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So you think you love Marcos?

MANILA, Philippines - The times, once more, are changing. From a country unified in venerating the peaceful revolution, we have become a country divided by the question, “What if Marcos were still in power?”

The question used to be unthinkable. Ten years ago, it was almost blasphemous to say that there was something wrong with the bloodless shift in leadership and the incredible events that led to it; what with a cardinal, a saintly housewife, and throngs of the meek and the average swarming to EDSA. Even in the academe where objectivity is king, anyone suggesting that the revolution wasn’t really a revolution, or that Cory made the wrong moves, was ostracized and cast into the ranks of non-believers and junta leaders.

But these old habits of ours have made a complete turnaround. With Senator Enrile slowly showing the cracks of his old age and receiving most of the flak from the media; the Aquino lineage (especially Kris) displaying impeccable grace, virtue, and virginal behavior; and the Internet generation’s unprecedented access to information — wishing for a Macoy comeback doesn’t seem too sinister anymore. In fact, to say that you love the Marcoses puts you in the cool and “non-conformist” crowd.

IMELDA’S ART

For starters, Imelda Marcos remains glorified for her vast collections of paintings, jewelry and shoes. As she had done in the days of old, the other half of the conjugal dictatorship is still able to charm her way out of public scrutiny and persecution with her southern appeal and innocence.

Some personalities, even national artists, remember her rule as a flourishing period for art. And indeed, it was. But it was a vile form of art, nursed in the spirit of “The True, The Good, and The Beautiful” to mask the evils of their regime. Under Imelda’s rule, the world needed to be like art where nothing was ugly. While Philippine art grew under her patronage, it came with the price inverse of what creativity stood for — the numbing indifference of the people.

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Imelda’s rule of beauty, in a way, answered one of art’s greatest quandaries: Is beauty paramount to art? For Imelda, it is a resounding “yes.” In our world’s history, one who shared the same views on beauty and the genocidal truth in art went by the name of Adolf Hitler.

In his quest to rid the world of what he believed was ugly and causative of division, he realized beauty’s fullest fruition came through art. A frustrated artist himself, Hitler commissioned paintings, hoarded collections, learned how to paint, and surrounded himself in immense beauty. Such beauty we can now see in Imelda and Hitler’s cases, was only possible in a period when an equal amount of rot needed to be stowed away.

MILITARIZED DICTATORSHIP

It was in this same brand that Ferdinand Marcos ruled, but it took a more worldly form — a militarized dictatorship. Twenty-six years since martial law’s end, a significant portion of those who were too young to remember/know anything of life under the regime now believe that the dictatorship should not have ended.

These days, one of the popular sentiments is that the Philippines is in need of a dictator, a man with an iron fist who can pummel into submission whoever gets in his way. It’s easy to see why, when lawless elements roam the streets, riding in tandem with those in the halls of Congress, vigilante justice sounds close to heroic. Fed up with the symptoms of poverty, people are quick to side with someone like Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte who would not have second thoughts about shooting people who, in his sole judgement, violate the law. It has become easy for us to throw these words around precisely because we have a democracy that favors us, the privileged classes.

The poor, the abused, and the minoritized can hardly think of such things when all their lives, they have remained voiceless in the elite democracy 1986 cemented. A political strongman would not save them. He would, instead, drown them deeper in their sorrows as Ferdinand Marcos had once so wilfully done to human rights activists, intellectuals, minorities, ethnic tribes, and opposition. Marcos’ case is a testament to Lord Acton’s words: “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

GREEDY AND OMNIPOTENT

In his 242 months in office, Marcos was able to singlehandedly institutionalize the greedy and omnipotent government official. Marcos’ almighty rule ingrained and miseducated us with a twisted sense of how a public servant ought to act. The dearth of leadership we have now can be traced to Marcos’ two tenets of leadership: 1) that the government official must see himself/herself above those he/she rules; and that 2) more power is needed in order to serve more. He was, as we now know, deceived by his own principles.

Not to say that Marcos wasn’t brilliant. On the contrary, I believe that Marcos could have been the most brilliant president this country has ever had. But we must place “brilliance” in its proper context, in the way that brilliance is meant to describe light: intense, outward and selfless. Such qualities Marcos lost in his greed and lust for power.

While so much has changed since he was deposed, most things remain the same: the same group of people remains in power (in fact, the Marcoses remain in power), public officials involved in the pork barrel issue remain of the same selfish brand, activists are still being tortured and murdered by an invulnerable military, the media still focuses on “the beautiful,” profitable and diversionary issues and — what do you know? — the Cybercrime Law is now in full effect.

Yes, Marcos is still pretty much alive. There is no need to wish for a comeback.

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Tweet the author @sarhentosilly.

 

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