I was a Marcos apologist, and this is my story.
Disclaimer: A lot of my relatives worked under the offices of the government at the time of Martial Law (ML) and it provided food on our table. One can say that even the milk I was given when I was a baby was supplied for by the ML government so one can only imagine how grateful my family was towards the Marcoses.
I love my relatives, and this article is in no way to discredit how they feel towards ML, however it is about time I write about how one is short of being brainwashed to believe lies and how more than often this starts with ones family.
So, I apologize if this article might sound irreverent or disrespectful, but in the spirit of searching for the truth, more often than not, everything about what truth is, seems to be offensive as Dr. Jordan Peterson pointed out.
“In order to be able to think, you have to risk being offensive.” ― Jordan B. Peterson
May my relatives find it in their hearts to read this article with an open mind and focus on where evidence rests.
Political discussions with kids weren’t the strongest suit of my family.
Whenever discussions arise, we were ordered to stay in another place.
I wasn’t sure if they were shielding us from the discussions, or they were afraid that we might unwittingly mention it elsewhere, nonetheless we were ‘incommunicado’ at best whenever these things happen at home.
However, that didn’t stop me from being inculcated with the myths surrounding Ferdinand Marcos (FM) and Martial Law (ML).
And growing up in an environment where my relatives benefited from ML didn’t help either in promoting critical thinking in the family. (Critical thinking in the sense that one is also able to take a stand to argue for an issue and afterwards take up the opposite stand)
I was indoctrinated from a very young age that Ferdinand Marcos was the real hero of EDSA, (I know, I know don’t roll your eyes just yet) that Martial Law was heaven for the Philippines, that Cory and Ninoy Aquino were EVIL people.
Whenever I ask why, my relatives would answer- it was because Marcos said so, and because THEY too said so, and that’s the end of it.
You see, in our family you never question authority, everything they said is the law (sort of like Martial Law on a daily basis and that does not include the beatings but that’s another story). I think that was the way my relatives were also brought up, back in the province.
I remember, I would go to school shouting “Marcos, Marcos, Marcos Pa Rin!” complete with the V sign and the red shirt that I was so proud to wear.
I would hate the color yellow and would look condescendingly at it every chance I get.
Give that mindset and worldview ten years, and you will find yourself a full-fledged Marcos apologist.
Sort of what one would call in the U.S. a white supremacist, I guess…
I was also trained to look at the “Golden Age” of Marcos in an era where the grownups are the only source of information, never mind that the school system never brought up the history of Martial Law at all, which also didn’t help either.
Apparently most of my history teachers think that Philippine History ended after World War 2, the only ones who talked to me about Martial Law in a hush as if being careful not to have anyone hear them and of course outside of the school curriculum were both U.P. Alumni.
So imagine this experience by my generation multiply it with the millions of others in other schools and you will have a recipe for historical revisionism/negationism.
To note, there was no internet back then, and my mind was very young to understand the intricacies of a healthy debate. (and honestly, I was too pre-occupied with basketball and playing the guitar)
So, I stuck with what “I felt was right” by the authority of my relatives who raised me.
Therefore, for years I glorified Ferdinand Marcos and his New Society and would always defend his legacy, always using the same arguments of Marcos Loyalists like:
- Marcos, built this and built that…
- It was Imelda’s fault and not Marcos on why there were problems at that time…
- Marcos made the country rich…
- Marcos made the country peaceful…
- Marcos stopped the communists from overrunning the country…
- Marcos cleaned everything… from trash to squatters…
- Marcos was the most intelligent and the most able President ever and he was also a war hero…
- The EDSA revolution happened, but it also made the country into a total mess, compared to Marcos‘ Philippine heaven.
- EDSA Revolution has been just a ploy to replace Marcos and prop up Elite Rule.
- All of our politicians steal from the country, at least Marcos made something out of it, see the buildings and bridges he built?
- The country was the Tiger of Asia at the time of Marcos, but look at it now we are swimming in poverty…
(This list I would later see when Facebook (FB) came to light, being spread around and random people just sharing it)
You name it, I knew it.
All the unwritten arguments, and demonizing of the Aquino’s to the victim blaming of the Marcoses towards communists and activists.
I’ve used them, most often successfully, influencing people around me and arguing them down, those people who had a very small amount of information between their ears (technically like me but worse).
And to make it worse, fate was on my side, as I can easily dismiss all that is negative in society at the time and point at the ‘effectiveness of Martial Law’ in instilling ‘discipline’ because yes the country in a way is really messed up no matter how one looks at it (only for me to find out it was mostly because of Marcos).
IT WAS THAT EASY. Or perhaps because nobody bothered to correct me and challenge what I know.
So, I totally get it when Marcos apologists are the way they are, it is because they weren’t born that way, it is because they were grown that way.
Now how did I become a non-believer of Marcos and Martial Law?
