme for rotating the leadership of what Lenin called “the executive committee of the ruling class.”
They were able to conceal these by demonizing Marcos, as if everything wrong with the Philippines had been due to the dictator. Without Marcos as the “Evil Incarnate,” Cory’s oligarchs wouldn’t have been able to fool us. It’s similar to the clerics’ old trick since ancient times, who wouldn’t convince anybody that an imaginary Deity exists if people didn’t believe Satan existed.
The truth of course, as we have come to realize in recent years, is that our real problem is an oligarchy which, in contrast to those in other countries, aren’t even nationalists.
Cory for instance turned over PLDT to her Cojuangco nephews, whose father was a corporate dummy who helped conceal Marcos’ controlling stockholdings. Meralco was reverted back to the Lopezes, despite the huge loans the clan had incurred when it controlled the firm before martial law.
What happened to these two of the country’s largest firms, is a microcosm of what transpired after strongman rule ended: Both ended up being owned not by any Philippine oligarch, but by an Indonesian, Anthoni Salim, through his Hong Kong-based First Pacific Co.
That Bongbong Marcos would have won roundly as vice president, that his sister Imee is even considered as a possible presidential candidate in the future, that more and more posts in social media have been pointing out Marcos’ achievements (especially in infrastructure) are due to two things.
First, after Cory came three administrations that didn’t subscribe to the narrative of Marcos as a Dark Ruler. Ramos, Joseph Estrada, and Gloria Arroyo even detested the attempts of Cory’s oligarchs to control them. You’d need a president fully committed to the Yellow narrative to prevent the truth from coming out eventually, even in trickles.
Second, while it moved heaven and earth to strengthen that false narrative, the second Aquino regime, that of Benigno Cojuangco Aquino 3rd, proved to be so totally incompetent, and his cronies more corrupt than the so-called Marcos cronies. This made Filipinos think: If this jerk is so incompetent, then he’s so mentally challenged that his claims that Marcos was so bad is likely false.
There have been 20 countries in the post-war era that had peaceful “revolutions” similar to our ESDA uprising in 1986 – nonviolent, extra-constitutional regime changes, transitions from dictatorship to democracy. Thirteen of these were the so-called “color revolutions,” said to have been inspired in some way by the EDSA “Yellow Revolution.”
All of them have moved on, with hardly any celebration of their revolutions. Compared to Indonesia’s Suharto (whose assumption to power resulted in over 500,000 Indonesians of ethnic Chinese origin, labelled as communists, massacred) and South Korea’s Park Chung-hee who ruled his country with a bloody iron fist for 17 years, Marcos in his 13 years of strongman rule was a benign, ill-starred ruler. He even let his arch enemies, convicted by a military court and sentenced to death by musketry, either escape abroad (like Ninoy Aquino) or bide their time to be freed by another regime (like communist chief Joma Sison).
Most Filipinos in fact have moved on. It is only the Yellow Cult, and their naïve and not-so-naïve minions in the academe, most especially at the Ateneo and UP, and in the media like Rappler who haven’t. And the likes of the Yellow Cult member Koko Pimentel, whose father was after all Cory’s interior government minister, who single-handedly decided what governor and mayor were to removed or to be retained during her revolutionary government.