“You Firipinos are so rucky!” a Japanese diplomat is supposed to have remarked to Filipino friends. “The Marcoses rob (love) you. They rob you reft, they rob you light. They rob you all the time!”
Of course, this is a joke, but the groans and moans with which Filipinos greeted this remark made at the height of martial law were an indication that it had more than a kernel of truth in it.
But, if you ask Sen. Imee Marcos, whose brother Bongbong is the namesake of their father Ferdinand and is now contesting the presidency in next year’s polls, such jokes and other recollections about the Marcos legacy of plunder are simply “corny.” “(They) are so irrelevant at this time,” the senator said in a radio interview, adding that such remarks have become annoying because “we face so many problems … Stop it, stop it, we have to show the way forward that there’s still hope.”
This is all part of the Marcos playbook: Brush aside accusations of plunder and abuse of power, offer no excuses, no explanations, and certainly not an apology. Instead, sound the siren song of “moving on,” and hinge one’s political future on the promise of a brighter future.
Imee was on a roll: “I don’t understand,” she told the interviewer in Filipino. “These issues against my father (took place) one million years ago eh, but are still being raked up.”
Well, the senator exaggerates. The 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution, which succeeded in sending the Marcoses and their allies into exile, was but 35 years ago, ending 14 years of almost-absolute power wielded by the family. And neither were Imee nor Bongbong innocent babes in the woods at the time. They were in their 30s, Imee was head of a national youth organization and Ferdinand Jr. was already governor of their bailiwick of Ilocos Norte when their father was ousted.
After their arrival in Honolulu, papers seized by US customs agents, aided by documents left behind in Malacañang, revealed the extent of the plunder of government coffers. These papers, along with a trove of jewelry, luxury goods, and wads of cash, showed just how much wealth the dictator’s family had amassed amid the poverty into which more than a decade of theft in the final years of their rule had plunged the country. The Philippines lost its standing among international creditors, leaving the country to deal with an onerous, decades-long debt burden.
In the years since, reports have emerged of the role played by Marcos Jr. in brokering arrangements for the recovery of billions of pesos kept in Swiss and American banks and elsewhere, billions which most probably are now being used to bankroll his attempts at a political comeback. These accounts are backed by court decisions here, the US, and Switzerland, and of no less than the Philippine Supreme Court, confirming the theft of government funds by the Marcoses and ordering them to return these to the state.
But against all that, the Marcos siblings and their supporters and apologists continue to lie through their teeth about the money the family owes Filipinos, none of which they have offered voluntarily to surrender, much less acknowledge.
Senatorial aspirant Raffy Tulfo in a TV interview declared: “Kasalanan nung tatay, bakit magiging kasalanan ng anak? Why would he apologize for something that he did not do, na ang may kagagawan ay tatay niya?” Tulfo suggested that the issue was best left to the courts to decide, despite the already extensive judicial record against the Marcoses.
Taking it a step further was presidential candidate (until he steps down to give way to another aspirant?) Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa. Not only does Dela Rosa dismiss the Marcos crimes, he also declared that the Philippines was “leading by all indicators” in Southeast Asia when the Marcoses were ousted. Objective data easily debunk that claim, but this is how it’s become painless even for so-called lawmakers to spout outright falsities.
At least another presidential candidate, Sen. Manny Pacquiao, has called on the Marcoses to surrender, or at least admit to, the money they had stolen from the government. His running mate, Rep. Lito Atienza, backs Pacquiao’s position, adding that Marcos’ sins against the people are a contentious issue that could make or break a candidate. “You either like Marcos, or you don’t like Marcos,” he said.
In this time of historical denialism, in which politicians and internet trolls try to erase or redraw the historical record, it is necessary to stand by the facts. To allow history to be distorted would be to allow yet more misguided leaders to “rob” us to death.
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