How could an ardent, well-trained from birth Marcos lover become one of those people standing up on FB whenever people are spreading the legacy of Marcos?
What triggered my conversion?
I think the breakthrough began when I ran away from home.
(Yes, I did run away from home and lived in different houses and eventually settled down with my current family now.)
I soon found out that they were victims of Marcos and ML.
That was when the stories came out.
It took some time for me to digest everything, as I wasn’t completely convinced myself that the victims of ML were telling the truth.
Every now and then I would slide back in doubt, only realizing afterwards that I am doing myself a great injustice by not totally looking for facts and just assuming anything at face value.
I remember an adage while I was undergoing this transformation: “You do not choose the books you read, the books choose you.”
And true enough, I found books written by the survivors of ML.
I researched profusely as if my life depended on it, I also worked with an NGO where people were former comrades in the CPP-NPA but were also victims of its purges.
It became more obvious that my fanaticism was based from the stories programmed within me by my family.
And because of this it enabled me to deny any amount of evidence unless I view history with an open mind minus the pre-suppositions.
To tell you the truth, it wasn’t easy, it entails thinking over a lot of things and swallowing my pride.
And that is harder than most things to accept, especially for people to realize they made a mistake.
To admit and recognize that there is a problem with what I believe is painful, one might call it cathartic, it also entails a lot of humility.
I soon realize that to be convinced of the merits of ML, would also mean I would have to ABSOLUTELY deny the atrocities and injustices that happened back then.
Consequently, it would also mean accepting all of them as “necessary.”
And that makes it an ultimate moral dilemma, not to mention a really bad case of cognitive dissonance.
I have to ask myself:
- Who was Ferdinand Marcos?
- Was ML moral to begin with?
- Did these things (incarceration, tortures, disappearances, murders) happen? If so, why?
- Why was Martial Law proclaimed in the first place?
- Who benefited from Martial Law?
- Why was there an EDSA insurrection?
- Was EDSA insurrection necessary?
- Who was Ninoy Aquino and his wife?
- Who were the people who suffered under Martial Law and what were their stories?
- Why did people hate Marcos at that time?
- What was the state of the country at that time?
- If Marcos was so great, why can’t he control Imelda?
- If Marcos was so great, why did these things (incarceration, tortures, disappearances, salvaging, murders) happen under his watch?
- What was Marcos‘ reason for declaring ML and why?
- Did Marcos steal money from the country? If yes, how much? How did it affect our country in the short term and the long run?
- If I was one of the victims of the abuses of Martial Law what would I feel?
- If one of my loved ones was a victim of ML what would I feel?
- If a family of mine got tortured, disappeared and murdered by ML would I continue to support it?
“WHY SHOULD I BELIEVE WHAT I BELIEVE ABOUT ML?”
I realize that I have to ask these questions and go where the evidence leads me.
I would have to look at the facts and evidence from outside of the country, from people and organizations that are not influenced by the political forces of the government.
I realize that I cannot just justify Martial Law based ONLY on my opinion, because even though I may have the right to do so I cannot have the right to have my own facts.
I have to find the truth, and the truth is, most, if not all of the justifications I heard about the implementation of ML, can never hold water under intense scrutiny and solid evidence.
It would crumble scientifically, morally and ethically if one really plans on getting at the bottom of it.
Some people say that Martial Law also did something good for the country despite its shortcomings.
It becomes sort of saying that a physically and emotionally abusive husband is still a moral person as long as he provides for the family.
Unfortunately, I believed this kind of statement back then, and for the life of me, I will do anything today in my capacity to stop the future generations in believing the same.
Standing Up Against Marcos Apologists and Historical Negationism
I would soon find out that even in the education sector there are teachers and professors who are trying to re-calibrate the discussion of ML.
One of their arguments was that ML should be taught ‘objectively’.
And this goes without saying, to teach the history of ML while highlighting its pros and cons.
To withhold judgment until the “benefits” were also discussed.
I mean seriously?
Ferdinand Marcos, the dictator who enforced kidnapping, torture, rape, massacres and tons of human rights abuses and you still give him the benefit of the doubt to consider the “good things” he did for the country?
For one, what do these academicians mean by good?
The good in which the country benefited or the good in which the dictator and people who supported him benefited?
Also, does doing something “good” exonerate Ferdinand Marcos of all the crimes he committed?
The answer clearly is NO, so what gives?
It’s just like saying Ted Bundy was a good and diligent employee despite kidnapping and murdering women and thus in telling his story these things must be highlighted in order to promote “objectivity”.
There is a very good reason why people never use that argument for Hitler, Stalin & Mao.
Them who out of a whim wiped out millions of their own.
Ferdinand Marcos wiped out thousands of Filipinos too, so why can’t he belong among those people considered as bastions of dictatorship?
Is there a quota before he becomes ‘admissible’ within this blood-thirsty club?
