THOROUGH AND OBJECTIVE: TAKE TWO
Updated version of an article published in Bulatlat.com on October 6-12, 2002.
Ilocos Norte Rep. Imee Marcos last year called for a “thorough and objective study” of the martial law era. She expressed her desire that the study be done in a scholarly manner, with intellectual rigor taking precedence over emotion, objectivity over partisanship.
In an episode of The Probe Team last April 29, she would repeat the call.
To those who know nothing of the past, this may seem like a lofty call. However, those who know the congresswoman as one of the daughters of the man who imposed martial law 30 years ago - Ferdinand Marcos - would look upon this with suspicion, if not disgust.
Six years into his presidency, Marcos imposed martial rule on Sept. 21, 1972 and through it was able to extend his term for another 14 years. Martial rule was imposed, he said, to thwart the power ascendancy of the oligarchs and the leftists.
One martial law victim, Marivere San Antonio, scorns at the prospect of rehabilitating Marcos and making him a hero.
“We are not happy about it,” said San Antonio, now a member of the Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at para sa Amnestiya (Selda), in an interview September last year. She explained that it is obvious martial law served only to perpetuate the power of the Marcoses and accomplished nothing except widespread human rights violations, as attested to by the fact that there were 10,000 Filipinos, mostly laborers, students, and urban poor whose rights were violated. There are hundreds and thousands more who were similarly affected.
“It is Imee who must look in the mirror,” the Selda member said.
Of course Representative Marcos may dismiss this as a highly partisan assessment of the martial law era.
But even the most dispassionate and clinically detached investigation of the martial law era would reveal that the people were prevented by force from exercising their rights during this period. Even the most dispassionate and clinically detached investigation of the martial law era would reveal that thousands of Filipinos were arrested without warrant, detained for extreme lengths of time without charges, tortured, raped, mutilated during this period—all for pursuing causes opposed to what Marcos had in mind for the Philippines.
What is Left to Study?
In one of the first episodes of I-Witness last September, Imee Marcos was arguing about the supposed merits of the martial law era. In the interview she gave to The Probe Team last April 29, she complained that "only the bad things" are known about her father, but did not say what good things the people ought to know about the late strongman's rule.
“The best roads and bridges were built during martial law,” she said in last year's interview with I-Witness. “Even the movies then were very good.”
Marcos could have built the best roads and bridges even without bringing martial law upon this land. The rights of the people do not have to be treaded upon so infrastructures may be built.
Good infrastructures are essential to economic progress because they accelerate transportation, thereby hastening the delivery of goods and services. The people have all the right, therefore, to benefit from such infrastructures.
But human rights are inalienable. As Jose W. Diokno once said, “Human rights are more than legal concepts: they are the essence of man. They are what make man human. That is why they are called human rights: deny them and you deny man’s humanity.”
Human rights are not privileges that can be exchanged for something else; they are components of human life that must be enjoyed by all human beings at all times. They definitely should not be traded off for roads and bridges.
It would thus be the height of impertinence for Ms. Marcos to expect the Filipino people to thank her father for legalizing the violation of their human rights for nearly two decades because in exchange he gave them the best roads and bridges.
About the “very good” movies that were made during the martial law era, the congresswoman must make herself clear.
If by “very good” movies she meant the bomba films that were shown at the Manila Film Center, someone should offer her a good drink of coffee. Coffee has been proven many times to drown out drunkenness.
It is highly unlikely that she meant the award-winning movies of Lino Brocka, Ishmael Bernal, Mike de Leon and Behn Cervantes. But if she was referring to them, these were films that thrust in the viewers’ faces the times in all their nauseating ugliness. These films were born precisely as cultural protests against the martial law era. (Many of the films of these great directors, particularly Cervantes’s Sakada, were censored.)
What makes Ms. Marcos’s call for a “thorough and objective study” of the martial law era dubious is the fact that she hails from a family with a record of historical fact-twisting.
As part of his presidential campaign in 1965, Marcos commissioned an American writer, Hartzell Spence, to write his biography, For Every Tear a Victory. This biography told, among other things, of Marcos having been an active student leader in his younger years — student council president, university paper editor, and fraternity official.
In one of the articles in Renato Constantino and the Marcos Watch, Renato Constantino debunked Marcos’s claims to having been a student leader. Citing the student publications of Marcos’s student days, he revealed that during the time Marcos was supposed to have been a student leader, the president of the UP Student Council was Roberto Benedicto and the editor-in-chief of the Philippine Collegian was Arturo Tolentino. There was no reference to Marcos having been a fraternity official; one of the yearbooks of that period listed him as a simple member of the Upsilon Sigma Phi.
Marcos also claimed in many instances to be the most bemedalled Filipino soldier of the Second World War.
Bonifacio Gillego debunked this claim in his book, The Fake Medals of Marcos. Through painstaking research, he was able to unearth the fact that for Marcos to have accomplished all the deeds for which he was supposed to have been rewarded with medals, he had, in many instances, to be in more than one place at the same time.
As a result of his expose, Gillego, who became a delegate to the 1971 Constitutional Convention, was jailed by Marcos during martial law.
Imelda Marcos claimed several times to have descended from a family of European nobles, but has not been able to offer evidence to prove it.
The very argument of the Marcoses that martial law was in fact a “democratic revolution from the center” speaks clearly of how they regard history.
All these should be more than enough to make us wonder whether Representative Marcos would allow findings that pin the blame on the Marcoses to be officially part of the “thorough and objective study”.
Ms. Marcos, in calling for a “thorough and objective study” of the martial law era, is calling for what has long been a fait accompli. History has delivered its verdict on the Marcoses — she only refuses to accept it.
As lawyer Marichu Lambino of the Public Interest Law Center said of the late dictator, “His place of ignominy has already been established.”