Not on our watch, too

Despite being used in common parlance, historical revisionism takes on a pejorative meaning as it is often used to rewrite past and recent history through misstatements, half-truths and outright lies. It thereby distorts real events in order to suit the agenda of its purveyor.

In recent events, especially when President Rodrigo Duterte came to power, attempts have been made by certain sectors to sanitize the 20-year rule by then-President Ferdinand Marcos and to dub his repressive regime as the golden age in Philippine politics and of our economy. One of the first acts of Duterte in assuming the presidency was to order Marcos’ burial at the Heroes’ Cemetery or Libingan ng Mga Bayani on August 7, 2016. Vice President Leni Robredo said at that time: “Like a thief in the night, the Marcos family deliberately hid the information of burying former president Marcos today from the Filipino people.”

Just this week, the House of Representative approved a bill designating September 11 as Ferdinand E. Marcos Day in Ilocos Norte. According to Senate President Tito Sotto, this being a bill of local application, it should pass the upper chamber without or with little objection.

These pathetic attempts to put one of the darkest chapters of our history in glowing terms is aimed at covering up the horrendous human rights record of martial law and placing a veneer of legitimacy to the rapacious plunder of the country’s economy. But historical records speak for themselves.

One cannot deny that the Marcos dictatorship’s horrific rights record with the 10 years of military rule saw about 70,000 people imprisoned, 34,000 tortured, and 3,240 killed, according to Amnesty International.

When the Marcoses were forced into exile and their cronies booted out, they left an economy in tatters. University of the Philippines professor Emmanuel de Dios put it most succinctly when he characterized the Marcosian economy this way – “The economy’s record under Marcos is identical to that of a person who lives it up on credit briefly, becomes bankrupt, and then descends into extreme hardship indefinitely . . . It would then be foolish to say that person managed his affairs marvelously, citing as evidence the opulent lifestyle he enjoyed before the bankruptcy.”

In this and succeeding columns, I feature the book “Not on our watch: Martial Law really happened” edited by Jo-Ann Q. Maglipon. This book is an anthology of personal accounts and experiences of individuals who experienced first-hand the martial law years. Among the contributors are Palanca Award winners, prolific authors and publishers of books on economics, the visual arts, and children, the bureau chief of an international media company in China, an IT expert, a health secretary, the deputy governor of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the Chief Executive Officer of a prestigious real estate development company, an operatic and theatre diva, a multi-awarded illustrator and artist in Australia, and self-made entrepreneurs.

This book was published so that, in the words of Vic Wenseslao and Elso Cabangon, “Our children would know of us. Our children know us, certainly, but not many of them know how, during our tender years, we put our lives on the line and fought a deadly struggle with the Marcos dictatorship. How we editors and writers of our college papers, we vigorously confronted martial law rule and its excesses. How as callow as were in years, many of us paid for our convictions by being jailed, with a number of us suffering unspeakable torture under interrogation. And how, just having stepped into our twenties, some of us were already made to pay the ultimate price – life itself.”

Indeed, even as the Marcos rule was wreaking havoc on the lives of millions of Filipinos, there were those who refused to be cowed and like lambs to the slaughter meekly accept their fate. They decided that they had to voice their opposition, fight the autocrat with everything they had – even at the expense of much suffering, imprisonment, torture and for some of them even their lives. They are heroes; those who died are martyrs. In September every year, I dedicate many of my classes and most of my writing in their memory, not only to honor them but so we can learn the lessons of our history which we continually repeat uncreatively.

In many protests, we hear the chant “never again, never again, to martial law.” The truth is we are here again. The Duterte record on human rights is worse than the Marcos excesses in terms of deaths, among others. And so we must resist. To do that, we must remember those who fought back when the Marcos dictatorship happened. We must remember those who stood up against fascism then, so those of us who are here today can also proclaim, with our freedom and lives if so demanded: Not on our watch too!


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