October 04, 2012

Birds of a feather

The spectacle unleashed before the public by two of the nation’s highest officials in connection with the 40th anniversary of martial law declaration has caused many stomachs to turn amidst cries of pained outrage and guffaws of bitter laughter.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, undisputed martial law administrator, attempts, in his freshly-minted autobiography, to whitewash, reverse and even obliterate historical facts and truths about the US-backed Marcos dictatorship that he so loyally served and for which he was so richly rewarded.  Until, that is, his own skin and political future were in jeopardy from rival factions loyal to First Lady Imelda Marcos and General Fabian Ver.

A travesty of justice, Mr. Enrile’s version of history mocks the memory of the heroes, martyrs and all who suffered under and resisted against the abomination that was martial law.

Mr. Enrile had the gall to launch his book just as the nation commemorated the imposition of martial law four decades ago.  He claims credit for preparing all the legal requirements for the palace coup d’etat; the swift and coordinated moves of the Philippine military and constabulary to arrest identified leaders of the varied kinds of political opposition; the clamp down on mass media and Congress; and being able to hold the Supreme Court hostage to Marcos’ rule by decree.

Lamely, Mr. Enrile justifies his role in the 14-year mailed-fist rule as a case of a good thing gone bad.  Hey folks, martial law wasn’t supposed to last so long if Marcos had listened to Mr. Enrile.  Abuses began to take place which, if we will believe the Marcos henchman, he tried to mitigate. Marcos eventually lost control and things began to unravel.  Mr. Enrile then spouts his considered opinion that the dictator Marcos was the best president the country has ever had give or take some minor problems that history (as written by the uncontrite rulers of the land) can very well place in proper perspective.

The 88-year-old wily politician of the bureaucrat capitalist model (that simply means he made his pile primarily from using public office as his private enterprise) obviously has a very practical reason for the timing of his official apologia.  What else but the Senate bid of his erstwhile juvenile delinquent son now all grown up and raring to fill papa’s big shoes.

Sadly, Mr. Enrile’s effrontery is ably matched by the opportunist complicity of the book’s publisher, the Lopez-owned ABS-CBN .  The Lopezes seems to have buried the hatchet with Marcos’ self-proclaimed hatchet man; after all they have already gotten back their lucrative businesses and much more.  Having to pragmatically face the current lay of the political landscape, the Lopezes now leave it to others to correct Mr. Enrile’s unconscionable revisionism.

But how to explain President Noynoy Aquino’s gracing of the Enrile book launch after another rousing speech where he pays tribute to those who fought the dictatorship, vows to establish the truth about martial law through a new historical commission and promote its proper retelling to the youth?

Some commentators attribute it simply to Mr. Aquino’s desire to return a favor, Mr. Enrile having done a brilliant job of delivering Chief Justice Corona’s impeached head on a platter to Malacanang.  Others suspect Mr. Aquino hadn’t read the book in the first place and doesn’t know the extent to which Mr. Enrile denigrates the reputations of his beloved parents not to mention spins a fairy tale about martial law where Mr. Enrile comes off as the unlikely fairy godfather to us all.

But let’s give Mr. Aquino more credit than that.  Our “daang matuwid” president surely has done his own study of that historical period apart from which he and his family were direct witnesses of the times.  Thus Mr. Aquino waxes eloquent when he describes the violations of civil and political liberties; the bastardization of the Philippine Constitution; and the arbitrariness, corrupt and inherently abusive character of strongman rule.

Nonetheless he is conveniently clueless about the underlying causes, the whys, hows and the forces at play whereby such an open form of brutal dictatorial rule could have been successfully imposed on the nation. One would easily conclude based on his account that the be all and end all was the evil of one man, Ferdinand E. Marcos, aided by his coterie of co-conspirators, subalterns and cronies.

Mr. Aquino is silent about the conflicts wracking Philippine society at the dawn of martial law.  Indeed the national situation was often described even in the seventies as a social volcano about to erupt from the volatile mix of wide income disparities, landlessness, economic backwardness, servility to foreign - mainly US - interests, disempowerment of the many amidst the socio-economic and political stranglehold by the elite, violent suppression of democratic rights of the people, armed revolution in the countryside and a growing mass movement of dissent and resistance in the cities.

Aquino is silent on the Marcos ruling clique's resort to martial law to put a lid on these roiling conflicts which is why the majority of the reactionary classes, forces and institutions operating in the country, including foreign big business and big power interests applauded Marcos’ flagrant move to seize and monopolize power.

No, Mr. Aquino, you are dissembling when you make it appear that “soldiers” were as much victims of the dictatorship as the people they mowed down, maimed, abducted, tortured, detained indefinitely in subhuman conditions and otherwise subjected to horrible violations of their human rights and dignity.  While ordinary soldiers and policemen may be forgiven for following unlawful orders and giving way to their bestiality, the military top brass and senior officers of the military and constabulary establishments were the necessary, willing and likewise richly-rewarded accomplices of the dictator Marcos without whom martial rule could not have lasted a day.

In a similar manner, Mr. Aquino says nothing about the real causes of the downfall of the dictatorship apart from a general acknowledgement of the nameless Filipinos who fought against it.  His most dramatic accounts have to do with the 1978 Metro Manila-wide noise barrage associated with the boycott of the elections called by his father and the latter’s assassination in 1983 to which Mr. Aquino attributes the “revolution” that toppled the dictatorship.

Airbrushed from his version of history are the uphill and bloody struggles of students, workers and urban poor to fight for their rights and thereby break the enforced silence of the era; the fledgling armed effort of the peasantry and hundreds of urban youth from worker and middle class backgrounds to sap the might of Marcos’ armed minions then wreaking havoc on defenceless civilians; the courage of progressive church people and political prisoners in exposing the truth and defying repression in the heartland of the dictatorship.

The blithe reduction by Mr. Aquino of the lessons of the martial law era to that of the fight against Marcos one-man rule while honking about how different things are today just because the Cojuangco-Aquino faction of the ruling classes is in power constitutes another form of historical revisionism of the crassest order.

In fact, many of Marcos-era repressive decrees were deliberately retained by his mother, President Corazon Aquino, and are still in effect; the “reformed AFP” that mutinied against the Marcos regime is the same old fascist military that is the source of human rights violations today; economic policies that impoverished the nation and subsumed it to the dictates of imperialist multilateral institutions such as the IMF-WB have been carried over and are very much currently in place.

It will certainly take more than Mr. Aquino’s appointed “truth” commission to illumine and finally make a full and honest accounting of that dark period of our nation’s history. #

Published in Business World
5-6 October 2012


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