Revision or redemption?

FROM FAR AND NEAR - Ruben Almendras - The Freeman

The recent movie “Maid in Malacañang” is the latest explicit historical revisionism salvo by the Marcos camp. Together with the many social media posts on the martial law years and the propaganda from the BBM camp, these are attempts to revise and deodorize the Marcos name and legacy. These have been going on for many years and some believe it helped in the 2022 elections. But the election results were really due to the enormous funding that swayed the traditional politicians with dynasties and bailiwicks aided by electoral maneuvers of the incumbents and commissioners. It is this uncertainty of the real numbers and mandate pushing the Marcos camp to continue the historical revisionism.

There were always pushbacks against Marcos revisionism, and it started to grow bigger during the reburial of Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani after many years in Ilocos. The Duterte administration had to surreptitiously allow the transfer to avoid demonstrations. There were also civil society outcries on the deliberate omission of the martial law years and abuses in some history textbooks and absence of martial law stories in some publications. The people who experienced the Marcos years, especially the victims of abuses and atrocities pushed back with documented stories and actual statistical data on the real political and economic conditions in those years, which were starkly different from the propaganda versions.

Then the IT revolution and social media reached the Philippines and the new battleground for the revisionist and the realists took center stage. It became easier to recover, revive, and circulate stories about the Marcos years with full documentation and photos. So many stories and so much materials were available that revisionists had to resort to softening the stories instead of outright denial and come up with toned-down inventive narrative. IT and social media aided the pushback/backlash against revisionism in the main and social media. In fact more materials and stories about Marcos and the martial law years surfaced in 2020 to 2022 than in the previous 10 years.

At this time, revisionism has not moved much and the targeted demographics are balanced out. Those born after 1980 and unaware of martial law are divided into the less educated and the more educated young people. The more educated are more informed and activist, while the less educated are passive and apolitical. Those aged 50 and above who experienced martial law are predominantly anti-Marcos and impervious to historical revisionism but tolerant. In terms of overall sentiment, the Marcos name and legacy is the same as it was in the 1990’s. Over and above the pushback and backlash powered by social media, politicians’ behavior added toxicity to the political environment since 2010. The lack of accountability and corruption fueled disenchantment of the people on family political dynasties.

Redemption has many nuanced meanings, but it is best understood as the actions of regaining honor and reputation by atoning for the mistake and doing reparations. A consequence of redemption would be absolution and reclamation of honor. If atonement needs acknowledgment and asking for forgiveness, this will be very difficult for proud people, but as revisionism will eventually become an unnecessary distraction without results, redemption is the only way, and BBM is given this singular opportunity to make it in the next six years.

The world and most of the countries including the Philippines are in extremely difficult social, political, and economic conditions now and for the next five years due to the pandemic, Russian invasion of Ukraine, and climate change. Most governments will have limited political and fiscal space to succeed and meet popular expectations. BBM’s potential achievements on the economy and in addressing social problems, may just be halfway to the redemption his family seeks. And the way to do this is by good governance, an accountable government devoid of graft and corruption, and adhering to truth and justice for all.


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