It is sad when self-aggrandizing freedom fighters cry foul whenever anything good is said about Ferdinand E. Marcos. To them, he is pure evil and that the youth must be constantly reminded about alleged misdeeds during his presidency. Students such as the Ateneans who joyfully had selfies with Imelda are criticized for having poor historical knowledge while artists like Chito Miranda who perform in Marcos-related activities are chided for glorifying the ‘dark side.’
These ‘freedom fighters’ consider Filipinos who recount positive personal experiences during the Marcos era as ignorant or stupid. Meanwhile, writers whose accounts of history diverge from what anti-Marcos folks believe to be Gospel truth are branded as revisionists and propagandists.
These are foul.
For how could you blame farmers who enjoyed strong government support in the 70s for loving Marcos?
How could you blame mothers whose children enjoyed quality education, and who had more food on their tables then for remembering the president well?
How could you blame artists whose respective crafts blossomed under Imelda’s patronage for dreaming for the same support?
How could you refrain people from wishing we have today a more stable power supply, a saner traffic situation, and an efficient transport system the way they were when Marcos was president and Imelda was Metro Manila governor?
How could you look down at our countrymen who wish we have today the same level of respect we enjoyed in the international community when Marcos was president?
And, how could you prevent Filipinos from feeling hungry for reform, and from rooting for the new society Marcos envisioned or something to that effect?
These “how could you’s” go ad infinitum. Point is, as a growing majority of our countrymen now realize that as our social ills have remained—and by all indicators have even worsened—in our post-1986 national life, Marcos is not the real enemy. If people feel they lived more decent lives during the Martial Law years, no historian or scholar or political analyst could contest that without insulting those who own that experience.
I concede that some dissidents may have suffered during that time, but did rebels and communists seriously believe they would be handled with kids’ gloves by the very government they wished to overthrow and the social order they wanted to overturn? I concede that the media may have been less free and independent or that movement may have been more restricted, but these are freedoms that can be negotiated in view of a higher end.
Think of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew and Malaysia’s Mahathir, strong leaders who ushered their nations to development. Think of Park Chung Hee, the developmental dictator who is credited for the most remarkable economic turnaround in modern history—that of South Korea’s transformation from one of the world’s poorest nations to the socioeconomic superpower that it is today. And then think of Marcos, or maybe rethink of him sans the flimsy concept of democracy Uncle Sam shoveled down our throats or the now-outdated ideology Chairman Mao brainwashed leftist activists with. Thinking or rethinking is not revisionism. Regretting EDSA is not revisionism.
Let me make this clear: I am not anti-Aquino. Today as before, I appreciate the government’s reform programs even as I speak my mind over its follies. I am happy that my world is not blindly divided between red and yellow, and I look down at no one in a kaleidoscope of colors.
I agree that in dealing with history, we should stick to facts. But the divide between cold fact and personal interpretation will always be a blur. No one’s interpretation—not even those of self-aggrandizing freedom fighters—is always right. And if we are to be truly democratic, we should learn to accept that in a real and mature democracy, people have as much right to love Marcos as to abhor him. Otherwise, we would fall into the trap, not of revisionism, but of historical authoritarianism by a noisy few. That ‘freedom fighters’ dictate what our collective narrative should be is the height of irony and hypocrisy. That a dwindling band of activists shout “Never forget! Never again!” while bullying people for what they truthfully remember is plain and simple bigotry.
In the end, the people’s account of history—not the vilification by textbooks, the Inquirer, or ABS-CBN—will judge Marcos and define his place in our memory. As I see now, the verdict is getting kinder. And it is not because the people are ignorant or that they have a short-term memory or that historical revisionists are succeeding. It is simply that decades after the first EDSA, a growing number of Filipinos realize that they have been fooled, swindled, and betrayed, and not by Marcos.