Bongbong Marcos’ case – a moral issue

AS A MATTER OF FACT - Sara Soliven De Guzman - The Philippine Star

Will the martial law victims vote for BBM? Of course not! This is a non-issue to them. They clearly and confidently know what the Marcos family is made of and what they are all about.

Will non-martial law victims vote for BBM? Maybe. This group couldn‘t care less about what happened during martial law. Or they may choose to forget the tragedy and the darkness during those years. They will probably also choose to be blinded by what they saw in 1986 when the Marcos family fled to Hawaii and when Malacañang‘s doors were opened to the public. Unearthing all the treasures and discovering the lifestyle the Marcoses lived while the Filipinos suffered tremendously. Only the cronies lived like kings and queens, the rest lived like slaves.

Will the new and young voters vote for BBM? I think only the ignorant ones. Many young students and fresh graduates have read and have empathized with the cries of all martial law victims. They know the story, the lies and the betrayals. They will not allow such conditions to happen again.

When Bongbong says he was too young to know what happened in 1986, he is already showing his true color. If he says his family never stole anything, then we will be troubled if he becomes the president. There is no acceptance, not even remorse, for what transpired during the martial law days. It’s all about the ‘morality’ of the man. Doesn’t he know what is right from wrong? How far can he deny the Marcos era from the Filipinos who witnessed everything? Whether the man is his father or not, if he saw him stealing or cheating, why doesn’t he help return what was stolen? Why does he continue to deny the truth? What doesn’t he know about what his father did?

Why does he get upset when people blame his father for all the corruption and social ills? He becomes very defensive. And yet he takes all the accomplishments of his father as if it were his own. A two-faced man, as we already learned in our recent history, is dangerous. Are we going to risk such a scenario again? If BBM doesn’t know who he is and can’t even admit to anything that happened in the past, not to mention all the issues on his alleged fake records, then voting for this man will surely bring us to deeper troubled waters.

I remember a column written in 1984 by my late father Maximo V. Soliven, (who by the way, for the young readers, was a martial law victim himself) entitled, “Finding the Button.” He wrote:

When both Ferdinand E. Marcos and his presidency were young – in the torrid month of May, 1966 – I had lunch with him in Malacañang. In those days, to have lunch with the President meant that one wisely had a bite to eat before showing up at the Palace at noon since the endless procession of callers and petitioners went on without let-up through the early afternoon hours, and you didn‘t get down to the business of food until almost 3 p.m.

I recall that the ‘honeymoon’ of the first 100 days – that period of suspended judgment which the Press traditionally accorded the “new” Chief Executive (to give him time to learn his job) – was just over. The Philippine Press, in those days the most aggressive, rambunctious and lively in Asia, was assailing Mr. Marcos for campaign promises undelivered and graft and corruption still rampant in the body politic. FM, the tough politico who in 16 years had fought his way to the presidency, threw up his hands in a helpless gesture and turned to me: ‘Max, the trouble with people is that they think all I have to do is push a button and things happen. The problem is, I can’t even find the button!’

Today, more than 18 years after he entered Malacañang, almost 12 years since he declared martial law in September 1972 to create a “New Society,” the President is busily punching at every button in sight and trusting that things will happen. And nothing still happens.

The awful truth is that shadows are not easily banished; that human nature cannot be changed by the stroke of a pen; that crime and corruption cannot be deterred without punishment; that discipline cannot be instilled unless everyone without exception becomes subject to the discipline; that there is no power more potent and far-reaching than the power of example; that merely singing the National Anthem and a medley of patriotic songs will not arouse patriotism and love of country in the human breast.

These are freshly uncovered truths, but verities that have been self-evident from the beginning of mankind. ‘History,’ the French philosopher Voltaire declared, ‘does not repeat itself – but man does.’ King Canute of England, according to legend, once commanded the waves of the sea to roll back. He had the good grace not to be surprised when the waves refused to obey his command.

The Roman Emperor Caligula (Gaius Caesar, 12-14 A.D.) once appointed his horse a Consul of Rome. Now, granted that some horses may be more intelligent than some government officials, this on Caligula’s part was seen by a shocked Roman populace as an act of madness. The moral of the story is that absolute power does not necessarily give rise to absolutely correct decisions.

During the first year and a half of martial law, all Filipinos – even many of those who had been personally steam-rolled by it – prayed that martial law and the New Society would succeed. Pedestrians crossed obediently on the pedestrian lanes. Cars, buses and trucks stopped at the traffic lights. (Small indications these may seem, but they signified compliance in bigger things.) A curfew was rigorously observed. Officials fearful of being charged with ‘unexplained wealth’ hastily divested themselves of mansions and Mercedes Benzes at giveaway prices.

The slogans on radio and television were to the point: ‘Sa Ikauunlad ng Bayan, Disiplina ang Kailangan!’ (For the nation’s progress, discipline is needed.) The inspiring word was ‘Lahat pantay-pantay’ – everybody is equal before the bar of justice. This period of optimism and hope reached its highwater mark and slowly receded, and the advent of doubt was announced by President Marcos himself when he gave a speech sternly warning against ‘back sliding’ and a return to the Old Society immorality.

It is easy enough for us to heap blame on the Marcos regime for our failure as a people. It is a repetition of 1966, a period of grumbling over promises “undelivered” and the fact of graft and corruption continuing to riddle Filipino society. As Jose Rizal himself bitterly commented in his essay, “The Indolence of the Filipinos” that people and government are correlated and complementary; a fatuous government would be an anomaly among a righteous people, just as a corrupt people cannot have just rulers and wise laws.” Tal pueblo, tal gobierno. (As the people are, so is the Government).

Will we allow a repeat of the 1966 elections? Leader? Government? Never again. Let’s think and vote wisely. Abangan!

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