Commentary

Deconstructing Marcos Over Bias and Facts

Ambeth Ocampo bluntly implies that glorifying the dictator Ferdinand Marcos is not historical revisionism. (Screenshot: Inquirer.net)

In a recent newspaper column, historian Ambeth Ocampo bluntly implies that glorifying the dictator Ferdinand Marcos is not historical revisionism but that it’s actually a manner of dignifying lies. Then, recently, the anti-Marcos crowd went wild with the series of tweets by legal scholar Fr. Ranhilio Aquino who, employing philosopher Jacques Derrida’s deconstruction theory, claims that the generally negative narratives are merely constructed biases against the Ilocano idol.

These begs the questions: How should we look at history? Should history be reduced to mere interpretations or biases on actual facts?

I am no expert on history or philosophy, even though I would assume to be geekish on such fields (after all, I’m currently studying the latter), but I do hope that related discourses should proliferate more especially among millennials like myself who, in one way or another, are (cliché as it may) students of a society that’s so dynamic.

Why? Because we must not allow ourselves to be doomed by misinformation which, as it seems, is the effective marketing strategy by Marcos loyalists who have the guts in accusing those who paint a negative image of Marcos as folks who are into the propaganda trade as well even if the latter has more facts to back-up their claims.

Lest we forget, there is an essential value in studying the dynamics of society in the lens of history and philosophy. Karl Marx says this poignantly: “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.”

Let’s face it: popular media and critics attacking the Marcos dictatorship is heavily biased. But so is grammar: there are adjectives and adverbs so as to describe whether a noun or a verb is positive or negative. And so is fundamental story-telling: There always has to be a protagonist and an antagonist in any story. Moreso, and perhaps Fr. Aquino would agree to this, classic morality has a sense of bias as it distinguishes acts either as good or bad.

See, there’s nothing wrong with being biased. It’s natural. Aristotle says that we’re political animals and therefore have individually self-preferred interests among a great many options.

But biases, however, reveal to us whether or not our judgments are reasonable and moral. If they are based on facts, then good. But if it is not, then it’s ignorant.

St. Thomas Aquinas, the greatest Catholic thinker by conservative standards and whose thought is tattooed on the minds of all who studies classical philosophy as a requirement for the priesthood, says that deliberate ignorance is a sin.

In Summa Theologiæ, Aquinas says that “ignorance denotes privation of knowledge, i.e. lack of knowledge of those things that one has a natural aptitude to know. Some of these we are under an obligation to know, those, to wit, without the knowledge of which we are unable to accomplish a due act rightly. Now it is evident that whoever neglects to have or do what he ought to have or do, commits a sin of omission. Wherefore through negligence, ignorance of what one is bound to know, is a sin.”

I bet that we cannot be ignorant enough that around 8,000 individuals including senators, journalists, students and ordinary citizens were arrested upon Apo Ferdie’s declaration of martial law without due process. I mean, look, even the most DDS of opinion columnists, Rigoberto Tiglao, claims the same in his essay ‘The Consolidation of the Dictatorship’ which appeared on the 1988 book ‘Dictatorship and Revolution: Roots of People’s Power’ (which, by the way, is quite funny knowing that he wrote on his September 11 column last time that we “still do not have an objective, fact—and document-based history” on the “strongman rule.”)

No one in his right mind would say that someone who falsified military honors deserves to be buried in a cemetery of heroes or have a special holiday for him, right? It’s like dignifying liars over facts that rightly offends wrong biases.

Unfortunately, the Duterte government’s sense of morality doesn’t morally judge that way. Sa bagay. What do you expect from a regime whose propaganda machine sowed disrespect for facts to agitate hopes for change within 3 to 6 months?

But in fairness, Fr. Aquino has a good point. The Left and the yellows have constructed narratives that are heavily biased against the Marcos family. And, in citing Derrida, it’s good to truly deconstruct these narratives, for us to check whether they’re valid or not.

Marcos is a corrupt dictator, his opponents accuse. Their proof? Paralyzing congress; the political power of Madame Imelda; the shoes of Madame Imelda; the number of extrajudicial killings; the crackdown on his political detractors and the media, and so on. Not to mention, the national debt that we, ordinary Filipino tax payers, are compensating for until 2025.

Marcos is a hero, his loyalists claim. Their proof?  The Maharlika brigade during the second world war plus the medals; protecting Philippine democracy from the Asian communist craze; the construction of many state facilities; cheaper goods; a disciplined population, etc. We also have to point out they feel so hurt that the Marcos family continues to be badly persecuted even if they weren’t convicted. And that Imee was still a child when the alleged crimes of his father were happening.

Let the facts speak: Congress and Senate were closed upon the declaration of martial law in 1972. The Madame was appointed by his beloved Ferdie as Metro Manila Governor for 11 years from 1975 to 1986. The Guinness Book of World Records state that the Madame has about 3,000 pairs of branded shoes from Marlet Shoes to Christian Dior. Accounts courtesy of international rights watchdog Amnesty International and Task Force Detainees of the Philippines record that 3,257 were killed of which 737 are desaparecidos, 2,427 were “salvage” victims and 93 were assassinated. Undeniably, most of the persons killed were politically involved, some were New People’s Army (NPA) combatants. The same accounts record that around 70,000 arrests were made of which about half experienced torture. News and media organizations were heavily censored, if not silenced, forcing people every morning to listen to the Bagong Lipunan hymn. The Philippines’ national debt skyrocketed from $599 million in 1966 to $26.7 billion in 1986 and thus owes the government to keep on paying banks such as the US Export-Import Bank, Union Bank of Switzerland (among the Swiss banks where Marcos allegedly hid his ill-gotten wealth), Bank of Tokyo, and Mitsui & Co. to this day.

More facts: Marcos’ regimental commander Col. Romulo A. Manriquez denied that a so-called Maharlika guerilla force under Marcos was formed. A 1986 New York Times report and a report by the National Historical Commission debunks Marcos’ claim as a decorated war hero. While the Philippines had a strong communist challenger, but the hysteria led to the arrest and killings of unarmed alleged sympathizers without being put to trial. It was upon Marcos’ initiatives perhaps to construct state facilities, but they were all funded by public funds. Goods were really cheaper before, but consider the natural evolution of inflation rates nonetheless, as such, that in 1984 the country’s inflation rate went as high as 50.3%. The Marcoses are not quite persecuted politically as the dictator’s daughter is currently a sitting senator, the nonagenarian Madame Marcos was still a lawmaker by the first half of last year and Ferdinand Jr. was almost elected Vice President. The Madame was also convicted by the Sandiganbayan over 7 counts of graft in 2018 to crimes committed as a state official under her husband’s watch from 1968 to 1986. Let’s not state the heavily obvious with Senator Imee’s age.

In the end, biases are constructed and can thus be judged whether bad or good. Facts, however, do not lie. As they say in Latin: Contra factum non argumentum.

Columnist’s Note: For clarity’s or Derrida’s or Fr. Aquino’s sake, here’s a puzzle worth deconstructing by Derrida (in an interview published in the 2003 book Life. After. Theory): “To have the possibility of the authentic, sincere and full meaning of what one says, the possibility of the failure, or the lie, or of something else, must remain open…[t]here would be no truth otherwise.”

Ted Tuvera earned his journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas. He was a newspaper reporter for three years covering a major political beat. Currently, he is a seminarian in the Archdiocese of Capiz.

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