There is a saying that goes, “those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it,” and truer words have never been said, especially when talking about the Marcos era of Philippine history. It’s cool to play history revisionist.
It’s cool to look at things that happened, and take a different viewpoint and interpretation of these events, and come away with a different understanding of what has happened. This is not what millennials are doing when it comes to the Marcos era, unfortunately: what they’re doing is ignoring very troubling issues wholesale in favor of some nifty sound bites that make our current situation look pathetic in comparison.
I’m sure if Marcos had you taken without a warrant and then summarily executed for criticizing him, he did it in a “mahinahon” way.
Let’s look at some of these claims about the Marcos era.
The Assertion: While it’s true that there were some issues with the Marcos presidency, none of it would have happened if not for Imelda. She’s the reason why the whole thing ended up the way it did!
Imelda’s preferred brand of insanity.
The Reality: First of all, way to understate what happened by just calling it “some issues.” Secondly, are we seriously going to go with the Adam and Eve defense for the guy who was supposed to be the most powerful man in the country? You mean to tell me that this great, awesome man turned out to be such a softy for his wife that he couldn’t resist her when she asked for a little violation of human rights. 107,240 times.
Let’s turn back the clock even further. Long before Ferdinand Marcos even met Imelda he was already convicted with murder, and was the guy who supposedly pulled the trigger on his own dad’s political rival. The story goes that he studied law, and even while incarcerated, easily topped the Bar Exams, and then represented himself in an appeal to the Supreme Court, who overturned his death penalty conviction. Impressive? Yes. But aren’t we also the same guys who look at really good lawyers with disdain because they let people get away with murder? Why are we suddenly getting wet over Marcos doing it now?
Let’s look at his vaunted military service more, where he earned a ridiculous amount of medals for his service during World War II. Impressive, right? Right, except an overwhelming majority of those medals were lies. If he can make a lie this brazen, are we seriously going to take every other claim about his legacy without a hefty pinch of salt?
The Assertion: The Peso was practically on equal footing with the dollar back in the day. Surely, this was a sign that we were a prosperous country under his time!
This graph, though, suggests how we feel about what the Marcoses did to us.
The Reality: The exchange rate alone isn’t enough of an indicator as to whether or not a country is prospering. Just ask Japan.
While it was true that the Peso and the Dollar were close to each other during the beginning of the Marcos era, let’s not forget that by the time Macapagal was president, the Peso already sank to 3.70 to a Dollar, and during the first quarter storm in 1970, the Peso went from 4.00 to 6.00 to a Dollar. It was not 1.50 or 1:1 during Marcos’s time. This did not happen.In fact, if you look at this graph, it’s clear that from the 3.70 Marcos began with, he managed the dubious feat of sinking the Peso to 20 to a dollar. That’s a devaluation of almost 600%, which, when compared to the devaluation of the Peso in the ‘90s, where it went from 26 to 41 to a dollar, seemed pretty ridiculous.
Apropos of nothing, the “nakaraang administrasyon” who actually uncoupled the Peso from the Dollar, no longer allowing it to be 2:1 by default, was none other than Diosdado Macapagal. Makes you wonder if Marcos spent his first few SONA’s railing against the guy.
The Assertion: Lee Kwan Yu was also a dictator in Singapore, but look where his country is now! It’s first-world, it’s first-class, and it’s everything you could ever hope for in a strong Asian nation! Marcos was doing the same thing for us, and we kicked him out!
Bring on the Lee Kwan Yu!
The Reality: No. No, he wasn’t. And even if it were true, the only reason you don’t hear people badmouthing LKY nearly as much in Singapore is that doing shit like that gets you in trouble over there. Or have we forgotten that Singapore isn’t exactly a democracy, really?
The biggest difference between Marcos and Lee Kwan Yu was that for Marcos, propaganda was the end. For LKY, it was a means to accomplishing the things he wanted to do. Does that justify his own litany of human rights violations? Of course not. But this distinction is what allowed LKY to hold onto power for 50 years, almost thrice as long as Marcos did, to the point where Lee Kwan Yu was able to relinquish the position, yet Singapore still remains as prosperous as it had been when the man left the highest office of the land.
