Mad as hell, yet moving on from Marcos
Illustration by Patrick Dale Carrillo
Mad as hell, yet moving on from Marcos
THE UNGENTLEWOMAN - Gabbie Tatad (The Philippine Star) - November 26, 2016 - 12:00am

These days, it’s everywhere. Whether you’re sitting among colleagues at the office, flicking through Facebook or Twitter, having a haircut at the salon, standing in line at the grocery, quietly sitting in an Uber heading to your next appointment, or piercing a fish ball or two during your merienda break, everyone wants to talk about the clandestine burial of Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan Ng Mga Bayani and how it has opened a veritable Pandora’s box.

Photos from the day of the burial include a condolence wreath from none other than our dear President, who claims to have known nothing about it. (Perhaps his protocol staff is just really efficient when it comes to sending out those things. Likely story? You be the judge.) There is a memo from the Department of National Defense to the Armed Forces, dated the 7th of August 2016, instructing their facilitation of the burial, following a verbal order from President Duterte. There are photos of the Marcos family alighting from a Philippine Air Force plane, almost corroborating that memo. There was a request of understanding from the Marcos family to respect the privacy of laying their patriarch to rest, and yet before that was issued, Imee Marcos already shared the ill-conceived same day edit of the burial for all to see. There are too many questions about why this took place under the cloak of such secrecy, granted the Supreme Court had agreed to the burial in LNMB in the first place. The anger of the public is palpable and it is everywhere.

A Cry To “Move On”

What is equally frustrating is the outcry of Marcos supporters for the rest of us to “move on.” They laud the years of the Marcos presidency as the golden years of the Philippines, which if this is remotely true, is rather sad. The World Bank and its development indicators have on record how our national debt under Marcos increased from 360 million dollars to 24.4 billion, the major escalation in the five-year period from 1977 with 8 billion, to 1982 with 24.4. So, while there may have been progress that was felt all throughout, much of it was debt-driven, and we would eventually be the ones to pay. By 1983, the Philippines was so entrenched in debt that it could no longer pay up to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, resulting in deals that led to the devaluing of the Philippine Peso. Our GDP actually hit a low in 1982 that we wouldn’t recover from for 21 years, finally bouncing back in 2003.

Economy aside, Amnesty International has estimated human rights violations from 1972 to 1981 at 70,000 people imprisoned, 34,000 tortured, and 3,240 killed. Torture methods included your classic electrocution, pistol whipping, beating, water cure, Russian roulette, and cigar burns. But there were also more creative methods like the San Juanico Bridge, wherein a detainee was made to lie like a bridge between two beds — feet on one bed and head on the other — and any time the body so much as sagged or was less than straight, the person was beaten severely. There was another method called pepper torture, where a strong pepper-based substance was rubbed on a person’s lips and often times their genitals. Most women who were detained told stories about being raped using foreign objects, some of the objects being rigid vegetables covered in spicy peppers. Others have detailed being beaten within an inch of their lives, then being made to watch loved ones being tortured. Call me crazy, but shouldn’t we have better standards when we use labels like “golden era”?

The funny thing is, even all these atrocities taken into consideration, when we are told to “move on,” what the loyalists don’t understand is that we actually have done so. Most of us are trying to live our lives as best we can — we have Sunday lunches at Lola’s house, we go to work, we spend time with our friends, we enjoy a drink or two, we try new things like a trek to Pinatubo, we find pleasure in ducking into a pares house while trying to commute home in the middle of a thunderstorm. No one consistently lives their lives in anger or resentment of the years past, because no one wants to remain in an asylum of pain. Most of those who were tortured back then and whose families grew up while they were detained, they built lives for themselves, became law-abiding citizens, and have tried to be contributing members of their communities. What we have tried to do, in the midst of a neverending train of lies and a serious lack of apology, is to keep moving forward.

But the cowardly underhanded burial of Marcos is exactly the point where that stops for us, because it presupposes that this is simply an issue between the Aquino and the Marcos families, a tug of war that’s kept the country from reaching a place of peace for decades. It’s not, and seeing it simply as that is maintaining an entirely narrow view of the situation. (Fun fact, before I get the “yellowtard” card thrown at me: I’m not much of an Aquino fan either.) What we have here is an entitled thief, a liar, and a dictator, whose family aims to rewrite history by laying him to rest a hero. The Marcos family has never once admitted to the crimes, has never made an attempt to return stolen government funds, and has never so much as issued an apology. They have, however, continuously flaunted their wealth and eased themselves back into positions of power. We are being played for fools, and yet somehow are also expected to be forgiving, to be understanding of their so-called plight, and even more so, to actually reward them going forth?

Stolen Heroism

By accepting this burial, which may be legal but is far from legitimate, we are saying that the title “hero” can be attained on a technicality. We are saying that being held accountable for the death and torture of many, for the plunder of our resources, for the violation of the nation’s trust, is something that is entirely negotiable in both our presidents and our heroes. We are saying that we would rather forget the whole thing happened than to build stronger standards for the leaders that follow. We are saying that this man is made of the same stuff as those who have put themselves in front of a bullet for our freedom, who lived on little to contribute much to the growth of our nation, who with their blood and sweat tried to give us a country we could be proud of. While we don’t expect perfection, by accepting this burial, we are telling ourselves and our children that Ferdinand Marcos is, as he was, the very model of a hero.

And when you ask us to move on, what you don’t realize is that you’re asking us to take a long hard look at what may be your golden years, but what for us may be the darkest decades in our nation’s history, and all the years that followed. To look inside of ourselves and understand what it means to us when a leader steals, or kills, or condones the death and torture of thousands, or takes away the very right to free speech. What does it mean when a leader does those things, and is that something we find ourselves being able to live with? Because moving on, in every situation, means understanding the past to make our peace with it, and avoiding the repetition of the same mistakes.

So the din you are trying to silence with your request to “move on” isn’t us being stuck in the past or favoring one political family over another; it is us, doing exactly what you ask. We are trying to maintain our capacity to move forward, but in a world where heroes are actually heroes, and where the evil are not rewarded for amends they have never even attempted to make. We aren’t angry or being negative for the sheer sake of it. We are enraged because the narrative is being seized in front of our very eyes, so that the blood of our brothers and sisters might be whitewashed for the sake of a man’s undeserved glory and stolen heroism. We are sick of being puppets in a game of powerful families’ whims. We are co-authors of history, we are citizens, and we are Filipinos with the earth and the sun coursing through our veins. With all that’s been stolen from us, we’ll be damned if we let them take both our past and our future, too.

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Tweet the author @gabbietatad.

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