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Philippine bishop rebukes Marcos supporters

CBCP chief attacks claims by presidential hopeful's supporters that his father's martial law years were good for country

Philippine bishop rebukes Marcos supporters
Bishop Pablo Virgilio David (center), president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, blamed martial law for forcing Filipinos to work overseas. (Photo supplied)

Published: January 17, 2022 07:19 AM GMT

Updated: January 17, 2022 09:05 AM GMT

The head of the bishops’ conference in the Philippines has condemned recent claims made by supporters of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos that his imposition of martial law was a “golden era” in the country’s history.

The claims were made in social media posts as part of a campaign to boost the chances of the late strongman’s son Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., who is running for president in elections in May.

Martial law was declared on Sept. 23, 1972, and, although officially lifted in 1981, it effectively lasted until the dictator was ousted in 1986. The period saw many human rights abuse cases against Marcos’ opponents, who included student and political activists, religious workers and farmers.

Speaking to an online forum for Christian businessmen and professionals on Jan. 15, Kalookan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David responded to the online campaign by saying Catholics should speak out when it comes to upholding the truth.

“We cannot afford to keep quiet when candidates claim the best government we ever had was the Marcos dictatorship ... When they claim that martial law was only meant to discipline Filipinos ... That it actually improved our economy and provided jobs,” he told the gathering.

Bishop David blamed martial law for the diaspora of thousands of Filipinos who sought greener pastures by working overseas.

We have to change that narrative that gives those dark years of dictatorship, the loss of freedom and democracy, a semblance of legitimacy

“I wonder if we would have 10 percent of our population working abroad if the dictatorship had not wrecked our economy and caused millions of Filipinos to try their luck abroad even if it meant being separated from their families,” the bishop added.

Revisit historical accounts to know the truth about the Marcoses and martial law, he said.

He said martial law was simply about a democratically elected leader wanting to stay in power longer than the constitution would allow him.

“Of course, to keep himself in power, he did what dictators normally do. He dissolved Congress, abolished the constitution, had opposition figures arrested, had many protesters jailed and summarily executed, all for the sake of keeping himself in power for another 14 years. So, how could you call that the golden age of Philippine society?” the bishop said.

He called on Catholics not to remain neutral when faced with lies that attempted to revise history.

“Neutrality allows falsehood to flourish, thereby letting lies and falsehood have the upper hand,” he said.

“We have to change that narrative that gives those dark years of dictatorship, the loss of freedom and democracy, a semblance of legitimacy. It is not just an alternative narrative but a blatant lie, a misrepresentation of events. It is a falsification of history. It is every bit morally wrong.”

Victims of the late dictator have voiced dismay at Marcos Jr.’s presidential bid and have sought his disqualification over his failure to file income tax returns between 1982 and 1985.

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