There is now an ocean of opinions ranging from those who were alive during Martial Law to those who were born after 1986; from those who feel they benefited from Martial Law to those who suffered greatly from it, to those who think it was o.k.
Illustration by Patrick Dale Carrillo
The rainbow after the sh*t-storm
THE DOWNBEAT - DLS Pineda (The Philippine Star) - November 19, 2016 - 12:00am

Remember, remember the 8th of November.

Last week, many Filipinos were blindsided by the victory of Donald Trump and the Supreme Court decision allowing Ferdinand Marcos’ burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. An inexperienced, unstable demagogue elected to lead a global superpower, and the country’s highest court condoning a hero’s burial for the dictator who had thousands killed and tortured and drove our economy to ruin? The world, it seems, has flipped upside down, turning wrong into right, and giving dark forces the upper hand.

For those who felt they were on the side of good, it was a harsh and rude awakening. Suddenly, it was no longer about how aware we were of racism or sexism or of class struggles and divides; no longer was it about how much we knew of Marcos’ crimes, his plunder, and martial law’s era of lawlessness, rape and murder. Suddenly, the anger turned into introspection, and the introspection turned into guilt. “What exactly have we done to counter these vile acts and these even viler monsters?” we had to ask ourselves. Is it too late to do anything anymore? Has evil won the war? Has modern civilization come to a sick, depressing end?

Well, it has been 12 days since the US election and the Supreme Court’s Marcos decision, and with our flesh still intact, we now see that these events were a wakeup call and not a death sentence. Yes, we are now forced to watch Imee Marcos smile, laugh and lie on TV interviews as we come closer to Marcos’ re-burial. (“Ang liit-liit ko nun,” she says of martial law; she was 17 when the dictatorship began and 30 when it was toppled.) Yes, we read about the impending deportation of a quarter of a million jobless and illegally residing Filipinos in the US as we come closer to Trump’s ascension to power. Yet these things only set us in motion. The Supreme Court decision is no longer trending online, nor is Trump. Finally, a distancing from the all-too-convenient (and deceptive) armchair/social media activism. But where exactly do we go from here?

Why Hell hasn’t broken loose

If I were to proffer an explanation as to why all hell hasn’t broken loose since Nov. 8, it is because we’ve been in this mess for so long that Nov. 8 became an inevitability, perhaps even a necessary step. We cannot deny that, consciously or not, we didn’t see it coming: fattened by martial law loot, the Marcoses are as alive as ever; President Duterte, patently a Macoytard, is enjoying high approval ratings; the Aquinos are in their worst form while education on martial law remains dismal; and over three decades, the gap between the rich and the poor has followed the pattern Marcos put into play and has only grown wider. Worst of all, the people who were in power during martial law are still in power now. While the Left is taunted for not capitalizing on EDSA’s revolutionary moment, Cory Aquino, Fidel Ramos, Joseph Estrada, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and Noynoy Aquino — all main proponents of democracy’s slow-but-sure change — also kowtowed to the desires of those who the dictatorship cemented into the establishment. As much as online trolls are menacing and un-nuanced, there is some grain of truth when they say that the same oligarchy is still in power and that nothing has changed.

But what Nov. 8 also offers us is an honest assessment. Now it can no longer be denied that something ails us and we have altogether failed EDSA’s revolutionary spirit. Thirty years since the end of the Marcos regime, the thinking on martial law has drastically changed such that there is now a wide spectrum between those who wanted the dictator to leave and those who wanted him to stay.

There is now an ocean of opinions ranging from those who were alive during martial law to those who were born after 1986; from those who feel they benefited from martial law to those who suffered greatly from it, to those who think it was okay; from those who believe that a democracy would never work in a poverty-stricken country to those who believe that autocracies never work anywhere at all, to those who believe there should be a middle way; from those who feel that the Marcoses didn’t do anything wrong, to those who think that the Marcoses were wrong but shouldn’t be punished, to those who think that Imelda, Imee, Bongbong, Aimee and Irene should all burn in hell with their father, to those who naively pin the blame for martial law on the Aquinos and communists, etc., etc. What we have now is a divide that branches out in infinite directions and with no clear-cut distinctions between one and the other and the other. And these viewpoints, unfortunately, are ones which people stick to as if these were their religions. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it can even be good. Albeit partial to the ruling class (for now), we are seeing democracy’s evolution and we should celebrate it. This could not have been possible during Marcos’ time.

Make room for Opinions

So we must make room for these opinions, lest we become murderous dictators ourselves. But in giving them space, we must also learn how to weigh these arguments. That way, we can say which ones are true, which ones are lies, which ones bear greater weight and in the end conclude which ones are the best and elevate ourselves to the ranks of the five Supreme Court justices — Carpio, Leonen, Jardeleza, Caguioa, and Chief Justice Sereno — who thought better than the other 11. It is a political maturity that eliminates naïve thinking such as that of the President’s dismissal of martial law as simply “a fight between two families” and the dictator’s burial as “only legal.” We need to come to a political maturity that entertains opposition and interrogates something as grand as the big picture.

What further empowers these new waves of Marcos apologists is the belief that they have been wronged and lied to, or in an adulterated way, “minoritized.” By recognizing our own failure to rebuild after Marcos destroyed us, we give a name to what our apathy has spawned, and from there, we can change it. We have lost a lot in letting these Marcos cronies and apologists get off scot-free, obtain power and remain uncontested just because we “respect each other’s opinion,” even if their opinions are harmful and seeded with lies. Perhaps in the process of deliberating on their arguments, we would also learn that criticism is an even higher form of respect, one founded on sound logic and truth. That way, the way we talk about martial law becomes more a dialogue than a condescending lecture.

The world we live in today is far more chaotic and divided than we would like to believe. Our heads are likely to burst should we take it all in. Comedian Dave Chappelle delivered a monologue and performed a skit on Saturday Night Live’s episode following Trump’s election. He poked fun at the liberal white American’s lack of self-awareness as many of them continue to deny the prevalence of many forms of injustices, the ones black Americans like himself face every day.

Here, on the other hand, a study by Honey Tabiola, one of my colleagues in Father Saturnino Urios University found that in 2015, there were only 11 instances across social science textbooks for public schools, Grades 7-10, wherein the word “democracy” was mentioned, and only twice was it informative. Are we really aware of the ideas that are supposed to hold us together? Today, we are no longer surprised when grandchildren of the Marcoses and the Aquinos go to the same school in Manila, roam in the same circles, and sometimes end up as lovers. Today, what surprises us are big events many activists saw coming. Our ideas of the world outside our own are narrow and short-sighted — it’s about time we use the democracy our ancestors fought so hard for.

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Tweet the author @sarhentosilly.

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