The thing is, it was only back in 2017 that the world bank exposed its findings in Mindanao under the time of Martial Law.
Apparently, there were at least 5 million Muslims who disappeared after Martial Law. The world bank suspects a genocide happened as they can’t figure out where the 5 million Muslims went in that span of time Martial Law was implemented.
What Are “The Strongest Arguments” Of Marcos Apologists?
These two are what Marcos apologists consider as their “best arguments” to date, never mind that they are unscientific or literally unfounded, they still use it because it helps them in their agenda to highlight the disappointment and disgust by people, disgruntled by the massive poverty and wealth inequality in the country. But before we dive into them, let us first level off and take a bird’s eye view of the economic and political situation in the country after the 1986 EDSA People Power.
FACT #1 The Philippine economy was a disaster after Martial Law, it was proven without reasonable doubt that due to the massive plundering of the Marcos government, the country was plunged into an economic catastrophe. Being able to survive it without everyone tearing each other apart was already short of a miracle. This is an undisputed fact and something that bears to be considered primarily in the context of the arguments thrown by Marcos apologists.
FACT #2 The social fabric of the country was ripped apart, major institutions needed to be rehabilitated, from the three branches of government, the military, the police up to the constitution. There were also several interest groups from different sides of the political spectrum who were vying for power. From the extreme right, to the far left, the government’s goal at that time was focused on how to maintain and strengthen democracy while making sure that the economy stays afloat, and people formerly connected to the Marcoses kept in check.
FACT #3 Aside from trying to bring the Marcos family to justice and retrieving their loots, the government was also trying to make sure that forces supportive of the Marcoses will not prosper in stealing power from the government. There were already reports that time that Marcos was aiming for an invasion of the Philippines by buying boots to be used by foreign mercenaries, prompting the intrusion of the U.S. government in helping prosecute the Marcoses and freezing their assets.
FACT #4 The government never went ahead and purged itself of Marcos supporters, some were retained in their positions, went into hiding and a number of them either lie-low or went out of the country. Perhaps they were trying to prevent a bloodbath, who knows? Nonetheless, this decision saved a lot of lives from the side of the oppressor government of Marcos to the detriment of most of its victims.
Up to this day only a handful of major players under martial law was brought to justice. Now that we’ve discussed the facts relating to the events after EDSA let us now move forward to these alleged strong arguments by Marcos apologists, they are as follows:
1.“EDSA People Power was a failed revolution, and it paved the way for the return of the old oligarchy.”
Whenever Marcos apologists tell me this, I ask them: “Firstly, what do you mean by the old oligarchy? Second, what kind of revolution were you looking for?” Because for one, EDSA People Power by its definition was not technically a revolution, and the term “oligarchy” needs to be more specific and precise to be understood how it is detrimental to our country and democracy.
But what really bothers me is not the critique of EDSA People Power, but the diminishing of it by interest groups, placing the blame on a certain stratum of society (in this case oligarchs) on a general level without putting forward a reasonable argument, out of which Viktor Frankl so passionately warned people about and named it as “collective guilt”.
There is no collective guilt, it does not exist, and I say this not only today, but I’ve said so from day one when I was liberated from my last concentration camp—and at that time it was definitely not a way to make oneself popular to dare publicly to oppose the idea of collective guilt.Guilt can in any case only be personal guilt—the guilt for something I myself have done—or may have failed to do! But I cannot be guilty of something that other people have done, even if it is my parents or grandparents.
And to try to persuade today’s Austrians between the ages of nought and fifty of a sort of “retroactive collective guilt,” I consider to be a crime and an insanity—or, to put it in a psychiatrist’s terms, it would be a crime, were it not a case of insanity. – Viktor Frankl
Historically this exhortation is further exemplified by the Dekulakization in the Soviet Union in the 20th century that led to the deaths of millions of Ukrainians.
The video below explains this better.
2.“Elite democracy and the opportunism of the Aquino’s through the EDSA People Power only replaced Marcos’ cronies and Martial Rule.”
An FB friend of mine recently shared what I consider as a very malicious comics that aims to twist the facts behind EDSA People Power. The image can be seen below: I replied to my friend the following and also to the FB page of the original maker of the comics:
“This is a very, very bad reading of history, first of all, Ninoy was murdered in front of everybody, second of all the Filipino people were the ones that pushed for Cory to run for President, in fact she asked for a million signatures from the people if they really want her to run and the people gave twice the amount of signatures.
How can a victim of cold-blooded murder, after being detained without charges for seven years, placed in a solitary confinement with only his brief on and denied his rosary be considered an opportunist?
How can one who decided to go back to the Philippines, turn back a good life in Boston with his loved ones, knowing that he will be murdered or put back in jail be considered an opportunist?
How can a democratically chosen President who survived 12 coup-de-etat’s and yet not declaring Martial Law be considered an opportunist?
