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MANILA, Philippines – Panelists of the online forum “The 1986 People Power Revolution: Tandaan ang Ating Ipinaglaban” on Thursday, February 24, urged the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) to take action against disinformation about the regime of Ferdinand E. Marcos and the “bloodless” series of protests in 1986 dubbed People Power “EDSA” Revolution.
The forum hosted by opposition coalition 1Sambayan was held on the eve of the 36th year anniversary of the ouster of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. The two-hour forum tackled the late dictator’s rule, which led Filipinos to revolt, and its present implications on the country.
The rampant peddling of disinformation emerged as a recurring theme in the discussions by four speakers – namely economics professor and Rappler columnist JC Punongbayan, 1Sambayan convenor and retired Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio, retired Philippine Navy Vice-Commander Rear Adm. Rommel Ong, and social anthropologist and priest Albert “Paring Bert” Alejo, SJ.
“Sa palagay ko, may disiplina naman ang National Historical Commission. Kung gagalaw sila sa mga bagay na sensitive kagaya ng nangyari noong Martial Law, malaking tulong iyon. Malaking tulong,” said Alejo.
(The way I see it, discipline still remains within the National Historical Commission. If they take action on sensitive matters such as the events that transpired during Martial Law, then that would be a big help. It will be a big help.)
Alejo recalled instances when an initiative was taken by the NHCP to correct misconceptions on the site of the first mass in the Philippines. He hopes that the commission would do the same regarding EDSA and the martial law.
“Malaking tulong kung gagalaw ang National Historical Commission. Kasi sila ‘yung may mandate diyan. Pag may dalawang version, ipakita ang dalawang version,” said Fr. Alejo.
(It would be a big help if the National Historical Commission took action because that’s their mandate. If there are two versions, then show both versions.)
Questions about “public amnesia” were raised in light of key details on the EDSA Revolution, which are seemingly lost on many today. One such detail was the fact that the revolt, contrary to its prominent “Manila-centric” portrayal, was a national movement tracing part of its roots to Davao City.
“Ang People Power ay isang pambasang pagkilos. Si Nanay Soling [Duterte] ang Ina ng Davao City at ang nagpasimula ng Yellow Friday Movement laban sa diktadura ni Marcos. She led marchers in yellow shirts from Magsaysay Park to Rizal Park in Davao as a form of protest,” Alejo said.
(The People Power Revolution was a national movement. It was Nanay Soling Duterte, the Mother of Davao, who started the Yellow Friday Movement against the Marcos dictatorship. She led marchers in yellow shirts from Magsaysay Park to Rizal Park in Davao as a form of protest.)
Prevalent myths about the Martial Law era, such as it was the Philippines’ “golden age,” and that the country was worse-off following EDSA, were also debunked by Punongbayan. He cited how poverty rates soared while the economy plummeted by almost 14% prior to the revolution of the then-dubbed “Sick man of Asia”. (READ: [ANALYSIS] Hindi ‘golden age’ ng ekonomiya ang Batas Militar)
The panelists agreed that disinformation could be attributed to shortcomings in the educational system and attempts at historical distortion by the Marcoses.
Carpio claimed the Marcos family published and donated to public schools their own version of the martial law era, which later served as students’ sole reference on the Marcos dictatorship.
As shown by the disinformation peddled online about the Marcoses, Punongbayan stressed how this “public amnesia” was “symptomatic of the bad ways by which Martial Law has been taught in our schools.”
“Usually, Martial Law is only discussed for one to three weeks in a school year,” he said. Punongbayan referenced Rappler CEO Maria Ressa’s call to hold social media giants accountable in order to help address the issue.
This year’s commemoration of EDSA Revolution is taking a different turn as the late dictator’s son, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, is seeking the presidency to reclaim power. He has been leading poll surveys since he declared his bid last year. – Mark Carlota/Rappler.com
Mark Carlota, a Rappler intern, is a first year Political Science major from Ateneo de Manila University. This article was reviewed by a Rappler reporter and a senior editor. Learn more about Rappler’s internship program here.