Forty-six years ago, the country woke up to the hissing sound of television white space, radio static, and to newspapers announcing the declaration of Martial Law a few days back. For the next nine years, the country was officially ruled by military law. And even after the formal lifting of Martial Law in 1981, Ferdinand Marcos continued his personal rule, ably assisted by a subservient military acting like his own private army.
Based on data from Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board, 11,103 people directly suffered Marcos’s wrath: political critics, media workers, and student activists. Some were tortured, murdered, and forcibly disappeared. Those who lived through the ordeal will be forever wounded by the unspeakable atrocities committed against them.
Those imprisoned were brutalized and violated by military forces. Some days, they were made to perform menial tasks for their captors, like cleaning the barracks and washing their clothes. In other days, they were strapped to steel bed frames and electrocuted, or their private parts inserted with foreign objects, or their bodies made as ashtrays, or they were raped and molested, over and over and over again.
Some of those brutalized ended up dead or forcibly disappeared. After Archimedes Trajano had the gall to question Imee Marcos’s capability as Kabataang Barangay (KB) National Chairperson, Imee’s guards seized Trajano and dragged him away. Hours later, Trajano’s lifeless body was found, severely tortured and beaten black and blue.
Millions more suffered from substandard government services and infrastructure, as the Marcos crony machine used its proximity to the First Family to divert public monies to private pockets. One crony, Herminio Disini, who brokered the deal for the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, ended up with billions of dollars that allowed him to evade accountability by buying a barony in Austria. Meanwhile, we paid for a nuclear power plant that never produced even a kilowatt of electricity, and continue spending millions of pesos for its annual maintenance.
Marcos personally guaranteed some of the loans made by his cronies, loans whose proceeds lined up their pockets. These ‘behest loans’ triggered a debt crisis in the early 1980s, forcing us to accept the harsh economic conditions imposed by our debtor banks. We are still suffering from these conditions.
As we mourn and remember the dead, the tortured, the disappeared; as we contemplate the extent of the Marcos plunder that contributed much to our poverty, we rage against the return of the Marcoses and their cronies, as if they all just took a long vacation in Hawaii.
We rage against the rehabilitation of the Marcoses. Imelda Marcos is now a Member of the House of Representatives. Imee Marcos is now Governor of Ilocos Norte. Bongbong Marcos is poised to become the vice president if the Supreme Court decides in his favor. He even expressed his desire to follow his father’s footsteps to the presidency.
We rage against the historical revisionism that aims to put the Marcoses in a better light. When once the Libingan ng mga Bayani is the revered final resting place of heroes, national artists, and illustrious political leaders, it now houses the mortal remains of the Marcos patriarch. When once UP is sacred ground, off limits to the Marcoses, now the likes of Imee and her KB ilk – including the University President – can dance their way inside campus premises with impunity. When once being a Marcos means being a pariah, now Bongbong almost won the vice presidency two years ago.
We rage against the system’s failure to exact accountability from the Marcos crony machine that almost bled us dry. The Filipino people have already paid for the profligacies of the Marcoses and their cronies; we are set to pay for more until 2025.
As our rage overflows, we witness the making of another dictator who publicly exhort Marcosian virtues, and who even attempts to ape the brutality of the former dictator.
Since 2016, Rodrigo Duterte has presided over the killing of thousands of poor people merely suspected of being drug users, while his big-time friends remain scot-free. His lackeys and their paid trolls stifle dissent and free discourse.
While Marcos had duets with Imelda to endear themselves to the people, Duterte treats us to a daily dose of tasteless jokes and unrepentant display of machismo to prop up his folksy image.
When Marcos undertook a massive infrastructure development program, his family and his cronies all lined up their pockets with kickbacks and commissions. Now, state auditors and public intellectuals flagged the government’s massive infrastructure development program because of various implementation delays and questionable transactions with dubious organizations.
Months leading to the declaration of Martial Law, and some years preluding his eventual downfall, the Marcos economy had been mired with skyrocketing prices, ballooning debt, dissipating investments, and a negative balance of payment. Within two years of the Duterte administration, the peso sharply devaluates against the US dollars, prices are running amuck, and supplies of basic commodities are running low.
The underlying principle of our constitutional democracy rests on the notion that if the agent – the government – breaks the social contract, the people, in their rightful sovereign might, have the duty to remove this government, and to replace it with one that will serve the people’s interest.
Thus, for the wannabe dictator now in Malacanang, our rage will not abate. Our rage will be guided to its logical conclusion: Duterte’s ouster.
But beyond an individual’s ouster, we, as a nation, must exact accountability, not just from the Marcoses, but also from the Aquinos, the Arroyos, the Dutertes, and all other factions of the ruling elite that treated this country like their personal fiefdom, the people their slaves. No more!