THEY ARE a bloc of 20 million voters. They represent 37 percent of the 55 million Filipinos who registered to vote for the May elections. They are the young people 18-35 years old, born in the 1980s and the 1990s. They are the millennials.
They will vote influenced by their experience of the present, and their knowledge of the past.
The millennials grew up experiencing nothing but the kind of administrations that came to power after the 1986 People Power Revolution. And not having experienced how life was before then, they depend on what the older generation has imparted (or failed to impart) to them about recent history.
In the entirety of their young lives, the millennials have known only of the dysfunctional brand of democracy that has allowed corruption to thrive in the government. They feel frustration and hopelessness because of the unending voices of discord that expose corruption and incompetence among public officials.
But what the youth fail to appreciate is that their ability to listen to these voices of dissent and discord is the priceless reward earned through the shedding of the blood of our martyrs during martial law and the risking of millions of lives during Edsa I. Members of this young generation wake up every day taking for granted that they can freely criticize their politicians and equally hear others mock and scorn government officials.
They get out of bed every day taking for granted that this right to freely criticize the government is as natural as the right to breathe. They do not know that it has not always been so. Before the 1986 revolution, even a whimper of criticism against the dictatorship could get one choked, to be literally deprived of air. After the revolution, the right to complain became as natural as breathing.
It is true that there is hardly any difference in the enormity of corruption before and after the 1986 revolution. The breed of politicians that evolved after Edsa I is as corrupt as the breed of politicians before it. But there is a universe of difference in something that is fundamentally important in our humanity. Before the revolution, one chose to become a martyr if one voiced any complaint. After the revolution, we regained our inherent right to complain and to make our complaints heard in any public forum.
Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is now the frontrunner in the vice presidential race, thanks to the substantial support of the millennials. Such tragically wrong support notwithstanding, the older generation has little moral ascendancy to blame these young people and accuse them of misunderstanding the present and of being ignorant of the past.
The older generation is responsible for the kind of political, business, and cultural leaders that have been allowed to rule and thrive after the 1986 revolution—the kind of leaders that have driven the millennials to lose hope for their future.
The older generation is responsible as well for its failure to impart to millennials the
horrific sins of the Marcos dictatorship, thereby allowing the dictator’s heirs to weave a tale of lies about the martial law years as the country’s golden age when, in truth, it was the nation’s crimson age because of the blood that spilled from murder and torture.
The failure of the older generation to communicate the dreadful years of the dictatorship is most evident in the results of the survey conducted late last year among students of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, where
Ferdinand Marcos Jr. emerged as the top pick for vice president. The PUP was a bastion of student activism during the martial law years because of its students’ working-class background. For the current crop of PUP students to choose the son and namesake of the dictator speaks volumes about the older generation’s failure to communicate the horrors of the past.
The Department of Education has disclosed that school textbooks are gravely deficient in discussing the tragedy of martial law. There is an urgent need to rectify this disastrous omission. Our schools constitute Ground Zero in the battle for the hearts and minds of our youth. Teddyboy Locsin describes government efforts to commemorate martial law and its end with an annual program of “singing and dancing on a bright-colored stage.” In contrast, the Marcoses and their ilk, with vast resources at their disposal, have systematically and deceptively inserted in the psyche of our youth the blatant lie that the Marcos years were the best years for the country.
The People Power Experiential Museum, which allowed visitors “to experience the fear and oppression of martial law” and shared “the stories of those who bravely endured and fought against the injustice and oppression of martial law,” was a most laudable effort that should be given a regular traveling run all over the country.
Equally laudable are efforts of the Adamson University College of Law, led by Dean Ada Abad, in putting up a photo exhibit and a symposium that aim “to share stories about how once in our nation’s history, there existed a systematic violation by the government of free speech and free press, of right to life and property.”
In the May elections, the millennials will cast their votes not only to judge the candidates’ qualifications but also to judge the older generation for its mishandling of the country after the 1986 revolution. In these elections, in the hearts and minds of the millennials, the older generation is on trial for its failure to communicate the past and its mismanagement of the present.
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