Pure as the driven slush
In “The Godfather III,” mob boss Michael Corleone’s striving for respectability that took almost a generation culminates in his being presented an important papal award in exchange for his family’s $100-million donation to a hospital through the Vito Corleone Foundation. His seeming social redemption is accompanied by an attack of conscience and a determined move away from the “murderous darkness” of his past. It helps in a perverse way that his son, delicate of disposition and inclined to the finer pursuits in life, recoils from the family business, citing the “bad memories” it has engendered.
How quickly this scenario sprang to mind when news broke midweek that the Supreme Court had thrown out for lack of evidence the P51-billion forfeiture case filed in the late 1980s by the Presidential Commission on Good Government against Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos and their cronies.
For more than three decades, the heirs of the couple who presided over a dictatorship that saw the economy plundered and run to the ground and thousands tortured, murdered and forced to disappear have been straining for respectability — and the way they and their friends and relations behave, you’d think they were already there. The unanimous ruling of the high court’s First Division, complemented by the striking absence of revulsion, even of reaction, from the general public, serves to buttress their stance.
With this ruling that effectively writes off billions of pesos in behest loans going largely unremarked, it is entirely possible that a whole-scale obliteration of sins will come to pass and absolution settles like a blanket on the Marcos heirs. To think that, unlike Michael Corleone, there has been no remorse on their part, only an insistence on entitlement.
A steady erasure of memory has in fact been in progress since the family was allowed to set foot again on the motherland after fleeing on that fateful night in February 1986, before enraged Filipinos broke through the Palace’s gates and stormed through its rooms that reeked of desolation and disease. With two holding public office and one moving heaven and earth to get within a hair’s breadth of the ultimate post, the heirs come across as perilously close to complete rehab.
Indeed, when the dictator’s remains were flown from the north on Nov. 18, 2016, for interment in the Libingan ng mga Bayani — courtesy of this administration and certain justices of the Supreme Court, taking the resistance by surprise — the heirs made of the burial a theater of the absurd complete with a marching band, as though a statesman and not a man accused of high and low crimes, including fakery of war medals, were being laid to rest. (When Joseph Estrada was elected president in 1998, Imee Marcos happily declared her family “over the moon.” As early as then, the family friend made noises about a hero’s burial for the dictator, but he easily retreated in the face of strong criticism.)
In its ruling promulgated last April 4 but made public only recently, the Supreme Court upheld the Sandiganbayan’s August 2010 finding that witness testimonies were “not sufficient to establish that Marcos and the other respondents engaged in schemes, devices and strategems to acquire ill-gotten assets.” The high court likewise upheld the Sandiganbayan’s rejection of documentary evidence presented by the PCGG that consisted of photocopies of the originals.
That all those years of snail-paced litigation would lurch to this conclusion, constituting another legal victory for the Marcos heirs… What anguish must be sweeping the ranks of the martial law survivors for whom memories of the dictatorship remain as vivid as spilled blood and are perpetually put in context by physical scars. (Emotion is, of course, futile even if it stokes the passion necessary for resistance.)
It does look like purity is within the Marcos heirs’ grasp. In “The Godfather III,” a reporter asks Michael Corleone’s agent, who is busy handing out press kits on his boss’ papal award, about Corleone’s criminal past. The agent retorts: “You think you know better than the Pope?”
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