Rights and due process — for the Marcoses
My (adoptive) parents were both victims of martial law.
Dad was arrested without a warrant and sent to a safe house, where it was jokingly said the only safe people were the military. He was tortured physically and psychologically for six months. Once, he was awakened in the middle of the night, brought to a remote area, and made to dig his own grave. After a few grueling hours, his captors, after listening to their walkie-talkie radios, told him his time had not yet come and brought him back to detention. Then they repeated the same thing all over again on another random night.
He was eventually transferred to a military camp where he stayed for another six months. He was only released when his family was able to ask for help from an ex-military relative.
He lost all of his front teeth, experienced extreme post-traumatic stress syndrome, and bouts of depression.
His story is just one of the thousands of others, many of them with far worse experiences, at the time of martial law.
A few years after Edsa 1986, the Marcoses were just allowed to come back into the country, with no arrests waiting for them, no detention, no handcuffs, no monitoring of their movements or how they spent their money. They were allowed to run for public office and retain power in their strongholds all over the country.
A lawyer friend pointed to a Supreme Court decision on the right of the Marcoses to return to the country, since he said they have equal rights under the 1987 Constitution. “The Marcoses have rights enshrined in the Constitution, and if Edsa wants to reestablish democracy in the country, the Marcoses should also be able to enjoy those rights and be given due process under the law.”
The leaders of Edsa 1986 trusted the Filipino people to always do the right thing, given what they experienced in the 20-plus years of Marcos’ reign. They expected that the people would remain disgusted with the Marcoses and their cronies.
However, my lawyer friend also stated that the best friend of plunderers like the Marcoses is time.
Indeed, with all the plundered money at their disposal, the Marcoses were able to afford the best lawyers. They used every single dirty rule in the book to prolong court hearings and rulings, resulting in acquittals in many cases.
The Marcoses allegedly also made sure to use their money to finance a network of trolls since 2010 and push the narrative in social media that martial law was the “golden age” of the Philippines, and that strongman rulers are necessary for the country because “Filipinos lack discipline.”
The late President Ramon Magsaysay once said: “He who has less in life should have more in law.” But why does it seem that the justice system in the Philippines sides more with the abusers rather than their victims?
Why do the rights of the Marcoses trump the severity of their cruelty toward their people? Is the mass of evidence of human rights abuses, plunder, and abuse of power not enough to make the crimes of the Marcoses equal to the crimes of Mao, Stalin, and Pol Pot, and should be taught in schools as such?
My lawyer friend paraphrased what he said was a reminder from Ninoy Aquino: “We do not want to be the monsters we ousted from power.”
Another friend answered: “We are already monsters for letting the Philippine National Police get away with slaughtering our own citizens.”
Alexandr Solzhenitsyn once said: “When we neither punish nor reproach evildoers, we are not simply protecting their trivial old age, we are thereby ripping the foundations of justice from beneath new generations.”
How our justice system treats the Marcoses is in line with the values of our Constitution. They enjoy the very same rights they had taken away from so many other Filipinos. However, doesn’t this setup tolerate wrongdoing and open the stage for anyone to do the same things the Marcoses did, and, like them, get away with their crimes, too?
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Floyd G. Buenavente is a digital marketing consultant of 15 years. A husband, father, and musician, he collects witty aphorisms and enjoys the rare silence afforded him by his one-year-old son.
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