Last Wednesday marked the 102nd birth anniversary of the late President Ferdinand Marcos (1965-1986).
As expected, a number of anti-Marcos essays were published in some periodicals. The essays told the usual narrative — Marcos was a dictator; his political opponent was Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr.; Aquino’s assassination in August 1983 galvanized the people to oppose the Marcos administration; and that his widow Corazon Cojuangco Aquino saved the nation at the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution.
The hate articles were minimal. That’s because the bulk of the anti-Marcos essays are scheduled to come out on 21 September, on the 47th anniversary of the proclamation of martial law.
The 28th of September will mark the 30th death anniversary of the late strongman, who died in exile in Hawaii. There may be anti-Marcos essays published on that date but the bulk will come out earlier on 21 September.
This being the month of Marcos’ birthday, martial law and his death anniversary, an assessment of President Marcos in the light of contemporary times may be in order.
The accusations against Marcos are common knowledge. He allegedly stole billions of pesos from the national treasury, and that his martial law regime caused the deaths of many, and the incarceration of many more.
A less partisan assessment of the Marcos story tends to reveal otherwise.
There is no credible judicial pronouncement satisfactorily proving the thievery attributed to Marcos. Existing court decisions forfeiting Marcos money in favor of the Philippine government were arrived at ex parte, which means the cases began and ended with Marcos unable to defend himself by reason of his death in 1989. In fine, the money was forfeited not really because it was actually stolen by Marcos, but because nobody was able to prove a valid claim to it.
A court ruling in favor of so-called victims of martial law suffers from the same credibility problem because Marcos was unable to defend himself there, again by reason of his death in 1989.
As for the alleged abuses committed by the military during martial law, suffice it to say that martial law under Marcos was a constitutional experiment. It was expressly allowed under the Constitution then in force, and the republic never had a prior historical experience with martial law. Like any first-time experiment, abuses were bound to take place because no institution in the government is run by perfect personnel.
Marcos himself had many anti-establishment individuals released from detention right after martial law was proclaimed, and he ordered decisive action against military personnel found to have committed atrocities on the civilian population.
The question is not whether abuses by military personnel took place. It’s whether or not Marcos took action against abusive military personnel.
Besides, military abuses are not confined to the martial law regime of President Marcos. Under President Corazon Aquino, her military resorted to violence in quelling both a peaceful rally held at Mendiola by disgruntled farmers, and an assembly of desperate sugar cane planters at the Aquino-owned Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac.
Moreover, anti-Marcos propagandists conveniently forget that the 1986 EDSA Revolution was bloodless because Marcos and the military forces they oppose refused to harm the people at EDSA.
Only the Liberal Party (LP) and the local communists are openly against Marcos — the LP because it has no party principle to begin with, and the Reds because martial law in 1972 effectively killed their dream to overthrow the duly constituted government of the Philippines and replace it with a Maoist state.
The Constitution states that sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them. Members of the Marcos family have been repeatedly elected to local and national government posts since 1987, a year after Marcos left power. Today, daughter Imee is a senator, son Ferdinand Jr. has a good chance of winning his election protest in the 2016 vice-presidential election, and Ilocos and Leyte voters remain pro-Marcos.
From this perspective, the Marcos family can well argue that whatever sins the Marcos patriarch allegedly committed in the past, all pale in comparison to the voice of the sovereign voters who elected, and continue to elect, members of the Marcos family.