[OPINION] To Imelda Marcos

Veronica Pedrosa

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[OPINION] To Imelda Marcos
'I get so tired listening to $1 million here, $1 million there, it's so petty.' Do you remember saying this?


You are in the twilight years now and must surely be considering your legacy. Make no mistake, we have not forgotten what happened during those years of Marcos’ repressive rule. You, of all people, know the excesses of those times as they were recorded in article after article, court case after court case, film after film, book after book. Your denials have been repeated so often they have become banal, you place your hand on your heart, then point upwards, your voice pitches higher as you plead with God to witness your words. But repetition doesn’t make them true. Are you reading this Mrs Marcos? I hope you are, because for the 47th time the Philippines is marking the anniversary of Martial Law, and you, your family and your cronies still have not apologized or been made to account in any way for the crimes you committed during your time as First Lady. 

Do you and your family laugh secretly in your luxury apartments at all those failed attempts to have you return ill-gotten wealth? Do you roll your eyes among priceless artworks, at the testimony of torture victims, political prisoners and witnesses? Do you ever blush at the lengths you’ve had to go to keep you and your family in power? Does it ever occur to you that it didn’t have to be this way, that your wealth and power never had to come at the price of the lives of thousands of people in war and at the hands of the police and military and the poverty and pain of millions? You and your conjugal dictatorship chose to make the entire Philippines one vast “Gulag Archipelago.” 

Do you remember saying: 

“If you know how rich you are, you are not rich. But me, I am not aware of the extent of my wealth. That’s how rich we are.”

“Doesn’t the fight for survival also justify swindle and theft? In self-defense, anything goes.” 

“I get so tired listening to $1 million here, $1 million there, it’s so petty.”

“The problem of the world today is the people talk on and on about democracy, freedom, justice. But I don’t give a damn about democracy if I am worried about survival.” 

What are people to think when they hear your words, Mrs Marcos? 

You told me once that your husband’s presidency was “the best,” is that because 20% more Filipinos were living below the poverty line when you were removed from power than when you first stepped into Malacañang Palace? Or because of the 100,000 malnourished and starving children in Negros by 1986? Marcos said he imposed martial law to uplift the poor; you have said: ”Perception is real, truth is not.” 

Has 47 years been long enough for you to realize you and your clan have won a false victory? You have been returned to power, not on merit but because you’ve managed to get away with a massive fortune and with hijacking the state’s apparatus to kill and deprive people of their rights for your own petty self-serving ends. You use your power not to inspire and empower “your little people,” no, you dismiss and trivialize all the accounts of oppression, torture, and corruption. You are benefitting from the culture of vigilantism, injustice and patronage you corralled for your own benefit during your rule; do you really think this is success? These have become the hallmarks of Philippines politics since your conjugal dictatorship, called “the greatest dominance of state over society the Philippines has ever seen,” these are your toxic achievements. 

Night draws near, Mrs Marcos. What do you intend to make of these final days of your long and incredible life? They say in the last moments a dying person’s memories flash past. Images may flicker of your first few years barefoot in the garage in San Miguel, childhood in Tolosa, the bright lights and beauty contests in Manila, the flattering force with which your Ferdy assailed you to accept his proposal, the hostility of society matrons sniggering at your gauche provincial past, the press of the crowds during campaigns, speaking to them, singing, charming, singing, smiling, winning, not stopping, Malacañang, My Lovie Dovey, surviving, scheming, shopping, beautifying, edifying, meeting, Mao, Saddam, Gaddafi, LBJ, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Nancy, dressing, decorating, shopping, Manhattan, Doris Duke, George Hamilton, Brook Shields, Blue Ladies, spending $2,000 on chewing gum, singing, public speaking, dancing, scheming, shopping, shopping, shopping…memories of extraordinary wealth and limitless political power. 

Soon you will face a different kind of power, unblinking and inevitable that everyone is granted: the power to look back at the end of a life and know yourself. In these final moments will you lie and deny your actions even to yourself? Death is not a court with judges or lawyers that can be paid or bumped off. It is not little people and little lives that can be bought, dismissed and ignored, nor politicians, world leaders, celebrities, no-one that can be charmed or bamboozled. 

Mrs Marcos do you wonder what stories will be told in your obituaries? How many of your various personas will appear? Beauty Queen? Iron Butterfly? Fashion Plate? Shoe Lady? World Record Holder for stealing? Jester to the masses? Dictator? Fantasist? 

It’s not the end yet, Mrs Marcos. It’s just an anniversary, another anniversary of an event that happened before most people in the Philippines today were born, but they live with its consequences – your tainted legacy: power devoid of mercy, wealth without purpose, a society without conscience. – Rappler.com

Veronica Pedrosa is a journalist with more than 20 years experience with Al Jazeera English, CNN International and ABS-CBN. She is currently a freelance independent writer based in London. In 2011 she made the documentary film “Imelda and Me” for Al Jazeera English exploring impunity in the Philippines from the personal perspective of having grown up in exile from the Marcos regime after it banned her mother Carmen’s biography “The Untold Story of Imelda Marcos.”

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