Anti-Marcos ‘scholars’: Know-nothings really

  • Reading time:10 mins read

Second of 3 parts

WHAT gets my goat over this pompous “Manifesto in Defense of Historical Truth,” euphemistically called an “online” petition, is the know-all stance of its initiators and signatories. In truth, they are a bunch of know-nothings on what happened during martial law: I can count only three of its over 1,000 signatories who have done research and/or published a scholarly article on an aspect of the martial law era, only one of which can stand as a product of historical research.

These self-important “scholars” — about a hundred I suspect are mere Communist Party activists as they list themselves as “independent scholars” unable to cite any college or university affiliation — declaring that they will “combat all attempts at historical revisionism” could at best be likened to a group of orthopedists and chiropractors issuing a manifesto claiming that Ivermectin is a cure for Covid-19 infections.

Just as it is unprofessional and unethical for an orthopedist to claim expertise in epidemiology or pharmacology, it would be the same for people claiming expertise on the martial law era to be opposed to “revisionism” when it is not the field of academic work of 99 percent of the signatories of that stupid “Manifesto.”

Let’s take the nine “initiators” of the manifesto as a sample. The lead initiator, Ateneo de Manila instructor Oscar Campomanes, is not even a historian. He teaches English Language and Literature, and his PhD is “American Civilization.” His writings are mostly on the Filipino American poet and activist Carlos Bulosan of the 1950s and on the Philippines when it was a US colony. I cannot find in Google Scholar any article by Campomanes on the martial law period.

The background of another initiator, the contact person for the manifesto, is very revealing. His Wikipedia entry (which he himself likely submitted as it is all praises for him) says: “Ramon Guillermo is a Filipino novelist, translator, poet, activist and academic in the field of Southeast Asian Studies.” I suspect he is a communist cadre or sympathizer. His book Blood Brothers is a paean to the communist parties of the Philippines and Indonesia, in which he disclosed that CPP founder Jose Ma. Sison provided him with “important insights.” What kind of person, if not a diehard communist, for chrissake, would translate Karl Marx’s Das Kapital into Filipino?

While he has written many articles, among them on Andres Bonifacio, Rizal and on such an obscure figure as the German educationist Joachim Henrich Campe (??), he has not written a single article on any aspect of the Marcos martial law regime.


Listed as second among the initiators is Nicole CuUnjieng, who is indeed a historian by training as her PhD is in “Southeast Asian and International History” at Yale University. Apparently spending most of her adult life abroad, CuUnjieng is based in Cambridge as a research fellow, and is the executive director of the Toynbee Prize Foundation. I doubt if with such a prestigious position she would have time to do research, or do some serious thinking about martial law — rather than calling on “scholars” to sign a petition to “combat” pro-Marcos revisions. (The only paper on the Marcos era she wrote was a sophomoric undergraduate term paper 14 years ago.)

She turned her PhD dissertation into a book, Asian Place, Filipino Nation: A Global Intellectual History of the Philippine Revolution, 1887-1912, whose thesis is that Philippine revolutionaries were highly influenced by the surge in rebellions in other Asian countries at that time.

Now how useful is that to our understanding of the key events in our past? She could have spent her valuable time and millions of pesos in matriculation and lodging researching instead — if she wanted to give her thesis an international flavor to please the university — an important perspective on martial law: whether or not what prodded Marcos’ martial law was the tremendous success of one-man or one-party rule in Southeast Asian countries, as happened in Singapore, Japan, South Korea and Indonesia.

That would have been a great book that would fundamentally change the current bad-martial-law vs good-democracy dichotomy in the current discourse over martial law. But of course her Yale professors wouldn’t dream of advising a student to research on the success of Asian authoritarians. They would be shocked if CuUnjieng’s book was titled “Asian inspired, Marcos martial-law.”


And we can go down the list of those nine initiators: Francis Gealogo’s fields of study are on the 1918 flu epidemic and the Aglipayan Church; Caroline Hau on the Chinese in Southeast Asia; Jason Lamcheck on human rights law; Vina Lanzona’s field of study, would you believe, is on sex and gender among the Huks of the 1950s; and Carlos Piocos’ on female labor migration in Southeast Asia. Lulu Torres Reyes is the editor of Kultura Kritika, the Ateneo journal on literary, language and cultural studies.

I obviously cannot spend my time checking on the field of research of over 1,000 signatories. But from a quick browsing, only one signatory emerges as having done real historical research on martial law. This is Teresa Encarnacion Tadem who wrote Philippine Politics and the Marcos Technocrats: The Emergence and Evolution of a Power Elite. The book is revealing in that it narrates in detail the powerful role of the technocrats — led by Cesar Virata, after whom the UP’s business college is named — in running the martial-law economy, which debunks the simplistic analysis that it was solely Marcos who dragged the country into an economic collapse.

This cursory review of the research areas of these “scholars” shows that they have as much knowledge of the martial law period as the residents of Barangay Baliw in Ilocos Sur. What is despicable though is that they portray themselves as scholars who have studied martial law, and undertake what is essentially an internet version of a mob warning Filipinos not to “revise” martial law history.


My discussion on the backgrounds of the nine “initiators” also reveals what I think is one of the nation’s huge problems: our academics have become irrelevant, and that 1960s description of them has become so apt: they live and work in ivory towers, many abroad. Any society needs a stratum of scholars concerned about their nation. We really hardly have any. What we have are brainwashed students who have become academics.

Ateneo de Manila for instance is at the forefront of universities angry at President Duterte and Bongbong Marcos. But just browse the list of its history department’s publications, which reflect what they have been studying and you will wonder what these guys are smoking: “Sumpong: Spirit Beliefs, Murder and Religious Change Among Eighteenth-Century Aeta and Ilongot in Eastern Central Luzon”; “Visible Japanese and Invisible Filipino: Narratives of the Development of Davao, 1900s to 1930s”; “A Collision of Masculinities: Men, Modernity and Urban Transportation in American-Colonial Manila;” “Kapuso, Kapatid, Kapamilya: Mga Tulang Alay kina Andres Bonifacio at sa Inangbayan.” And my favorite, “Representing the War in Manga” (comics).


What I’m also peeved about with this “Manifesto” is that 200 of the over 1,000 signatories are based abroad, even in such obscure colleges as Skyline College in California to Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide. Many of them have become so detached from modern Philippine reality, preferring to be in foreign universities because of the higher level of pay there.

For instance, a Left-leaning scholar, a signatory to the manifesto, still very much anti-Marcos after 40 years, has been abroad now for nearly his entire working life, moving from one foreign university to another as his employment contract ends, to finally end up in a university in Hawaii.

It hadn’t crossed his mind that he could be doing very important research on the martial law era there: the Hawaii trial of Marcos that started in 1991 on his alleged human rights abuses. I’m 100 percent sure that if he just goes through that trial’s transcript, he will drop his anti-Marcos stance, and discover that that trial was a kangaroo court undertaken by the US, as a quid pro quo with Cory Aquino to lobby for the renewal of US military bases in the Philippines.

Of course that wouldn’t interest this “scholar” since the manifesto he signed pompously declares that martial law “history” cannot be revised. So he just keeps writing on current Philippine developments of which he really doesn’t know anything deeper than the usual Red and Yellow narratives.

On Friday, May 27: What the manifesto inadvertently reveals

Facebook: Rigoberto Tiglao

Twitter: @bobitiglao

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Dorina Rojas

    Sometimes the best way to fool people is to write something out of nothing and place some fake icing on cake made of cardboard. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, these “psycholars” don’t believe in their own icing, so they buy it themselves.

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