Memory and Bongbong Marcos’ red socks
As the persecution of Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV plays out amid fears of the return of tyranny, survivors of martial law are reliving the nightmare with the major players constantly impinging into the public consciousness. The children of Ferdinand Marcos may have been still wet behind the ears during those dark years, enjoying a life of privilege and luxury as the dictator’s progeny, but they have grown old, grown wily, and, in the case of the son and namesake, grown into the very face of his old man. Like in a horror movie, a ghost is being willfully resurrected from the dank mists of time, piece by creepy piece, the idea being that, in time, the transgression of memory and the revision of history consummated, the family would again be the main force in Philippine politics.
From her northern stronghold Imee Marcos prances across the political landscape, showing up at every gathering organized by Sara Duterte’s Hugpong ng Pagbabago. The observer wrenching attention from the ever spiraling costs of living will note that the dictator’s eldest child has been firming up ties with the mayor of Davao City since the mighty Pantaleon Alvarez and his lieutenants fell from power last July. The spectacle of the artfully costumed governor of Ilocos Norte moving around the House of Representatives as the members went about removing Alvarez from the speakership, her blithe waving to the crowd in front of the rostrum as, on the upper level, Gloria Arroyo prepared to take up the reins of the chamber, broadcast her role in the golpe, the muscle she flexed to get it done.
And, money being such a great enabler, managing to look good, too — so different from the mousy and melancholy persona in those family pictures shot in February 1986 at a balcony in the Palace, when the end was near. She has evidently learned well from her mother on the important matter of appearances. (In her heyday, Imelda Marcos was never seen in public not decked out in the finery befitting Our Lady of the Dictatorship. A member of the then first lady’s delegation to an event in New York — she was known to take a planeload of guests on trips abroad, courtesy of the national coffers — recalls the woman’s mastery of the grand entrance: The delegates are gathered for cocktails in a hall dominated by a flight of stairs leading to the upper floor. The steady hum of the conversation is instantly disrupted at the sight of her in a red terno gliding noiselessly down the stairs.)
Stefano Massini, talking about his play on the journalist Anna Politkovskaya who was killed in Moscow in October 2006 for her unflinching reportage on the second Chechen War and the civilians victimized by it, said he “began writing immediately” after her murder. “Because I was struck by the fact that by killing Anna, someone thought they were solving a big problem. … Who will ever remember her, once she is buried? She will end up forgotten. This is why I decided to write.”
“Who will ever remember her, once she is buried?” Was Juan Ponce Enrile, in going through the motions of an “interview” with Bongbong Marcos, thinking along this line when he mouthed words to the effect that there were no political prisoners during the martial law years, only those who were “inconvenienced”?
As though in keeping with the macabre nature of their project, the two men—the dictator’s son doing his bit in the family effort to reclaim lost ground and attempting to counter recollections of the horrors of martial rule, and the old warhorse engaged (again) in transgressing memory, as though he were not already at that time of life which has no more room for lies—are shown on Facebook seated on two identical armchairs on an otherwise empty stage, dressed in suits that seem to indicate a necessity to formalize dissembling.
But can the dictator’s son claim, even to himself, that his exchange with the former Marcos defense minister had any measure of success? Woke young people are unconvinced, even insulted. And though weary and aging, people remember. They remember, by Amnesty International’s count, the 70,000 imprisoned, the 34,000 tortured, the 3,240 killed. They remember the disappeared, the broken bodies. They remember Liliosa Hilao, Archimedes Trajano, Bobby dela Paz, Johnny Escandor…
The Marcos heirs are wading in the blood of the martyrs of martial law. In his curious choice of red socks for his FB post, the son acknowledges as much.
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