Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Philippines is whitewashing Marcos

On September 11, the Official Gazette of the Philippines decided to mark the 99th birthday of late dictator Ferdinand E Marcos by releasing a graphic. What could possibly go wrong? As it turns out, almost everything. Under sustained social media criticism, the graphic went through three editions - each one deeply problematic both because of what was included and what was left out.

The first version stirred controversy because it failed to describe Marcos for what he was - the architect of what he himself proudly called "constitutional authoritarianism". In other words, there was nothing in the graphic to suggest that Marcos was an authoritarian who changed the constitution to entrench himself in power.

Instead, we got euphemisms like this: "He was the longest-serving President of the country for almost 21 years." Withering feedback on social media channels was quick to point out that Marcos had engineered the declaration of martial law in 1972, to avoid having to leave office when his constitutional final term was up.

"In 1972, he declared martial law to suppress a communist insurgency and secessionism in Mindanao," said the first version. This is only partly true. The communist insurgency was used an excuse; at the time it was merely an incipient movement. The Mindanao secessionist movement was provoked by Marcos's own interventionist plan.

Marcos's own diaries revealed that he was planning the imposition of martial law from the start of his second presidential term, all the way back in 1969.

The graphic as first published also offered a version of history that managed to praise the dictator. "In 1986, Marcos stepped down from the presidency to avoid bloodshed during the uprising that came to be known as 'People Power'." This is the exact opposite of what transpired: Marcos did not try to avoid bloodshed. In fact, he called on the military to attack the mutineers and their civilian supporters on Edsa. Also, he did not step down, but was - in the chaos of a Palace surrounded by protesters and enveloped by panic, on the long night of February 25, 1986 - ousted.

The second version of the graphic removed mention of avoiding bloodshed (perhaps because the video and documentary record is clear that Marcos gave orders to attack). But this attempt to airbrush history was caught and denounced.

Finally, a third version was tried; the part about the declaration of martial law supposedly to suppress the communist insurgency, and the "stepping down" from the presidency were deleted.

But the main problem persisted: The Official Gazette had failed to take the full measure of the Filipino politician characterised in law as an authoritarian leader whose regime was marked by thousands of extrajudicial killings, tens of thousands of human rights violations and the wholesale plunder of the economy. He was not the longest-serving president, but rather a dictator who grabbed power; it is not true that he "went to exile to the United States [sic]," he was SENT into exile by a popular uprising.

Now why would the Official Gazette under an administration that seeks to remember the atrocities of the Americans in the Philippines a hundred years ago attempt to cover up the atrocities of the Marcos regime - when these happened only a generation ago? Philippine Daily Inquirer

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