Being a teenager who grew up exposed to the ways of politics, it is safe to say I am not a total stranger to the political scene. I have experienced how politics can tear apart the closest of people, and how it can also bring enemies together. The wars that stem from politics are just astonishing to me. Happily, the youth have found their voice. Also, strange alliances that have been created because of politics give me hope for the future generations.
In this milieu, allow me now to express my thoughts on the controversy in Philippine society that refuses to disappear: the burial of Ferdinand Marcos’ remains in the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
Marcos is no stranger to most of us Filipinos, whether you were under his reign or were lucky to be born into a generation already freed of dictatorship. He was elected president in 1965, finishing his term in 1971. His first term, to be fair, made its mark on Philippine society, mostly allowing citizens the convenience of transportation and medical care, all of which are still available to Filipinos today.
Reelected for a second term, he grew power-hungry. He imposed martial law on the whole nation in September 1972. It is important to note that his initial intentions may have been in favor of the country and perhaps even to make it great, but further into his rule, it was evident that he became driven by greed.
Marcos took away the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus as well as a constitution that respected all citizens’ right to a trial and due process before being pronounced guilty. But the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus should have been done under the circumstance that the country was being wracked by mass rebellion or disorder—such as during the civil war that broke out in the United States in 1861. US President Abraham Lincoln then suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in an effort to bring peace back to society by punishing anyone who threatened its order.
This was certainly not the case when Marcos suspended the privilege of the writ in 1971 and declared martial law in 1972. The Philippines, unlike America, had no civil war raging, and was not plagued by uncontrolled crime. Thus, his suspension of the privilege of the writ was unnecessary. And there is no solid explanation as to why he took away the Filipinos’ right to due process, which leaves us to assume that this act was driven by his need for full control over everyone in the country.
Some say this was the beginning of the “golden age” of the Philippines, but I cannot disagree more. A golden age, by definition, is “an idyllic, often imaginary, past time of peace, prosperity, and happiness.” It suggests fields of contentment and an idealistic paradise. This definition of a golden age is not applicable to the Marcos era as the realities under the dictatorship were nothing but cruel, inhumane and very bad for the Philippine economy.
Some may argue that although many Filipinos were suffering during martial law, the disciplinary actions were needed in order to bring about economic growth. Again, I cannot disagree more. Economically speaking, during Marcos’ reign the poverty rate increased.
This, coupled with approximately 3,000 people killed, 35,000 people tortured, and 70,000 imprisoned, make the Philippines under Marcos’ reign seem like a hellhole.
Fast forward to 1986—the iconic year when hundreds of thousands of Filipinos revolted against injustice and chased the Marcoses out of the country, claiming their democracy back while doing so. The nation’s GDP rates immediately increased by 41.6 percent, from 1.4 percent to 4.3 percent in two years. These figures are an immediate reflection of how much harm Marcos caused the country and its development. However, despite the massive corruption that overwhelmed the Philippines under martial law, Filipinos kept their heads up and did the most remarkable thing after being tormented for years: smile and survive. We are indeed a resilient people.
Now here we are, 30 years later and living in irony as the bane of this country’s existence, Ferdinand Marcos, has been buried a hero. This brazen act not only disrespected Filipinos but also disregarded the hardships and privation that they experienced during his reign.
What most appalled me was the seeming lack of common sense of the authorities. If one has to sneak in someone for burial in a cemetery for heroes, then maybe he or she does not deserve to be there? Regardless of whatever arguments are presented in this situation, if there was nothing to hide or be ashamed of, then a hero’s burial should be praised and appreciated by the whole country, and not just those who are benefiting from this act of disrespect.
I am very much aware that our generation is not exactly admired by the older, “wiser” generations. I would go as far as to say that we are one of the most complicated generations thus far. Our belief in the progress of our society’s development often upsets most of the members of the older generations. But I believe this will be the reason the youth will save our country.
The time for a rapacious government has expired and no longer aids the country in moving forward. Within this progressive society, an open mind is needed—one that is compassionate, rational and balanced. Encouraging extrajudicial killings cannot be acceptable in Philippine society. These executions are simply causing the nation to lose all the advancements it has made since the toppling of the Marcos regime.
Therefore, our only option is the youth. Our future is no longer in the hands of the older generations who have fought diligently for their—and our—human rights. The torch has been passed. I urge everyone who has a platform to voice their opinions on this unjust patriarchy. Nothing is ever achieved by staying silent.
Amanda Julia S. Masigan is turning 18.
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