First of 3 parts: Incompetence
I’M referring to a melodramatically titled “Manifesto in Defense of Historical Truth” which pledges to “combat all attempts at historical revisionism that distort and falsify history to suit the Marcoses.”
It was circulated on the internet and purportedly got more than 1,000 “scholars and academics.” The initiators were nine academics.
However, these people don’t really know anything about martial law: they have not published a single paper on that era except for one who wrote a journalistic “term paper” in her undergraduate years. They know as much (or even more) about martial law as any Juan de la Cruz you interview off the streets.
That it was signed by “scholars” is fake news. Many obviously were not scholars, but merely noisy Leni Robredo believers. Signatories Ces Drilon, Bibeth Orteza and Maria Isabel Lopez are scholars? In that case why weren’t Pinoy Ako blogger Jover Laurio and Vice Ganda included? More on this point though in subsequent parts of this series.
This manifesto is nothing but a cheap propaganda initiative, the kind of click-here-if-you-agree petitions that the Left and the Yellows have used so often, the internet version of a mob.
It is worse though than the usual petitions through social media, as it is propaganda employing the logical fallacy called “appeal to authority,” as it pretends to have scholars condemning the martial law era — when very, very few of these “scholars” have undertaken any research on any topic of the Marcos era.
They’re merely (uncritical, gullible) readers of the plethora of anti-Marcos books (hastily written by American writers hoping to have quickie bestsellers, with the sudden interest in the Philippines after EDSA) and gullible consumers of the output of the Yellow-controlled mass media from the 1980s to the 1990s.
The manifesto is so disgraceful as it is an insult to the idea of scholarship — a human enterprise devoted to objective and nonpartisan search for truth. Scholars do not engage in petition-signing except in response to an extreme need, as in the academics’ manifesto of 2008 for governments to act on climate change, which in that case is an established scientific fact.
However, that this manifesto was signed by a sizable number of academics underlines how deep the Yellow forces’ brainwashing for four decades has been. This is the strata that are now the brainwashers, as evidenced by the fact that about two-thirds of the signatories are from UP, Ateneo and La Salle.
The manifesto echoes a surge of recent claims, in the wake of the landslide victory of Bongbong Marcos, that “the dark history of the martial law era can’t be revised.”
The popular collector of historical trivia, Ambeth Ocampo, expressed the same view when days before elections he posted on his Facebook page: “Don’t be on the wrong side of history.” A cliché that’s been condemned as the justification for historical horrors. It assumes an unchanging, godlike “History.” Broadcaster Karen Davila expressed the same view when she posted: “Moving forward doesn’t mean erasing history.”
That this view of history was as static and eternal as the books of the Bible, shared even by academics I had respected, astonished me. I had learned long ago in my freshman introductory course on history at the Ateneo how uneducated, so 18th-century such a notion of history is.
Those 1,000 scholars and Ocampo should read the textbook of my history class, the Cambridge professor Edward Hallett Carr’s “What Is History?”, a classic on the philosophy of history.
There Carr explains with unassailable logic and narration of numerous examples that there is no absolute, objective “history”: “History is what the historian writes,” he emphasizes. And what does the historian write? Carr says: “The thought of historians, as of other human beings, is molded by the environment of time and place.”
This is so logical. Documents, diaries and news reports make up an extremely tiny account of what happened in the past. A time machine doesn’t exist which a historian can use to go back in time and observe martial law. And even if he can, he is not an all-seeing deity who can observe everything that happens.
History is a science, a social science which attempts at the most reasonable interpretation of what happened.
For these “scholars” to claim that Marcos’ history can’t be revised is so unscholarly, just like saying physics, biology or anthropology can’t be revised. The course of scientific and academic disciplines, in fact, is a zigzag, spiral one. Even the once metaphysical discipline of theology has evolved, which now includes studies of linguistics, anthropology and comparative religion. It is only myths, such as the myth of martial law as a Dark Age, that cannot be revised.
That the manifesto expresses such colossal ignorance of the real nature of history, that it melodramatically “pledges to combat all attempts at historical revisionism,” reveals the incompetence of these people as scholars. They cannot claim to be scholars. They should be fired from their universities.
Filomeno Aguilar — who unlike any of the nine initiators of the petition, is a professor of history — in a 2019 paper evinced a view of history as one that evolves:
“Discrepant historical interpretations arise depending on one’s positionality as either victor or vanquished. There are always two sides to a story. Moreover, interpretations of the past — although all seemingly guided by a moral standpoint — differ, and these interpretations change over time, making possible qualitatively different moral assertions. More importantly, scholarly research and access to untapped sources are strategic in advancing new historical perspectives.”
Much of the real history of martial law is still to be written because there have been three powerful, propaganda-savvy forces that have succeeded because of their political agendas, in brainwashing the country to believe in their Dark Age mythology: the Communist Party, the Yellows and the US.
The growth of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) was mainly because of their opposition to Marcos. The Yellows, on the other hand, had to portray the EDSA uprising not as a restoration of elite rule by a faction of it but as a heroic toppling of a brutal dictatorship. The US has been the champion of liberal democracy — even if flawed — since it has had the expertise in manipulating representative republics, and will not allow a history of strongman rule to show any benefit to the Philippines.
