Aquino: Marcos doomed to repeat father's mistakes

MANILA, Philippines – On the 30th anniversary of the historic EDSA revolution, President Benigno Aquino III took a swipe at Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong Marcos Jr, the son of the late dictator whose authoritarian rule was marred by human rights abuses and atrocities.

In a speech delivered at the People Power Monument on Thursday, February 25, Aquino hit the younger Marcos for refusing to acknowledge the sins of martial law and presenting a different history of the Marcos years.

In his speech, Aquino warned that there was no certainty that the senator, who is running for the vice president in the May polls, will not repeat the horrors experienced by Filipinos under his father's rule if he refuses to acknowledge that these even happened.

"Kung hindi man lang niya makita ang mali sa ginawa ng kanilang pamilya, paano tayo aasang hindi niya ito uulitin? Ang akin nga, thank you na lang, dahil kahit papaano nagpakatotoo ka sa pagpapakitang handa kang tularan ang iyong ama. Linawin ko na rin lang po: Hindi ito usapin ng Aquino laban sa Marcos; malinaw na malinaw sa akin na laban ito ng tama at mali," he said.

(If he can't even see the wrongdoings of his family, how can we hope that he would not repeat them? I thank you for being honest enough to show that you're ready to take after your father. Let me just repeat: This is not a case of Aquino versus Marcos. It's very clear to me that this is a fight between right and wrong.)

Aquino reiterated Marcos' response to calls for him to acknowledge martial law and apologize for the human rights abuses under that rule. (READ: Marcos on dad's regime: What am I to apologize for?)

"Totoo nga naman po ang kasabihan: Ang kasalanan ng ama ay hindi dapat ipataw sa anak. Pero ang masakit: ‘Yun pong kadugo ng diktador, sa mahabang panahon ay puwede namang sinabing, 'Nagkamali ang aking ama' o 'Nagkamali kami; bigyan n’yo kami ng pagkakataong iwasto ito.' Pero isipin na lang po ninyo, ito ang tahasang naging pagsagot niya: 'I am ready to say sorry if I knew what I have to be sorry for.'"

(The saying is true: The son should not bear the sins of the father. But what hurts in this case is that the blood relative of the dictator could have said all these years, "My father had done wrong" or "We made mistakes, give us a chance to correct them." But just think, this was his direct response: "I am ready to say sorry if I knew what I have to be sorry for.")

The 30th anniversary of the EDSA revolution takes place during an election year. The younger Marcos is running for vice president with Senator Miriam Santiago as his standard-bearer. Recent surveys currently show him tied for the top spot with fellow Senator Francis Escudero.

'Golden age'

In his speech, Aquino sought to remind those who might have forgotten or, more important, too young to know, about the many freedoms repressed during the martial law years. He said these were proof  that the Marcos years were not the golden age of Philippine economic growth and development, as claimed by some.

Addressing young Filipinos, Aquino said they now enjoy the freedom to go abroad without being monitored by the state, whereas under martial law, one had to secure an exit permit subject to government approval.

"Makakagimik ka nang hindi natatakot sa curfew. Yung pagkakaroon ng kotse o condominium ay hindi parang napakalayong panaginip. Ngayon, isang pindot sa smartphone, maski anong impormasyon mula saanmang panig ng mundo, dumarating sa harap ninyo," he said.

(You can go out without fear of curfew. Having a car or a condominium is not a far-fetched dream. Now, with a swipe of the smartphone, you can get information from any part of the world.)

He said this is why it's understandable that some cannot easily understand what the country had to go through to regain its democracy, that there was a time in Philippine history when media was controlled by the state, and accurate information was only "found in the movie page of newspapers."

"Noon po, makitang magkakasama lang ang higit sa tatlong magkakaibigan, puwede nang dahilan para makasuhan sila ng illegal assembly. Itong mga kalayaang halos hindi ninyo napapansin sa kasalukuyan, napakalayo sa sitwasyon sa ilalim ng rehimeng Marcos," he said.

(In the past, if authorities see more than 3 friends together, it can be used as basis to charge you with illegal assembly. These kinds of freedom are left largely unnoticed now, as they are very lar from the situation under the Marcos regime.

The only "freedom" of Filipinos back then was the freedom to "endure" state repression and to "praise the dictator." (READ: #NeverAgain: Martial law stories young people should hear)

This is why, he said, he "shakes his head" whenever he hears that the Philippines experienced its "golden age" during the Marcos years.

"Gusto ko nga pong idiin: Hindi kathang-isip ang lahat ng ito. Hindi ito teorya o pananaw ng iilan lang. Totoong naganap ang martial law. May isang diktador, kasama ng kanyang pamilya at mga crony, na nagpakasasa sa puwesto, at ang naging kapalit nito, mismong buhay at kalayaan ng Pilipino," Aquino said.

(I want to stress: This is not fiction. This is not just based on theory or the opinion of a few. Martial law really happened. There was a dicator who, with his family and cronies, abused their position at the expense of the lives and freedom of Filipinos.)

If anyone experienced the "golden years" of the Philippines under the Marcos regime, it would be the reigning family and his cronies, the President said.

He also cited how the country's national debt ballooned during Marcos' term. This was also the period when overseas Filipino workers started leaving the country in droves, triggering a brain drain.

The President again hit the younger Marcos, as he talked about how the martial law years were a "golden age" for those who abused Moros in Mindanao and took part in state-backed land grabbing.

What was supposed to be Aquino's defining achievement for the peace process in Mindanao – the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law – was stalled in the aftermath of the bloody Mamasapano encounter last year.

In his speech, the President also pointed out that the BBL stalled in the Senate committee headed by the younger Marcos. He also blamed Senator Juan Ponce Enrile as among those who hindered the passage of the measure.

"Hindi po ba na itong dalawang apelyidong ito ang nagtulak ng military solution para sa mga Moro noong diktadurya (Are these not the same surnames the pushed for the military solution against the Moros during the dictatorship)?" he said.

It was Aquino's final keynote address as Chief Executive at the EDSA revolution anniversary. The event marks the 30th year since the Philippine regained its Philippine democracy, following Marcos' ouster. –