Friday, February 25, 2011

Marcos was no hero

Nothing could be more insulting. While the nation is in the midst of preparation to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the EDSA People Power Revolution that forced Ferdinand E. Marcos out of office and ended his 20-year tyrannical rule, his son Bongbong Marcos has reopened the proposal to bury the late dictator at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, which is a burial site in honor of those who served the country and fought for freedom and democracy.

Imagine how absurd this will look: 25 years ago we ousted Marcos because of his oppressive rule, then 25 years later we buried him as a hero. This is not only an insult to our dignity as a nation, but an insult to our intelligence as well.

Lest we forget, Marcos ruled the country for two decades under the clutches of oppression and tyranny. During his presidency, there was systematic torturing, killing and disappearance of political dissidents. The number of recorded extra-judicial killings under his rule, known in the vernacular as “salvagings,” exceeds 3,000. This is way more than Chile’s Augusto Pinochet’s record of 2,115 extra-judicially killed during his reign of terror. According to University of Wisconsin history professor Alfred McCoy, in his research work Dark Legacy: Human Rights Under the Marcos Regime, 35,000 people have been tortured and 70,000 incarcerated.

On September 21, 1972, Marcos placed the entire Philippines under martial law. Immediately thereafter, opposition leaders and those critical of his administration have been incarcerated and the media was muzzled. In other words, dissent was stifled as Marcos assumed enormous governmental powers by conferring upon himself, through legal shrewdness, executive and legislative powers. Indirectly, he also controlled the judiciary by appointing to the Supreme Court people beholden to him, which gave him victories over legal challenges to the legitimacy of his actions.

Then came the plunder of the nation’s wealth. Marcos gave monopoly of vital industries to his relatives and associates (cronies) and granted them unfettered access to government loans and subsidies, a practice which came to be known as “crony capitalism.” Bribery involving government contracts became rampant and the public coffers were raided and became sources of personal use and luxuries. According to the PCGG, United Nations and Transparency International, Marcos and his cronies amassed assets amounting to $10-$15 billion US dollars!

Some foreign observers say we, the Filipinos, are forgetful as a nation. This observation seems to be true. Whatever happened to the atrocities of the Marcos regime? Where are his cohorts and family members now, who cannot claim innocence of these egregious acts? Imelda Marcos is now a congresswoman, Imee Marcos is now a governor and Bongbong Marcos is now a senator. Heck, there’s even talk of Bongbong running for the presidency!

As if these absurdity and insults are not enough, Bongbong Marcos even had the temerity to say that had his father not been forced out of power, the country would have been like Singapore now. Seriously, there are some people who say we were better off during Marcos’s time. Maybe a little fact-checking is needed to straighten out this younger Marcos and those who share this ridiculous view.

According to Penn World Table, growth in GDP per capita during the period 1951-1965 is 3.5% compared to the period 1966-1986 (during Marcos’s reign), which is a miserly 1.4%. Unemployment soared to 12.55% in 1985 from 6.30% in 1972. The country’s foreign debt ballooned to $27 billion US dollars when Marcos left office. The gap between the rich and poor widened considerably under Marcos’s rule so much so that, coupled with the atrocities of the authorities, many people became disenchanted with the government and the communist insurgency gained traction, not to mention the founding of the MNLF secessionist movement in Mindanao.

Nineteen years ago, no less than a U.S. District Court delivered justice to the hundreds of human rights victims, by finding Ferdinand E. Marcos to have engaged in systematic human rights abuses and awarded the victims $2 billion US dollars, considered the biggest personal injury award in legal history. Now, here we are talking about the possibility of burying Marcos on the heroes’ pantheon. Come on, let’s get real here folks.

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