THE following is a chapter from my 2018 book, Debunked, which had 11 other chapters on the various aspects of martial law. Neither the Yellows nor any academic have questioned a single assertion or data in this article and the others. I do hope those claiming to be academics still condemning the martial law era as a “Dark Period” respond to rebut this article, and I promise to publish them in this space, as long as these comply with the editorial standards of this newspaper:
After Ferdinand Marcos’ downfall in 1986, it had been an unchallenged dogma that one of the martial law period’s most horrid aspects was its human rights abuses. This again appears to be another instance proving true the adage that “The victors write the history.”
This despite the data in an anti-Marcos book, Rebellion and Repression in the Philippines (1989: Yale University) by Richard Kessler that show human rights abuses during the Corazon Aquino regime was just as bad as Marcos’ record.
Ironically, Kessler’s data became the basis of the oft-repeated claims by a more rabid anti-Marcos American historian, Alfred McCoy, that the human rights abuses during the Marcos regime were worse than those in the infamous Latin American dictatorships.
McCoy wrote: “Marcos’ tally of 3,257 killed exceeds those under the Brazilian and Chilean dictatorships.” That 3,257 number has become the most-used figure to allege the ruthlessness of the Marcos rule.
An attention-hungry blogger turned cut-and-paste writer for instance referred to McCoy’s figures when she arrogantly asked Marcos’ son Ferdinand Jr., when he ran for vice president in 2016, that he first needed to apologize for “the 3,257 murders during his father’s regime.” Yellow believers have such a fixation on that number with one inane columnist writing that “3,257 is a number that chills the blood.”
What these Marcos critics didn’t bother to examine was Kessler’s data on which McCoy almost completely relied on for his report.
Quite ironically, Kessler presented his data in his book published in 1989 in order to hammer home his point that human rights abuses had not at all subsided even when Cory Aquino assumed power until 1988, the last year for which data was available.
Kessler wrote (p. 136): “International groups, such as Amnesty International and the Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights, issued reports in 1988 that suggested that the human rights situation (under the Aquino regime) was at least as bad as it had been under Marcos. As table 5.1 indicates, human rights violations — always a problem in the Philippines — did not cease with democracy’s return.”
Demonstrating either his bias or his utter lack of real academic rigor, McCoy did not even mention that Kessler presented his data mainly to show that human rights violations continued under Cory. The table (5.1), scanned directly from Kessler’s book, shows the following:
The figures show that human rights abuses continued under Cory Aquino. The 7,444 arrests in 1987 were even the highest recorded in the 14-year period.
Extrajudicial killings continued even during the regime of Aquino, data confirms, which flies in the face of her manufactured image as “squeaky-clean” and even “saintly” compared with the demonized Marcos.
The academics’ partisanship and betrayal of their discipline is demonstrated, though, by the fact that they merely added all the cases during martial law. The number of disappearances and extrajudicial killings, therefore, from 1975 to 1985 totaled 3,164.
Again showing his anti-Marcos’ bias, McCoy obviously thought this figure was low, so he looked for another source claiming a bigger number.
This was provided in another book by known leftists Verne Mercado and Mariani Dimaranan showing 93 more. Not explaining why he chose this higher figure, McCoy came up with that now infamous figure of 3,257 people killed under the Marcos regime.
But this figure means nothing if not compared with anything else. Kessler had in fact presented his data for comparison with the first three years under Aquino, which I summarize in the second table (Human rights abuses under the 2 regimes).
We would just be making an inane apples-and-oranges comparison if we were to look only at the totals since these do not take into account the fact that the Marcos cases span 11 years against Cory’s three years.
To evaluate how bad the human rights situation really was during the comparative regimes, the average per year should be taken for the years under Marcos and those under Aquino.
The figures are shocking.
There were three times more arrests per year under Cory than under Marcos: 3,627 against 1,960. The average of those killed and disappeared during Cory’s watch was 244 annually, which isn’t too far from Marcos’ 296.
Now, as they want Marcos Jr. to apologize for the human rights abuses under his father’s government, shouldn’t they ask President Benigno Aquino 3rd and his sisters to apologize for the abuses during their mother’s time?
This is, in fact, the reason why Kessler presented his statistics, to show that human rights violations continued under Cory, and may have even worsened.
In fact, before he presented his “dry” statistics, Kessler gave vivid examples of human rights abuses under Cory Aquino:
“In April 1987, a member of the United Farmers’ Organization was kidnapped by a local vigilante in Cebu City, her body, with her head and leg hacked off, was recovered over a week later.
“In May, a 30-year-old woman, eight months pregnant, and another young woman, disappeared. Their bodies were later discovered, headless and stabbed multiple times. That pregnant woman’s abdomen had been slashed open and the fetus ripped out.
“One day in June, a farmer hoeing his field in Negros was attacked by several vigilantes, who accused him of being a communist rebel. He was decapitated and disemboweled. They took the head of the local military commander who told them that the man was innocent. The head was abandoned in a ditch, to be recovered later by the man’s wife.” (Kessler, page 136)
As that blogger melodramatically claimed she cried as she cut and pasted reports of human rights abuses under Marcos, I hope she also shed a tear or two for such horrible killings under Aquino.
Vigilantism is the main fomenter of human rights abuses under any government. As Kessler explained in 1989, observing the first three years after Marcos fell:
“Vigilante groups had sprung up all over the country with the tacit or direct support of the military and the government during 1987 after a year of relative calm in the insurgency.
“In Mindanao were the Alsa Masa in Davao City, the Eagle’s Squad, the United People for Peace; in Negros, the Philippine Constabulary Forward Command; and in Cebu, the Tadtad and the Citizens’ Army against Communism; and even in Manila, the police began giving weapons’ training to civilians forming neighborhood patrols.”
Kessler concluded of the Cory Aquino regime: “The government appeared powerless to restore the rule of law.”
Many Filipino academics have become highly partisan and too gullible that they believe all of McCoy’s allegations and distortion of Kessler’s data. Lacking academic vigor, they are too lazy to question McCoy’s data and even accuse journalists like me who are seeking the truth that we “insult the memory of those thousands who were savagely killed.”
Such attribution of motives to seekers of truth is so blatantly unacademic, a sign of an indolent mind. No wonder our academe is in such a sorry state.
Because Filipinos are rabidly anti-communist (due to US influence), the only way for the Communist Party to get them as allies was to portray the Marcos regime as so ruthless and evil. With the help of indolent and partisan academics, it seems the communists have succeeded.