On Wednesday, I spoke, bidden, to an audience of journalists. I didn’t quite know how to greet everyone. As a journalist myself, I felt a bit awkward. I knew we were gathered there – as others, elsewhere – on the occasion of the 50th year, to the day, of the declaration of Martial Law by Ferdinand Marcos.
But I asked what it was about the occasion that made it solemn enough to be worth observing, or gratifying enough to be worth commemorating, or happy enough – Good God! – to be worth celebrating, and proceeded to speak my own thoughts.
One thing Martial Law was definitely not was the milestone the Marcos heirs try to make it look like, by falsifying history – “the golden age,” in their own lying words. It was not at all that one great leap toward development that the word milestone suggests in the context of nationhood. It was in fact a historic retrogression: The Marcos dictatorship buried us in debt we’ve never quite managed to crawl out of; the pile actually has grown bigger as more debt was incurred by succeeding presidencies.
“Marking” Martial Law Day was probably a good compromise wording, I suggested, explaining that the word mark seemed a general and neutral enough one to pass muster: it suited the nature of the occasion and the profession by whose standards it was being recalled, which, for one thing, call for dispassionate record-keeping.
Anyway, I settled for the word, and, in case I might have added yet to the cloudiness of the affair, I tried to be clearer by putting things in perspective, and proceeded thus:
The day we were marking led to 14 years of torture, murder, and plunder on scales unseen in our lifetime. A couple of quick, basic facts:
One, 4,000 cases of extrajudicial killing (including 77 of enforced disappearance) and 70,000 of unwarranted incarceration, apart from 35,000 of torture – these are the numbers that, by virtue of the rigor of inquiry and documentation that turned them up, have gained the most credence.
Two, the Marcos family continues to be pursued judicially for the 10 billion dollars of our money it stole.
Given all that, there’s only one way that makes marking Martial Law Day worth it – by understanding how it had come to pass, then learning and rising from it.
But, you might ask, isn’t it too late to learn? Too late only for the unlearned dead and the living who are dead set on remaining unlearned. But surely not for those concerned about the future of their progenies, as, only naturally, elders ought to be.
Admittedly, the learning has grown more difficult through the years, due to our own defaults. After booting the Marcoses into foreign exile, in a swift and bloodless revolt now known to the world as “people power,” we rested on our dubious laurels, thus allowing the Marcos forces to regroup, consolidate, and return to power.
We in the news profession, as watchdog for truth, freedom, and justice by constitutional appointment no less, should have seen all that coming. But no; at the very roundtable where I spoke, the topical proposition itself betrayed cluelessness:
Should we be worried?
We should have begun to worry when Marcos’ heirs returned a mere five years after the revolt, welcomed in high society and re-embraced by cronies and other opportunists and by plain crazy followers. That signaled the regrouping. The consolidation came decidedly in the presidency of Rodrigo Duterte, the unabashed Marcos worshipper.
Duterte set the ground for the second Marcos presidency. He coopted the security and oversight institutions of our democracy to the extent that allowed his regime to operate as a veritable autocracy – the militarization, the repression, the cronyism and wholesale corruption, and the treasonous deals with China were simply too palpable, if not too downright obvious, to overlook.
And that’s the draconian power arrangement that Duterte’s successor, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., has inherited and is expected to be inherited in turn by his vice-president and successor-in-waiting, who happens to be a Duterte daughter. But, of course, who else but we ourselves put all the Dutertes and the Marcoses where they are, by national vote, only to show our grave lack of understanding of our martial-law experience.
Should we be worried?
The time for worrying is long past. What we should have worried about has overtaken us: It is here! – Rappler.com