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The Aquino legacies: Democracy and peace

Let me state frankly that I am not always an admirer of Lee Kuan Yew. I do not agree with his views about democracy. I also do not think we can compare Singapore, a city state, to the Philippines, an archipelagic nation with more than 100 million citizens.

He recently wrote a book where he again pontificated on his ideas. However, there is one part of the book that is  interesting reading. He has different views on other countries which includes the Philippines. One of his comments is about Philippine culture. He wrote:

“The difference lies in the culture of the Filipino people. It is a soft and forgiving culture. Only in the Philippines could a leader like Ferdinand Marcos who pillaged his country for over 20 years, still be considered for a national burial.

“Insignificant amounts of the loot have been recovered, yet his wife and children were allowed to return and engage in politics. They supported the winning presidential and congressional candidates with their considerable resources and reappeared in the political and social limelight after the `1998 election that returned President Joseph Estrada. General Fabian Ver, Marcos’s commander-in-chief who had been in charge of security when Aquino was assassinated had fled the Philippines together with Marcos in 1986. When he died in Bangkok, the Estrada government gave the general military honors at his burial.”

Lee Kuan Yew quoted a Philippine newspaper article: “ Ver, Marcos and the rest of the official family plunged the country into two decades of lies, torture and plunder. Over the next decade Marcos’s cronies and immediate family would tiptoe back into the country, one by one -— always to the public’s revulsion and disgust, though they showed that there was nothing that hidden money and thick hides could not withstand.”

He then added: “ Some Filipinos write and speak with passion, if they could get their elite to share their sentiments and act, what could they not have achieved.?”

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This is one of the few times I can partially agree with Lee Kuan Yew. However, I do not necessarily agree that we have a “soft” culture. My personal observation is that massive resources are being spent to try and rewrite Philippine history.

But it is true that we are confronted by certain political events that are clearly ironic and even bizarre. Take the case of the Senate hearings on the Bangsamoro Basic Law. The chair is Ferdinand Bongbong Marcos Jr. son of the late Dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

In a recent interview, conducted during the commemoration of that Philippine Day of Infamy — the proclamation of martial law — the son vigorously defended the declaration of martial law. There was no hint of apology in both words and tone.

Germany has officially apologized for the Holocaust. Even the Japanese have apologized and paid reparations for their war crimes during the Second World War. But the Marcoses and former senior members of their martial law regime have never even  acknowledged their responsibility for the numerous human rights violations and for turning the second most prosperous country in Asia into the “sick man” of Asia.

In order to fully appreciate the irony of the unapologetic Bongbong Marcos chairing the hearings on the Bangsamoro Basic Law, we would need to recall an event now known as the Jabidah Massacre which happened in Corregidor in March 18, 1968. This massacre served as the impetus and rallying cry that started the present day Muslim insurgencies in the Southern Philippines.

The Jabidah Massacre was the massacre of several Muslims by the Philippine government. This incident was the offshoot of the dispute revolving around the territory of Sabah, between the Philippines and Malaysia. Marcos had planned a guerrilla type operation against the Muslims of Malaysia by training local Philippine Muslims to fight in Sabah. However, after the Muslim recruits discovered the true intentions of their group’s formation, they refused to go against fellow Muslims. Under the watch of Marcos and Ver, the Philippine government slaughtered the Muslims and tried to keep the whole incident a secret.

The best description of the actual events is in a chapter in the book “Under the Crescent Moon: Rebellion in Mindanao” written by Marites Danguilan Vitug and Glenda M. Gloria, first published in 2000. Here is one part from that book where they quoted the story of one survivor Jibin Arula.

“ We went to the airport on a weapons carrier truck, accompanied by 13 (non-Muslim) trainees armed with M-16 and carbines. When we reached the airport, our escorts alighted ahead of us. Then Lt. Eduardo Nepomuceno ordered us to get down from the truck and line up. [Nepomuceno was later killed in Corregidor under mysterious circumstances.] As we put down our bags, I heard a series of shots. Like dominoes, my colleagues fell. I got scared. I ran and was shot in my left thigh. I did not know that I was running towards a mountain...By 8 a.m., I was rescued by two fishermen on Caballe Island near Cavite.”

When then Senator Ninoy Aquino first publicly exposed the plot leading to the jabidah Massacre, Marcos and his henchmen denied the killings ever happened, the expose was condemned as part of a grand plot by the opposition to simply discredit the Marcos opposition.

After the massacre, one of its main perpetrators, Rolando Abadilla became head of Marcos’s Military Intelligence Security Group. He gained notoriety by causing the arrest, disappearances, and killings of many political activists during martial law.

It was only in 2013 that the Philippine government, under P-Noy, finally and officially acknowledged that the Jabidah Massacre actually took place.

In almost every region of the world, nations are trying to find a peaceful solution to violence caused by ethnic and religious tensions between the majority and the minority population of their country. This is happening in India, Pakistan, China, Thailand, Myanmar, Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Kenya, and even in rich countries like France, United Kingdom and the United States.

Samuel Huntington once wrote a book called the Clash of Civilizations, in which he said that conflicts between the major civilizations — Christian, Islamic, Hindu, Confucian — was inevitable. But I continue to hope that in spite of the ironic twists and turns in Philippine history, this “inevitability” will not happen in the Philippines.

We have a culture that is based on strong family ties and spiritual values. We can be forgiving and tolerant. But history has shown that we, as a people, can rise and confront great challenges with courage, fortitude and unity.

Democracy, through the People Power Revolution was one of the greatest legacies of Corazon Aquino and the Filipino people of that period. Peace, through a Bangsamoro Basic Law, could very well be one of the greatest legacies of P-Noy and this generation of Filipinos.

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Email: elfrencruz@gmail.com

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