[EDITORIAL] #AnimatED: Selling our memory to thieves

We’re being robbed twice over, and we’re not doing anything about it except make noise.

In the age of untruths, it is the thieves who have managed to adapt – hash-tagging their lies, boosting their social media armies, and twisting our memory in shareable snippets to the extent that some of us now begin to doubt whether we’re the ones demented, not the lying Juan Ponce Enrile.

The Philippines remembered the 46th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law last Friday, September 21. It was the darkest period of our history, outside the wars we’ve had with colonizers, because dictator Ferdinand Marcos corrupted our bureaucracy; used taxpayers’ money to amass wealth for himself and his family; flouted rules to enrich his business cronies; killed dissent – on the ground and in public discourse; jailed and killed thousands of young students and professionals who would have grown the country into Asia’s most competitive.

Beyond the killings and his ill-gotten wealth, Marcos robbed a generation of its place in the sun, forcing young Filipinos to run to the hills and carry arms instead of realizing their dreams to become artists, teachers, writers, doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, among others. 

He killed our future. That’s what we know, and that’s what motivated millions of Filipinos in 1986 to oust him in a peaceful 4-day people power revolution that shook the world. 

But after last Friday’s disparate activities and the Enrile-Bongbong Marcos gag show aired on Facebook, we ask: what have we really done to institutionalize our collective memory not only of Martial Law, but of how Marcos destroyed what we had, to remain in power?

We have allowed the prostitution of our textbooks that aim to whitewash military rule under Marcos. 

We have tolerated the sluggishness of the bureaucracy, delaying the building of a memorial of Martial Law atrocities, so that now we’re told that this museum will be built in 2022 – that’s half a century since Martial Law!

We have turned a blind eye to that spruced-up other museum in Paoay, Ilocos Norte, which glorifies Marcos as the great, visionary Ilokano leader who did no wrong. Worse, it was apparently built with public funds meant for tobacco farmers. 

We have not patronized the Bantayog ng mga Bayani in Quezon City, which shows painful truths in a public space.

In 2012, when then-Senate president Enrile launched his revisionist book about his role in the Marcos regime, guess who came to his party? No less than the heir of Cory Aquino, then-president Benigno Aquino III, who chose to freeze his memory so that he could pay political debt to the Senate president who had presided over the impeachment of Aquino’s nemesis, the late chief justice Renato Corona. 

And guess who published that book? ABS-CBN, one of the media companies shut down by Marcos. It was Enrile’s mea culpa, ABS-CBN then said in explaining its decision. 

What about the Left’s decision in 2010 to run under one party – Nacionalista Party (NP) – with Bongbong Marcos for that year's elections? On account of the communist party’s decision to back the presidential bid of NP standard-bearer Manny Villar, former Marcos prisoner Satur Ocampo and leftist leader Liza Maza joined the NP senatorial slate with Marcos, emphasizing that doing so did not mean they were supporting the dictator’s son, and assumed voters would buy that.

We should wonder what should upset us more – that the self-preserving Enriles and Marcoses lie like it’s the new fad, or that their victims once upon a time blanked their memory for their vested interests.

The generation that Marcos robbed of its future managed to crawl back to power in the last 3 decades. They were in a position to make us – as a society – remember Martial Law in ways that should outlast lies, age, and this generation’s short attention span.

Yet, what do we have as a collective memory?

We do not know Martial Law from the textbooks we read. We do not see Martial Law in the public spaces we visit. We could not visualize Marcos' kleptomania beyond Imelda’s forgotten shoes lying somewhere in Marikina. We do not understand Martial Law from conversations we no longer have. We are made to forget it by the people we elected – and may soon again elect – to office.  

We are reminded of Marcos’ corrupt regime only every year in September, when street noise reaches a certain crescendo, screaming to us, "Never Forget! Never Again!"

Last Friday, the Reds, the Yellows, the in-betweens – all victims of Martial Law – could not even rise above organizational and political interests to mount one collective rally. Instead, they went their separate ways – a few groups remembering it a day before, another doing it at La Salle, and yet another mounting it at the Luneta. It is the election season, after all.

In contrast, the "glory days" of Marcos’ Martial Law and his brand of (mis)governance are now immortalized by the highest office of the land, imprinted in the bloodied streets of our slums through the drug war, embedded in Mindanao’s everyday life, and modeled by his two unrepentant heirs who do not only have the ears of President Duterte, but are even selling themselves as the future after him.

Marcos is here, among us, whether in the form of a botoxed face seated beside our President or via an electoral protest pending with a compromised court. The Marcoses have not only laundered their stolen money, they have managed to launder our memory as well.

Martial Law is here, in increments we continue to refuse to see. The environment that triggered Martial Law 4 decades ago is being reshaped by technology that fuels the new illiberal order.

The struggle of man against power, Milan Kundera once wrote, is the struggle of memory against forgetting.

Our perennial challenge is our lame struggle against our corrupted selves. – Rappler.com