Neither did Lee Kwan Yu send Singapore into crippling national debt thanks to his attempts at modernization.
The Assertion: If the Marcos regime was so bad, why did the US tolerate it for as long as it did? Why did the international community at large just let it run its course? Surely, they saw something there that those of us too close to the matter didn’t.
You have to admit, Marcos was pretty good at Foreign Affairs.
The Reality: People don’t just get to change a government just because they don’t think they like it, especially if it’s not their own government. Otherwise, do you really think the United States would have allowed Fidel Castro or Kim Jong Il or even Saddam Hussein to stick around for as long as they did?
There’s also the little matter that the U.S. stood to gain much more if it let Marcos stay in power, particularly because he helped them establish a military presence in Asia (they had this war to fight or something in Vietnam, right?), and he was also a staunch ally against Communism, which was America’s agenda at the time. Speaking of which…
The Assertion: Marcos was a Commie-fighter, while every administration after him pretty much just tolerates Communism! They’re a threat to our democracy and freedom!
The Reality: How exactly did Marcos “protect” our democracy and freedom against Communism if he took both of these things away from us to “protect” us from Communism?!? Do you see the complete lack of logic in saying this?!? Martial law meant we were not free. He was practically running unopposed in his subsequent elections during the Martial Law era. If we were so afraid that the Communists were going to take our freedom away, why did we let Marcos do it for us instead?
Oh, that’s right. He took it by force.
The Assertion: Marcos was better because some of the best buildings and roads we use to this very day were built over the course of his 20-year regime. We were on the road to progress!
We might have misheard what we needed for this progress, though…
The Reality: We were also on the road to debilitating national debt, to the tune of $28.5 Billion when he left power. It’s really easy to build roads, buildings, and all sorts of infrastructural projects when, in abolishing Congress, you have complete control over the country’s coffers, and you have twenty years to do them.
Think of it this way: the greatest cultural landmarks of some of the greatest countries in the planet were built on the back of slaves: Egypt and their pyramids, for example. When you look at how we’re still paying for Marcos’s debts all the way ‘til 2025, you realize who the slaves in this analogy happen to be: us. Yes, even you, millennial who wasn’t even a glimmer in his dad’s eye while Marcos was president.
The Assertion: Why do we need to shame Bongbong to apologize on behalf of his dad? It was his dad. For all we know, he could be even better as president! Marcos 2016!!!
“Yamashita’s treasure is over there!”
The Reality: Because if he refuses to acknowledge what his father did, then there is something fundamentally broken in Senator Marcos’s understanding of what his family has done to this nation. None of those roads, none of those schools, none of those edifices could ever bring back the lives snuffed out by Martial Law, but a simple apology, a simple acknowledgment to not let these things ever happen again would go a long way towards healing the pain.
Oh, of course not. Doing that might make his family legally liable, so best keep your mouth shut and pretend these things were just a small part of the era, right?
The Assertion: Martial Law may have taken a few liberties here and there, but it was a great time for the country, because everyone was disciplined. People were nicer. Crime rates were low.
Pictured: The only Marshall Law that should be legally allowed to kick ass.
The Reality: And if it were Martial Law today, we wouldn’t have the ability to debate its merits on the internet. I mean, seriously. We can complain about every single president who came after Marcos and say we wish we had better days, but when people complained about Marcos and wished for better days back in their time, they disappeared. For good. Just ask Liliosa Hilao. Oh, right. You can’t, because she was raped, tortured, and murdered for the “crime” of being the editor of the campus paper for Pamantasan ng Maynila and a staunch critic of Martial Law.
Normally, when we criticize people, we get a sassy retort as a comeback, or maybe a string of four-letter words. Not rape, torture, and murder. If those three things sound a bit like an overreaction to you, that’s probably because they totally are.