Official Gazette slammed over historical revisionism
Janvic Mateo (The Philippine Star) - September 13, 2016 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. declared martial law to suppress communist insurgency and secessionism in Mindanao and stepped down in 1986 to avoid bloodshed during an uprising later known as people power, the Official Gazette claimed in a post that it later took down after drawing flak from the public.

The Official Gazette, the official journal of the Philippine government, was under fire on Sunday afternoon following a Facebook post commemorating the 99th birth anniversary of Marcos.

“Marcos was the first post-independence president to be re-elected in 1969. In 1972, he declared martial law to suppress a communist insurgency and secessionism in Mindanao,” the original post read.

“In 1986, Marcos stepped down from the presidency to avoid bloodshed during the uprising that came to be known as ‘people power,’” it added.

The post also included a photo of Marcos, with a quote from his inaugural in 1965 saying: “There are many things we do not want about our world. Let us not just mourn them. Let us change them.”

The initial post immediately drew criticism from netizens, who accused the administrators of the page of historical revisionism, particularly on aspects about the declaration of martial law and his deposition from office following the people power revolution.

The reaction appeared to have prompted a revision, which removed the phrase “to avoid bloodshed” in the caption.

It was later taken down and replaced with a shorter version containing details on the political career of the late dictator.

“Ferdinand Marcos started his political career in 1949 as a representative of the second district of Ilocos Norte. Ten years thereafter, Marcos was able to secure a seat as a member of the Philippine Senate in 1959 and was elected Senate president in 1963. Ferdinand Marcos became the 10th president of Philippines in 1965. He was the longest-serving president of the country for almost 21 years,” the new post read.

The updated post did not quell critics, who noted the decision of the administrators of the page to remove any mention of martial law and people power.

“He was the longest-serving president of the country for almost 21 years… Because he became a dictator!” one comment read.

The Official Gazette again edited the post, which now includes the following phrase: “He was the longest-serving president of the country for almost 21 years, declaring martial law in 1972, then went in exile to the United States in 1986 at the height of the people power revolution. He was succeeded by Corazon Cojuangco Aquino.”

Palace apologizes

Amid criticisms over the original post and the succeeding revisions, the Official Gazette issued a statement.

“The Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines is the repository of government documents, as stated by law. We are not in the business of revising history. We only convey what is documented in the official records. We continually update materials to keep it as historically accurate as possible,” said Presidential Communications Office Assistant Secretary Ramon Cualoping III.

Cualoping stressed that the government journal is devoid of any political color and affiliations.

“I would like to reiterate that there has been no revision of history and there will never be,” he said.

But Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said he talked to Cualoping, who was in charge of the postings.

“I told him, ‘You don’t have to change history. Whatever is there, whatever happened during martial law, you don’t have to change that. That’s martial law.’ So, after 10 minutes, I said, ‘You have to pull it back, you have to put back martial law and you have to put back that the president was exiled,’” Andanar told GMA 7’s Unang Hirit yesterday.

At noon, Cualoping apologized before Palace reporters.

“I think the apology would be more of because we were not prudent enough, perhaps. We we’re not circumspect in terms of writing the accompanying copy,” he said.

He explained that because of the criticisms they received on social media, they immediately adjusted and edited the accompanying captions to the post but stressed that it would not be deleted from the Gazette.

“If we delete the post – I’ll be very honest – it will be unfair to Marcos because there are also posts for Osmeña and Magsaysay,” Cualoping said, referring to former presidents Sergio Osmeña and Ramon Magsaysay.

He said that postings were compartmentalized and the issue on martial law would have been mentioned in a post prepared for Sept. 21, the day martial law was declared in the Philippines in 1972.

Conflict of interest?

A number of netizens pointed a possible conflict of interest after claims that the person in charge of the page was a former staff of former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

In a post, lawyer Jesus Falcis called on Marco Angelo Cabrera to resign or at least recuse or inhibit himself from any presidential communications about the Marcoses.

“The conflict of interest is so glaring and palpable. Multiple issues and events will require you to post on matters touching Ferdinand Marcos and his family – from the current issue on his burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani to future commemorations of the declaration of martial law and the EDSA Revolution,” he added.

In one instance, Cabrera responded to the post of Falcis using the Official Gazette account before deleting it and posting a response using his own Facebook account.

“For the record, Atty. Jesus Falcis, my bosses know of my previous work for former senator Bongbong Marcos. I was accepted to work for them with the full knowledge of my previous employment. The reason for my two Facebook accounts is that I used the other one during my stint in the Senate and on the campaign trail,” said Cabrera.

“I do not believe that my previous work for former senator Marcos would have any conflict of interest insofar as my work is concerned since I follow the lead of my bosses,” he added.

In a separate public post on his account, Cabrera said he is currently receiving threats on his life and his liberty after he was tagged by Falcis in his post.

“I continue to respect the views of those whom I don’t agree with when it comes to politics. As vocal and critical as I was with the previous administration, I never resorted to attacking the character of the persons I had discussions and arguments with,” he said.

Cabrera maintained that he has disclosed his previous employment to his current employers.

‘Superficial Gazette’ born

As netizens accused the government communications team of historical revisionism, a Facebook page called “Superficial Gazette of the Philippines” was put up early yesterday.

The page, which claims to be managed “by the best communications team in the solar system,” was an offshoot of the hashtag #superficialgazette that went viral after the Marcos post on Sunday.

At noon yesterday, Superficial Gazette had garnered over 3,000 likes.

A Twitter account, @SuperficialGZT, has also been created.

In a statement, it said the Superficial Gazette “is hereby established to clarify and contextualize the Official Gazette’s statements, just as the presidential spokesman is given the herculean task of clarifying President Duterte’s contradictory statements.”

Series of blunders

The incident involving the social media post of the Official Gazette is the latest in a series of blunders of the communications group of the new administration, which has widely used social media to tap public support for its “Partners for Change” campaign.

Earlier, the social media team behind the Presidential Communications Facebook page was also called out by netizens after it released an infographic on drug prevalence in the country and erroneously cited a United Nations report on the accompanying caption.

The post was later deleted and replaced with a new set of infographic, with the PCO noting concerns on the earlier post.

Following the Davao blast on Sept. 2, the communications group was also criticized after different officials issued conflicting statements over the coverage of the state of lawlessness issued by the President.

Andanar also recognized a communications blunder during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Laos last week after their office issued a statement saying Duterte would be seated next to US President Barack Obama and United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon at the gala dinner.

The three leaders ended up seated apart during the event. – With Giovanni Nilles

 

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