By Philippine Daily Inquirer
Second Marcos era looms as Filipinos succumb to collective amnesia
The refrain harps on certain themes, including the outright lie that, “We could have been another Singapore had Marcos been allowed to stay.” This is a favourite line of the dictator’s son and namesake who is now running for vice president, and for whose benefit an elaborate mythmaking now flourishes.
With the May elections drawing nearer, the mythmaking has reached fever pitch, and Marcos “trolloyalists” and supporters are countering with violent language any attempt to present evidence of the excesses and abuses of the martial law era. It’s all of a piece with the Marcos heirs’ political comeback – the son in the Senate, his sister continuing the family control of Ilocos Norte province, and their mother in the House of Representatives. With the its ill-gotten wealth intact and a big chunk stashed abroad, the family is going full-speed ahead to redeem a Marcos name that the Guinness Book of World Records made synonymous with breath-taking thievery, and to erase from history and memory the members’ humiliating flight from the Palace in 1986, chased out of the country by ordinary folk who had faced down state tanks and guns on Manila’s Edsa thoroughfare.
“Time to move on, past is past,” the remorseless Bongbong Marcos intones, distancing himself from the dictatorship as if he had no part in it. Revising history has never been easier, what with millennials – those born after the Edsa Revolution, and those too young to remember – comprising 27 million of the country’s 100-million population, and more than half of its workers, according to the National Statistics Office, and with their noses in the gadgets that have all but taken over public discourse. By sheer numbers, these young voters just might decide the nation’s collective fate in May.
To be sure, there are valiant efforts to remind people of the tens of thousands of men and women abducted, tortured, killed, or simply made to disappear by the Marcos state apparatus. Notable among these efforts is the Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses to Malacanang, launched by survivors and families of victims of martial law and given the acronym Carmma – both a battle cry and a fervent prayer.
Those Filipinos who, by their silence, have become complicit in the mangling of memory should find their voice in similar fashion. Helping defend democratic space via Edsa is just the beginning. To complete the task, every effort must be made to pull back the young from the hypnotic sway of a martial-law makeover.
How to tell the story of Edsa 1 and the long and dangerous roads that led to it? Have parents sufficiently taught their children the lessons of martial law, including the necessity of critical thinking, speaking up when something is wrong, and protesting thievery in high places?
Have there been enough attempts to use popular media to dramatise the countless documented stories of how Filipino lives were lost, upended or ruined by Marcos edicts that, for example, confiscated privately owned industries to establish a state monopoly, and fractured families with illegal arrest, search and seizure orders?
Creative ways of making the young comprehend the brutality of martial law could be appended to history and civic classes. (One comic strip suggested that, for a first-hand taste of the “New Society”, parents could withhold their children’s daily allowance, confiscate their gadgets, and forbid them from watching their favourite shows. And if they talk back, tape their mouths. That’s “peace and order”, martial-law style.)
With Edsa’s 30th anniversary just passed, now is an opportune time for Filipinos to visit Manila’s People Power Experiential Museum at Camp Crame. Entire families can take an interactive look back at the era through theatre, cinema, photography, performances, installations and allied arts.
Organisers should make concrete plans for a permanent site for the museum, where students can visit regularly as part of their lessons, instead of going on field trips to the malls. The experience could be used for history classes, where Edsa veterans could be mobilised for revealing testimonies on this dark chapter of our history.
Reclaiming the past was never more crucial, with Edsa now at risk of being associated with nothing more than traffic, and the collective memory hijacked by amnesia and propaganda.