The Marcoses’ eternal summer
They’re back,” people say of the Marcoses, pointing to the sight of Imee holding court in Congress, Bongbong being introduced to new dentists as “soon to be vice president,” or Imelda gracing various events as if she were empress dowager of our land. With the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) at risk of abolition, and only a few good women and men standing in the way of a Marcos vice presidency, it seems that, for the former first family, the sun is truly shining bright.
But while people are right in recognizing the ascendancy of the dictator’s family, many forget that such has been the state of affairs for a long time. Indeed, the Marcoses’ return to power did not begin with President Duterte allowing the dictator to be buried as a hero, nor with Jose Calida clearly siding in the electoral protest case with the dictator’s son.
It began in Feb. 25, 1986, when, instead of being jailed and arrested, the Marcoses were ushered in to safety by the US government—its final favor for a strongman they supported for decades.
It continued when, while in exile in Hawaii, the Marcoses were allowed to bide their time and plot their return, while Filipinos’ short memories faded. With the best lawyers and unlimited resources at their disposal, their crimes became a matter of litigation, and their betrayal attributed to politics. Like a modern-day Cleopatra, Imelda became the object not of disgust but of fascination, and her thousands of shoes and fairy-tale fantasies only added to her mystique in the eyes of the world.
It continued when, just four years after Edsa People Power Revolution, many Filipinos had apparently softened their hearts toward the Marcos family. By this time, Cardinal Sin — yes, Cardinal Sin — was calling for them to be allowed to return “in the spirit of forgiveness.”
It continued in the 1992 elections, when Miriam Defensor Santiago, in her afterlife a political saint but for much of her life a Marcos loyalist, called for Marcos to be buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani. Months later, her bitter rival, Fidel V. Ramos, would welcome his kinsman Bongbong Marcos to Malacañang, where the latter would turn “nostalgic” as he looked for his mother’s shoes.
Six years later, it was Joseph Estrada’s turn to push for the Marcos state burial; he had starred in a 1972 movie titled “Kill the Pushers”: a propaganda film for the original “war on drugs,” and had made no secret of his friendship with the family. Years later, after his own political resurrection, he would repeat his support for the burial, saying that “Christians must respect the dead.”
Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was no Marcos loyalist, but neither was she aggressive in pursuing the cases against them. The Marcoses’ long summer continued in 2002, when it was revealed that the Ombudsman had dismissed 92 out of 111 criminal cases filed by the PCGG against them. As with decisions by various courts, these cases were often thrown out on the flimsiest of technicalities.
During the time of P-Noy, the Marcoses’ stock rose as many became disillusioned with the promise of “Daang Matuwid.” Propagandists managed to convince the people that martial law was but a feud between two families. In April 2011, over 200 members of Congress — including GMA — signed House Bill No. 1135, demanding that the dictator be buried in the heroes’ cemetery.
The Marcoses’ ascent continued as they inhabited the sections of lifestyle magazines, just like the halcyon days when Imelda acted as patroness of the arts. “Gracing the cover of our fashion issue is style icon Gov. Imee Marcos,” Philippine Tatler declared in 2015, gushing that “with all her energy, it was hard to believe that she would be turning 60 in just a few months.”
It continued, at last, in 2016, when, riding the wave of fake news and historical revisionism, Bongbong not only nearly won the vice presidency, but, counting on the President’s debt of gratitude, Marcos’ wish to be buried as a hero was also finally fulfilled.
“They’re back,” people said at the time. But where were we when all the cases against them were being dismissed, and they were taking oaths of office one after the other? Like the political system they enable and in turn enables them, the Marcoses never really left.
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