On 25 August 2018, hundreds of people led by Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos assembled in the UP Bahay ng Alumni to reminisce their times as officials and members of the now-defunct Kabataang Barangay (KB). No less than the University President, himself a past president of the KB Metro Manila Chapter, attended the event.
There were dancing, food, and camaraderie. They even had life-sized standees of the late dictator and his wife Imelda near the entrance. Sounds like a fantastic reunion!
The irony of the situation, however, seems totally lost to these people. The First Quarter Storm and subsequently the Diliman Commune were both born and weaned in UP, the hotbed of student activism that led the movement for Marcos’s overthrow.
But one can practically excuse their presence in campus. After all, the University’s tradition allows the existence of different ideas within its hallowed grounds, ideas both pious and blasphemous, conservative and liberal. The Chancellor even wrote, in apparent defense of the University allowing the use of its facilities, “But a KB reunion is different from the transfer of Ferdinand Marcos’ remains to Libingan ng mga Bayani. We do have a democracy, albeit one that is under grave threat from various forces, including the Marcoses. UP, as the national university, must remain a place for the free exchange of ideas.”
But UP as a marketplace for the free exchange of ideas is precisely why we should condemn the University allowing KB to hold their event here. Under the Marcoses’ watch, they outlawed organizations, and shut down the University Student Council and the Philippine Collegian. They had their critics forcibly restrained – some were arrested and detained for years without trial, while others were kidnapped, tortured, and killed.
Under the dictatorship, the Marcoses and their cronies attempted to shut down that free exchange of ideas. The Marcoses killed any form of dissent.
Who can ever forget Archimedes Trajano who had the audacity to ask Imee Marcos in public about her qualification as KB Chairperson? Trajano ended up dead, apparently tortured and mutilated.
UP will remain to be a safe space for different ideas to flourish, even for ideas that will challenge the University’s most sacred principles. But we will never give those who attempted, those attempting, and those who will attempt to suppress that free exchange a platform to display their impunity. Those who perpetrated the stifling of dissent and free exchange of ideas should not be allowed to dance their way to political rehabilitation; they should be made to answer for their crimes, and to account for their past actions.
Both foreign and domestic courts found the Marcoses guilty of amassing ill-gotten wealth. They and their cronies should be serving jail sentences, not aping Momoland.
It’s indecent. It’s repugnant. It’s unacceptable.
Artwork: James Atillo