Martial Law baby.
All my life I’ve been told I belong to that subset of Generation X with the misfortune of being born during the years of the imposition of state rule, courtesy of one President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos, Sr. To be honest, I was born in January of 1972—some months away from that much-replayed declaration of the Apo—but the year has been so seared into our collective memory that the months melt away into insignificance.
Over the years, I’ve seen that the reactions it evokes have slowly evolved from “Oh, you’re lucky you were still a kid then!” to “Wow, really? You’re that old?”
The reason why I include these relatively innocuous remarks is because they are actually telling. The first reflects knowledge or awareness of the difficulties during that dark time in our history. The second relegates Martial Law to being a bookmark in time.
For 2016 is a long way from 1981, when the shackles came off and we could wriggle free for a bit once more—until we found out that Martial Law was traded in for a less-restraining set of handcuffs.
Post 1986, a whole generation of people have been squeezed from the womb of society and weaned on a love for freedom that many of them perhaps now take for granted. They refer to the days of Martial Law with an understandable detachment—principally rooted in what they see on television, read in books, and hear from their peers or elders.
The danger is that, because the outrage has dimmed with time, denialists and apologists have made their way out of the woodwork to defend the once indefensible.
The internet is awash with tales of Martial Law and President Marcos, so I need not waste your time by adding to the glut. What I believe we should do though, if we profess to so love this country, is to be responsible consumers of information. It bears retelling that there’s a lot of crap out there. One thing I learned about late dictator firsthand (because I lived through it, and not because I read it on someone’s blog), is that he was a bright fellow. He could sell you the previous year’s telephone directory (dated reference is included for context) and you’d be grateful for it. The man didn’t need a teleprompter to deliver compelling speeches. Wisdom issued forth from the diminutive man with a considerable mind.
But that same mind was put to use in a horrible way: to extend his rule, to enrich himself at our people’s expense, and to kill and incarcerate those who got in the way. That’s the simplest way I can explain it, and I’m really hoping those who feel otherwise pick up a book—a real book, by a real historian.
Those were not fun times for the nation, although my loved ones provided me all the happiness they could. I remember being hurried back into the house when it got dark. I recall that adults became deathly afraid at the mere mention of the Metrocom (Metropolitan Command), who would round up curfew violators. In 1983, I even distinctly remember I was at the old Virra Mall in Greenhills with my mom when I learned that Ninoy Aquino had fallen to an assassin’s bullet. Rolando Galman was the gunman, they said. What a crock of crap that turned out to be.
I even queued to view Ninoy’s body lying in state at the Sto. Domingo Church in Quezon City. My mom and grandparents obviously believed it was important that I could see with my own eyes. They were right. It was a cathartic experience to see such brutality and cruelty. Something’s very, very wrong about our country, I thought then.
President Benigno Aquino III’s signing of Republic Act No. 10368 (Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act) in 2013, which essentially provided a reparations mechanism and recognition to “victims of human rights violations during the Marcos regime,” also sought “documentation of said violations, and appropriate funds therefor and for other purposes.” By May 2016, more than 75,000 people had filed claims. To my earlier point, the period included up to year 1986.
A lot of vitriol has been spilling out because, under this fledgling administration, many of the things we hold dear and believe to be true are being pulled from under us. With the decision of the Supreme Court to allow the late dictator’s interment at the cemetery reserved for heroes, we have effectively turned our backs on history. The blinders are on again, and the Marcos family has pulled a fast one on us with a stealthy burial. That was sly, very sly.
But maybe that’s just the Marcoses being Marcoses. For so long, they had done what they wanted. The kids had the run of the house (and by “house” I mean country). They could party, they could travel, they could don the finest of fineries just as their mom collected nice things aplenty (shoes and other bounty), and they could silence whoever they could with a wave of their hand.
Curiously though, today, the outrage of millions of Filipinos is matched by the ignorance of millions more. That notion of the “solid north” pertaining to an impenetrable, unwavering bastion of support for the fallen Ilocos son is still there—if cracked. In fact, there’s a whole network of Marcos supporters around the country who shaded the oval beside the name of one Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in the hopes of getting him to Malacañang’s second-highest post.
Now, how the f___ did that happen?
The son, although not as brilliant as his father, is blessed with an equally glib tongue. He is well put together—a sanitized Marcos if there ever was any. He smiles, he is well mannered, and he appears to be someone you could call your friend. Now, I have no issue with that. In fact, I don’t care about him.
What I do have an issue with is that Bongbong, along with the rest of those who have enriched themselves at our country’s expense, refuse to acknowledge the stealing, the killings, the atrocities. Except for vague, general pronouncements, Bongbong has refused to apologize for what transpired during his father’s bloody rule. The Marcoses continue to hold their heads up in defiance.
People think this whole affair is detrimental to our country moving forward. But doesn’t forgiveness entail penance—or even an acknowledgement of the transgression to begin with? The Marcoses have been consistent in their feigning of ignorance. Their apologists have thrown shade at Vice President Leni Robredo, as if this unrest was a purely political exercise of “yellows” versus the incumbent President. Oh, please.
Think about it, too. If President Marcos was a patriot who loved his country, would he have so shamelessly (and selfishly) sought to extend his rule so god-awfully long?
Considering all the foregoing, this sordid affair with the Marcoses and our enablement of this family enjoying impunity is an insult to all the victims of the despot’s reign. That we let them get what they want despite everything they have done to us is outrageous.
Now, people who have allowed the supreme insult of sticking the dictator’s remains into a hallowed memorial park reserved for brave and honorable patriots is just icing on the cake—or the straw that breaks the camel’s back (depending on where you stand). When under someone’s iron fist, the state imprisons 70,000, tortures 34,000, kills 3,240, and leaves us with a debt of almost US$30 billion, is that something to be celebrated? When you see the Marcoses today still living it up, should we get up and clap? “Hey, congratulations on evading arrest! Thank God they haven’t tossed you to the streets and you still have your dad’s loot!”
When we are asked to look into his being a soldier, should we accede then? Oh, wait, this was a soldier who presented himself as a bogus hero with a bogus mission and then presented bogus medals. Should we still be according him the honor?
With every boom of the 21-gun salute last November 18, the heavens must have shed a tear. Every soul whose body is interred in that place reserved for heroes rightfully deserves more.
The tragedy is that the government and those in the SC who agreed to this farce want to do right by the Marcoses—the very same family who can’t extend the same courtesy to the countless Filipinos (including you and me, by the way) who were killed, raped, kidnapped, disappeared, tortured, incarcerated, and robbed during an unprecedented protracted reign of terror. I’m sorry if I keep repeating this. Well, I’m not. I’m just mad—and rightly so.
And for the Marcos-era infrastructure you so dearly love? Yes, we paid for that as well.
Martial Law, baby. Look it up.