PH, Thailand, Germany: Lessons about dictatorships
MANILA, Philippines – The Marcos regime did not usher in the “golden age” of Philippine economy.
This was the contention of University of the Philippines professor Solita Collas-Monsod during the recently held forum that tackled the theme "Constantly True: Ateneo Against Marcos Revisionism" forum.
The cliam does not hold up to the numbers, Monsod argued. Poverty was much worse and corruption more prevalent under a dictatorship, she stressed.
Data on the economic performance of the country at the time show the country fell behind its neighbors and the GDP per capita had the largest decline in history in 1982 while national debt soared. (READ: Marcos years marked 'golden age' of PH economy? Look at the data)
At the forum, Ateneo Political Science professor Benjamin Tolosa reiterated the academic community's statement that called out vice presidential candidate Sen Bongbong Marcos for defending his father's regime and for refusing to acknowledge human rights abuses committed under it.
"The point of the statement is not to say that he should apologize for the sins of his parent…the problem here is not recognizing the historical record of Martial Law," Tolosa said.
Tolosa dismissed the idea that the country needed a dictator as delusional.
Dictatorships in other countries
The forum, which was organized by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF) and the Ateneo Human Rights Center (AHRC), brought together several international panelists who shared lessons from various martial law experiences in other countries.
The Philippines, according to Pornpen Kajornkiat of the Cross Culture Foundation, is not the only country that had to live under martial rule. Thailand, she said, has been under military rule for years.
“You can see the militarization; there are 15,000 to 17,000 troops," she told the audience. From what she observed, people trust the military despite abuses and corruption within their ranks.
"There are abductions of students, politicians," she said.
It was worse for Germany during the time of the Nazis. The Holocaust, which killed millions of civilians, left an indelible mark on the German people.
Arno Keller, a consultant, stressed the value of learning from history. "If we could learn from history, all this war, all this dictatorship will not happen again because we have that experience in the old history," he told the audience.
In Argentina, however, there was no experience of martial law similar to the Philippines, but the country did have periods of instability because of coup d'etats. The most recent happened in 1976.
Research director and professor at the University of Buenos Aires School of Law Carolina Gonzalez Rodriguez compared the time under military rule to the present when citizens enjoy their rights and freedoms.
"In democracy, we give food, we give shelter, we give medicine. Democracy heals, democracy educates, and democracy gives us everything," Rodriguez said.
Social media and fighting back
Despite the weight of living under repressive conditions, citizens always found a way to fight against authoritarian regimes.
For Thailand, technology and social media are bringing the abuses to light. But despite the enjoyment of freedoms like being able to watch a movie, celebrate festivals, and publicize information, Kajornkiat said people still want true freedom.
"We want to be a democratic country," she said.
Keller, on the other hand, credited universities for educating people, and added that they should continue to allow learning. "We believe in political education,” he said and added, “if someone lives in democracy, he has to learn democracy every day."
Although the fight for democracy is important, Rodriguez reminded the audience that it should not be the end in itself.
She told them: "Democracy is a way to access power, but what is important in our society is what we do with power once we access it. For that, the only way to guarantee growth and development is to ask for more power... to exercise in a republican system" – with a report from Glenda Marie Castro/Rappler.com
Glenda Marie Castro is a Rappler intern.