Lastly, who is really the elite? The only elite that time was Marcos and his Cronies, people wholeheartedly chose Cory Aquino to lead them and not the other way around.”
I have yet to read a reply from both. The real point of contention, however, was about how Cory Aquino after wresting power failed to implement some major changes in her government, particularly in the agriculture sector out of which most problems emerged along with the issues of Hacienda Luisita and Mendiola Massacre.
Marcos apologists are quick to use both issues as justification for the ineptness of Cory and EDSA, they forcefully drag the narrative of Cory being just another political opportunist no different or rather inferior than the one she replaced. While I don’t condone the failures of Cory Aquino, you might have to tell Marcos apologists to look at the bigger picture and ask deeper questions before reducing her shortcomings and inadequacies as the fault of EDSA.
The shortcomings of Cory Aquino are separate from the event of EDSA People Power, those are two separate and highly different scenarios. The former was about the inability to follow through with her promises of reform by a democratically chosen President while the latter was about spontaneously removing from power a pathological dictator. Cory Aquino’s personal decisions being the democratically elected head of the state does not mean that she speaks for the people of EDSA.
Cory Aquino’s faults as a President are her faults alone, and one which the people of EDSA are within their rights to make her accountable for. However to use every bad decision and every failure of Cory Aquino as a fault to diminish EDSA People Power, is an extremely malicious misreading of the essence of the momentous event of 1986. Unfortunately, a lot of people are trapped with this line of argument, as if Cory Aquino and EDSA People Power are indivisible.
Marcos apologists argue that if the opposition can equate Marcos as correlated to Martial Law, then it also follows that Cory with her shortcomings along with EDSA are the same.
This argument is flawed at best because Cory Aquino wasn’t even in EDSA, she was in Cebu giving talks and meeting different groups. While the death of Cory’s husband Ninoy was indirectly related to the events leading to EDSA, there was no causation that Cory spearheaded the movement.
Whereas Marcos was directly connected to the implementation and application of Martial Law along with the millions of dollars he plundered, and thousands of lives murdered, tortured and destroyed. Case in point, there is no evidence that Cory ever gave the command to open fire at the Mendiola protesters as opposed to the years and years of Marcos’ martial rule and deliberate jailing of people he deems subversive.
Cory’s government was never perfect, but to use its imperfections as justification for the glory days of the Marcoses is just outright pathological and stupid.
The Use Of The Term “Elite Democracy” as direct evidence of EDSA’s overall failure.
I feel that it is equally pernicious and irresponsible to throw around the term “Elite Democracy” without properly understanding its consequences. This term again pre-supposes collective guilt that justifies victim-hood mentality while misunderstanding the dynamics of human nature and society in general. I am talking about in this case the scientifically proven concept called the Pareto Principle. The videos below explains this better. Nonetheless granted that what the term “Elite Democracy” mean is a democracy where only the rich and the few is in power and hogging it themselves for personal interest, is an oxymoron because the practice of democracy will always be about individual electoral participation in which case people are free to vote whoever they want, whether rich or poor, and no matter how faulty the outcome of a democracy is, it’s still a democracy and it is better than having no democracy at all. It might also seem that the use of the term “Elite Democracy” means barking up the wrong tree because it disregards the “practice of democracy”.
In this case, anyone in government as long as they are deemed “elite” is already considered guilty. The question is, who determines guilt? And what are the parameters to measure elitism? Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, had it right in his book The Gulag Archipelago 1918–1956:
“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
Convictions are more dangerous foes of truth than lies. – Friedrich Nietzsche
If you look closely at both arguments, you will notice that they follow a pattern. One, is that by putting forward these arguments they are pre-supposing that life was better before EDSA, no matter how much the Marcoses stole or how many human rights violations they committed. Ironically, they justify this further by magnifying on the flaws of Cory along with the other Presidents who came after.
Second, is that by putting forward these arguments Marcos apologists directly disregards the four facts I listed above as valid or even existed.
The third is that by putting forward these arguments, it conveniently absolves Marcos apologists of responsibility in working towards democracy. Curiously, what makes their arguments interesting to people and why people buy them, is that it foments doubt in the minds of a citizenry ignorant of the facts listed above.
The arguments rests on resentment and an illusory nostalgic return to a glorious past that is virtually non-existent.
In fact, if you ask Marcos apologists that granted what they are saying is true, what is their alternative to democracy? What do they really want? And they will tell you point blank that they just want Marcos and Martial Law back. So, you see, their arguments aren’t that much of an argument, their arguments are only as strong as the lack of necessary information on the side of their audience.
The real problem lies with people who are not Marcos Apologists, but are fully convinced that the government that followed after EDSA People Power didn’t do any good for the welfare of the people. And this is what I believe paved the way for Rodrigo Duterte to be in power. But that is for another article.