Marcos’ martial law set the precedent for today’s abuses
“Never forget, never again”—perhaps the most iconic words in the discourse surrounding the legacy of Marcos and martial law.
In every mobilization, every statement, every shirt, and every banner, those words have echoed throughout the many years of the struggle. And, indeed, it is an ongoing one. The past few years have made us all witnesses to the capriciousness of human memory, a rejection of orthodoxy, and an all too willing acceptance of lies, fabrications, and half-truths as absolutes. Dare I say, we have forgotten, and as a consequence, find the injustice of that time once again rearing its ugly head, breathing down the necks of the basic principles that govern the free and democratic society we hold on to, and aspire to be.
I have thought endlessly of this question: “Why?” The answer, I think, lies in how this legacy is told. And by that I do not mean either a lack of information, poor storytelling, or even historical distortion, but an irreconcilable divide between past and present exacerbated by the sheer magnitude of the events and the characters of the individuals that comprised it. It is, at times, presented in a manner so wholly detached; retained within the past as a lesson, rather than manifesting through the present and future condition of Philippine society. Our experience now is not an imitation but a continuation.
This last fact is undeniable, for the abuses of martial law had set forth the precedent for the abuses of our own time; from emboldening state apparatus, to theft and plunder, to outright violence and murder—all of them political maladies which had outlived even Marcos himself. The combination of these, I believe, evokes an almost mythical recollection of what is otherwise a very dark and real period in our nation’s history.
Pertaining to Marcos himself, and perhaps to the idea of tyrants and dictators in general, it is easy to reduce them to malevolent forces of nature or personifications of pure evil—either because of their own character or the nature of their atrocities—to hammer harder the moral wrongness and depravity of their existence. We would be justified in doing so. At times, it is even unavoidable. But this, I believe, has cultivated the breeding ground for the natural skepticism which Filipinos have acquired, moving such skepticism from the vein of mere inquiry to outright delusion. The larger-than-life character of Apo Lakay—both the brilliance of his mind and the violence which he had put it to use—has turned him into a folk hero around which the skeptical, the delusional, and the disillusioned rally, willing to justify that legacy. The brutality of the Marcos regime’s atrocities is inconceivable in their minds. Their experiences do not mirror that reality, for the only logical truths for them are ones of attestation.
Fr. Ranhilio Aquino is but the most recent example of this phenomenon, stirring quite a controversy on social media. As a youth myself, I believe Father Rannie embodies precisely the kind of willing dismissal and unhealthy skepticism that has led me to write this in the first place. A “condemnation of the present generation,” as John Nery puts it, describes the nature of Father Rannie’s tirades against detractors who he claims know only of a Marcosian “construct,” having been born well past the martial law years.
To this I say, that unless he had personally witnessed the entirety of Marcos’ activities during the tragic years of 1965-1986, then he himself knows, to some degree, only a “construct” of the man. Much worse, he is rationalizing the bloody legacy of conflict, persecution, and violence of one whose existence had been so blatantly beneficial to him and his family, all to justify the ironic subjectivity of the peace and order to which he claims to have been witness to.
Vincent Kyle Parada,
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