So, how do you “revise” history? This involves not inventing facts, but uncovering facts, tapping previously untapped sources. Three examples:
The Jabidah Massacre. The Yellow history of this event was that Marcos’ Army Special Forces massacred more than a dozen Muslim recruits when they mutinied, after they found out that they were being trained to infiltrate Sabah and rouse their brother Muslims there to rebel against Malaysian rule.
I debunked this fake history by going to what historical research refers to as primary sources and documents, which in this case were the thousands of pages of transcripts of the hearings on this issue at the Senate and House of Representatives, as well as the reports by media that were not controlled by the powerful Lopez oligarchy.
The truth, as shown in these documents, and narrated in my book Debunked, and several columns, is that it was a Machiavellian scheme by then-senator Benigno S. Aquino Jr. and the entire Liberal Party to disclose to Malaysia that Marcos was planning an operation to take over Sabah, yet not appearing to do so. The primary sources incontrovertibly show so.
There wasn’t a single Muslim recruit killed. Aquino himself would say, as his scheme unraveled, that he himself interviewed the Muslims who were allegedly killed. He found that they were back home in a port in Jolo. The fledgling Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) exploited Aquino’s lies to appeal to the suddenly oil-rich Muslim Arab countries that martial law meant a genocide of Muslim people in Mindanao and that it needed funds to combat it.
“The Malisbong Massacre,” in which scores of Muslims were allegedly massacred by the Marcos Army and Navy in 1974. In this case, I used another method in historical research: To show there was absolutely no record of such massacre by objective recorders.
I contacted Arnold Zeitlin, the renowned intrepid correspondent of The Associated Press at that time (who was later kicked out by the regime for claiming that the Philippine Air Force used napalm against the Muslim dissidents). He was, in fact, in the area, covering Muslims who evacuated to the town, because of the massacre by MNLF troops of 23 Christian workers of the US logging firm Weyerhaeuser. He remembered that a Christian priest tried to sell him the napalm story, but he rejected it as he found no basis for it at all. Another source was the history of the Catholic parish of which Malisbong was a part. For such a gruesome massacre, there was no account at all that it occurred. What was reported in that account was the Weyerhaeuser massacre.
Details of this are in my columns: “1974 ‘massacre’ hoax recycled for a 2014 moneymaking ‘scam'” and “Malisbong ‘massacre’ during martial law: A hoax, with alleged victims’ relatives given P40M.” Nobody has challenged my claims in those two columns, except for a Twitter post, which instead raised an ad hominem argument against me.
“Widespread human rights violations:” The claim that thousands were killed and tortured during martial law. In the same manner, I unearthed the truth by going to the primary sources: the Task Force Detainees (TFD). In this case, I myself was a source, since as a communist cadre in the 1970s, I was involved for a while in this CPP project to maintain links with cadres detained to maintain their morale, so as not to cooperate with the government. More importantly the number of those arrested or “tortured” and their circumstances were used as the basis for a major propaganda tack, that martial law was a ruthless killer and torturer.
I went through another primary source, the list of human rights victims who registered as such at the Human Rights Victims Claims Board and demonstrated that the majority of these were CPP cadres as well as fighters of the Moro National Liberation Front and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. I researched the class suit against Marcos in Hawaii that found him liable for “10,000” instances of human rights abuses. I found that it was a kangaroo court, ironically the project of the Communist Party (founder Jose Maria Sison was one of the main claimants) in which that party unit, the TFD mentioned above, provided the court with the list of “human rights victims” — who were mainly CPP cadres and NPA guerillas killed or captured.
There were, of course, horrendous human rights abuses, and I personally know some of the victims. But these occurred mostly in the first years of martial law, and done by the usual rotten apples and rogues in any military organization. There has astonishingly been little historical research on the fact that Marcos set up a Command for the Administration of Detainees directly under the defense department, headed by the much respected Defense undersecretary Jose Crisol, or that over 4,000 men in uniform were dismissed by 1976 because of allegations of maltreatment of captured CPP activists.
We change accounts of the past based on new evidence or lack of it. Yet these academics in their “manifesto,” like some medieval Church cardinals, forbid such work:
“We shall strive to promote academic initiatives to protect the memories of a most violent and traumatic period in the history of the Philippines,” the manifesto pompously claimed. How can these people be academics when they have already concluded what martial law was, a period only few of them have done research on?
Martial Law wasn’t all good, but it wasn’t all bad. Real scholarship will uncover that.
Carr certainly knew what he was talking about when he devoted an entire chapter warning against moral judgments in historical research. He pointed out: “The beliefs we hold and the standards of judgment which we set up are as much subject to historical investigation as any other aspect of human behavior.” Real historians indeed should investigate the propaganda and media apparatus that has condemned the Marcos martial law period as the country’s Dark Ages, so powerful as to brainwash those who signed the manifesto.
Carr quoted and agreed with that renowned Italian philosopher and historian Benedetto Croce that, “Those who on the plea of narrating history bustle about as judges, condemning here and giving absolution there, because they think this is the office of history… are generally recognized as devoid of historical sense.
That perfectly describes these anti-Marcos “scholars.”
On Wednesday: The indolence of “scholars” in researching what really happened during martial law
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