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A Lie Doesn’t Become Truth

I was a college student when President Ferdinand E. Marcos, who was quite popular throughout his first term in office, declared martial law in 1972. Unlike some people today who never experienced what life was during martial law, I never had any illusions about the culture of cronyism and brutality that characterized the martial law years.

I had friends who were tortured and killed during those years: Jun Quimpo, who worked with us as a community organizer in Tatalon, QC, was shot by a military agent in Nueva Ecija in 1983. Rolando Federis, an activist friend who was abducted by the military on his way to Bikol in 1976, was tortured and eventually killed by his captors. Manny Yap, who was a contemporary at the Ateneo de Manila, was arrested by the military somewhere in Quezon City in 1976, after he had lunch with his family since it was Valentine’s Day. His body was never found.

There were thousands more Filipinos who suffered the same fate as my three friends, and they are all documented by reputable human rights organizations like the Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Under the regime of Marcos, illegal arrests, tortures, and extra-judicial killings were pervasive. The victims were real people and not the product of one’s imagination that purveyors of fake news want us to believe now.

My wife and her sister were arrested by the military for distributing leaflets critical of Marcos, though they were later released. I was lucky to evade arrest simply for organizing the squatters in Tatalon fight for their land. The thought that I was in the military list was nerve-wracking.

However, with the ouster of the dictator Marcos in 1986 through People Power Revolution, millions of Filipinos were able to regain their freedom. A vibrant democracy was again alive in the Philippines, despite some efforts by some Marcos loyalists in the military to thwart it.

Today, after more than three decades, Bongbong, the son of the disgraced dictator, is about to become the nation’s 17th president. Never in my wildest imagination did I ever even dream of another Marcos returning to Malacanang.

Why do I relive the painful memories of my three friends at this time when 31 million kababayans are in a celebratory mood to welcome Bongbong’s ascendancy to power? Why recall something that happened more than three decades ago? Time to move forward; forget the past, some would argue.

If there’s one thing that history teaches, it’s that the past teaches us about the present and the future. By learning from our past mistakes, the past can serve as our compass to guide us to do the right thing. The past further helps us see and avoid certain patterns that, if we miss them, could make us miss the bigger picture of things.

While many historians want to preserve history – and rightly so for many reasons – there are those who want to revise it to promote a different narrative or justify bad acts committed. Specifically, the Marcos camp, as far back as 2016 and beyond, has spent millions of the family’s ill-gotten wealth to twist or bend the truth about martial law.

The family has resorted to a media campaign of disinformation to sanitize the Marcos image of a ruthless dictator to that of a benevolent one. The purpose is to rebrand the marital law years as the golden years of the Philippines.

While I cannot claim that all the 31 million Filipinos who voted for Bongbong were hoodwinked by the Marcos campaign, I can say that a large part of those who voted for Bongbong, through no fault of their own, were victims of systemic disinformation. This helps explains the outcome of the election.

In her May 13, 2022 article, A Marcos Returns to Power in the Philippines, Mely Caballero-Anthony wrote, “After more than three decades, however, the historical memories which could have prevented the return of another Marcos to power were lost to an assiduous and systematic revisionist campaign successfully orchestrated by the Marcos team, using different social media platforms.”

And, if I may add, with the support of known traditional politicians (trapos) like the Arroyos, the Estradas, the Dutertes, the Garcias, the Revillas, to name a few, Imelda’s longtime dream of rehabilitating the Marcos family has now become a reality. The Marcos comeback is complete – Consummatum est.

Having lived through the martial law years and witnessed the impunity enjoyed by the military officers implicated in the killings of my three friends, I am, of course, alarmed by a Bongbong presidency.

I have no reason to believe that Bongbong’s presidency will be different from his father. Apart from not acknowledging the human rights violations committed during his father’s martial rule and benefitting from the ill-gotten wealth amassed by his father, Bongbong continues to deny that they even existed. There can never be unity without accountability. It’s as simple as that.

Make no mistake: Bongbong will continue to perpetuate the myth that the martial law years were the golden years the Philippines ever had.

Sensing his imminent victory, Bongbong immediately announced that he wants to revise textbooks that contain lies about his family. He now has at his disposal the Department of Education, headed by Sara Duterte, as a tool to rewrite history according to how he wants it. Already, there is a book, The Marcos Legacy, circulating online for those who are interested.

It has been reported that the Malacanang website containing historical records has mysteriously disappeared. Let’s brace ourselves for more to come that may result in deleting historical records and promoting historical distortions.

Philippine Star columnist, Efren S. Cruz, quoted from Financial Times the following statement that already reflects where the country is headed to: “For some time now, backward-looking history has become the future for authoritarian nationalists.”

There’s no stopping Bongbong now. Attempts to harass and intimidate his critics will continue, just like what his father did.

Jonas Abadilla, UP Student Council President, claims in a recent Teleradyo interview that red-tagging of UP students and other progressive organizations has intensified since the May 9 election.

According to reports, the University of the Philippines (UP) in Mindanao has expressed grave concern over social media posts alleging that the campus is being used by communists for recruitment. The allegation, reposted on the Facebook page of the National Security Council of the Philippines, has led to harassment of students and personnel.

The disinformation campaign that benefits Bongbong and his family has remained unabated. In fact, the frequency of venom-laden paid trolls attacking independent journalists and other individuals suspected of Kakampinks are on the rise in social media even after the May 9 election.

Bongbong may have won by a landslide. But his victory, marked by credible accounts of vote buying, disinformation proliferation, and faulty voting machines, points to a further decline for a country that once drove away a ruthless dictator and his family.

Booker T. Washington, American educator, author, and adviser to several American presidents, offers a word of wisdom and comfort to all voters regardless of who they voted for: “A lie doesn’t become truth, wrong doesn’t become right and evil doesn’t become good just because it’s accepted by a majority.”


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