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Fear of historical revisionism in the Philippines

Imagine the chaos if history gets rewritten with Marcos Jr picking Duterte's daughter as the next education secretary

Fear of historical revisionism in the Philippines
Supporters of the Philippine presidential runner-up and Vice President Leni Robredo flash the "Laban" (fight) sign during a thanksgiving rally inside a university campus in Manila on May 13, 2022. She urged supporters to accept election results showing the son of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos had won by a landslide. (Photo by Ted ALJIBE / AFP)

Published: May 18, 2022 10:59 AM GMT

Updated: May 18, 2022 11:38 AM GMT

Fifty years after Ferdinand Marcos Sr made himself a dictator by declaring martial law, his only son will be inaugurated as the 17th president of the Philippines. A 31 million-plus Filipinos gave Marcos Jr the strongest electoral mandate any president could aspire for.

A couple of days ago, the presumptive president-elect picked the presumptive Vice President-elect Sarah Duterte as his incoming department of education (DepEd) secretary. This caused a reasonable fear among observers because, according to them, the DepEd may revise and sanitize history under her watch.

“I don’t know where those fears come from,” explained Duterte. “It is not our priority to rewrite our country’s history.”

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But with Marcos Jr and Sarah Duterte at the pinnacle of power, influence, and control over the entire government, the fear of historical revisionism will persist, I suppose.

Why revise or sanitize history if it’s kind with the fathers of both elected officials?  To put it blatantly, history appears to be unkind to Marcos Sr and Rodrigo Duterte.

History now keeps tons of official records, scholarly journals, and legal documents that tell the world that Duterte, like Marcos Sr, wasn’t a benevolent dictator of one of the largest democracies in Asia. It appears both of them embraced the twin principle of “Power Is Might” and Arthur Desmond’s “Might Is Right” (1896).

These brute-force sounding principles when intentionally interlocked and astutely utilized in an effort to extend the famous Darwinian evolutionary theory of “The Survival of the Fittest” in the contemporary period is tantamount to amoral (nothing is right or wrong) and consequential or only-practical-results type of dictatorship.

Duterte, like Marcos Sr, rejected the conventional socio-political ideas such as the advocacy of human dignity and human rights, while he, like the former dictator, argued endlessly that only political strength and power can establish what is “morally right.” Of course, that is not true.

Marcos Sr was initially popular and, to a point, admired by a multitude of Filipinos. He was presidential and, unlike Duterte, was brilliant, a gentleman, and never cursed in public. And unlike Duterte, Marcos Sr was a coherent and intelligent president, a Catholic convert from Aglipayan Church, awed by the Divine Existence and who didn’t dare to call God “stupid.”

An embodiment of a 20th-century populist leader, the sheer force of his personality, partnered with a strong vision for a new society, Bagong Lipunan, turned Marcos Sr into one of the most influential leaders after World War II until 1986.

Immediately after he was elected for a second term in 1969, Marcos Sr felt the euphoria and with it the desire to extend his power and dominion indefinitely. To do this, in his reckoning, a Marcos-type dictatorship must prevail.

When Duterte was president, Amnesty International in September 2018 reminded him “to restore respect for human rights on the 46th anniversary of Martial Law.” The international organization recalled that, in playing the game of brinkmanship, Marcos Sr declared Martial Law (1972-1981) and ruled as a merciless dictator leaving behind a legacy of over 100,000 victims of Martial Law – 3,000 were killed, 34,000 tortured, and 70,000 arrested.

Marcos Sr in his time also suppressed the freedom of the press and was himself an enabler of widespread disinformation and fake news. In his book The Conjugal Dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, journalist Primitivo Mijares reveals the Marcosian lies in documented and convincing detail.

“So blatant are the hoaxes pulled by Marcos in his obsession at self-mythification that a newspaper columnist in the United States referred to the Filipino dictator as ‘Fraud-inand’ E. Marcos and ‘Fake-dinand’ E. Marcos,” discloses Mijares.

“In copying the techniques of Adolf Hitler in fooling the world, Marcos did not overlook the success of the Nazi leader's minister of propaganda minister, Dr. Joseph Goebbels, at image building. Handicapped by a left leg which was shorter than his right because of an unsuccessful operation, Goebbels explained his limp by passing himself off as a wounded war veteran.”

Just as Mijares’ expose was putting a lump on the throat of Marcos Sr and his minions, Mijares was abducted and disappeared forever, never to be seen by his family and friends again. This happened right after he published his book in 1976.

What about Rodrigo Duterte, will history be kind? Well, what most people remember was a president who regularly exploded in pugnacious rhetoric. “Those who destroy my country, I will kill you. And those who destroy the young people of our country, I will kill you.” In his last State of the Nation Address in 2021, Duterte even taunted the International Criminal Court (ICC) to put on record his presidential shoot-to-kill orders.

In that same forum, in everyone’s hearing including the members of the diplomatic corps, he even asked Senator Ronald de la Rosa, the former PNP chief, to gun down the police officer/s who imported AK-47s and supplied the weapons to communist rebels.

“Many soldiers died because of the arms they brought into the Philippines. So, my orders to you… shoot them dead,” he said.

Both Duterte and De la Rosa are facing formal charges at the ICC for the actual role they played in the brutal war on drugs (WOD).

People do remember 17-year-old Kian Loyd delos Santos, who was murdered in 2016, by police officers conducting an anti-drug operation in Caloocan. CCTV cameras captured three uniformed law enforcers dragging the teenager, wearing boxer shorts, into a dark alley and several witnesses testified the police forced a gun into his hand and shot him as he kneeled on the ground.

Two days later, teenagers Carl Arnaiz and Reynaldo de Guzman went missing in their Cainta residence and their bodies were later found with Arnaiz shot dead by law enforcers while de Guzman was stabbed 30 times. Both were suspected of using drugs.

The execution of the teenagers — Kian delos Santos, Carl Arnaiz and Reynaldo de Guzman — were “isolated cases,” if we were to believe the official police stories.

All in all, the ICC Prosecutor counted 12,000 to 30,000 dead bodies of civilians killed between 2016 and 2019 in connection with Duterte’s WOD, a fact that immediately nullifies the only-isolated- cases alibi including those of Kian, Carl, and Reynaldo.

To recap, Marcos Jr picked the daughter of Rodrigo Duterte as the incoming DepEd secretary, who said that it is not her priority “to rewrite our country’s history” in a time when history itself is unkind to their fathers.

Will the people forget what Samuel Butler (1835-1902) once wrote, that “God cannot alter the past (but) historians can.”

Nobody, just nobody, wants history like a trash bag of sanitized, unverified, and stinking items torn open in a howling wind. Imagine the chaos if it happens.

* Jose Mario Bautista Maximiano is the author of ‘CATHOLIC SOCIAL TEACHINGS in CONTEMPORARY Philippine History: 500 YOC’ (Claretian, 2022) and ‘MDXXI: 500 YEARS ROMAN CATHOLIC’ (Claretian, 2020). The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.


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