What a fool believes
In 1978, when Ferdinand Marcos was at the height of his power, Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins cowrote a hit song with this uncanny refrain: “What a fool believes he sees / the wise man has no power to reason away.”
Our schools, our teachers and the instructional materials at their disposal are again being taken to task because of the apparent public indifference to the Supreme Court ruling that “notwithstanding the call of human rights advocates, the Court must uphold what is legal and just. And that is not to deny Marcos his rightful place at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. For even the Framers of our Constitution intend that full respect for human rights is available at any stage of a person’s development, from the time he or she becomes a person to the time he or she leaves this earth.”
The tribunal’s majority decision also said: “There are certain things that are better left for history—not this Court—to adjudge. The Court could only do so much in accordance with the clearly established rules and principles. Beyond that, it is ultimately for the people themselves, as the sovereign, to decide, a task that may require the better perspective that the passage of time provides. In the meantime, the country must move on and let this issue rest.”
However, for the thousands of men and women who were jailed, tortured, or killed during the martial law years, together with their families and friends and the five magistrates who gave starkly dissenting opinions, the issue is by no means over.
Conversely, many of those born after 1986 say that they don’t know much about martial law and the Marcos dictatorship “because it happened a long time ago,” and that they didn’t really discuss the period in school or at home.
In the aftermath of the high court’s decision, there is talk yet again that our school curriculum at every level should have provided more opportunities for students to investigate and fully understand all the social, political and economic ramifications of martial law and the Marcos dictatorship.
In fact, moving forward, the new K-to-12 curriculum seeks to fill this knowledge void. But even without the Department of Education’s conscious effort under Secretary Leonor Briones, an immense amount of well written and assiduously researched material on martial law in the Philippines has been readily accessible for years.
The Eggie Apostol Foundation, for one, produced the definitive and award-winning video documentary “Batas Militar,” and also “Lakas Sambayanan” and “Beyond Conspiracy.”
It also published “Dead Aim: How Marcos Ambushed Philippine Democracy” by Conrad de Quiros, and the companion pieces “Chronology of A Revolution” by Angela Stuart Santiago and “Looking Back, Looking Forward,” a collection of 10 essays written by the Philippines’ most accomplished writers, sociologists and political scientists and edited by Lorna Kalaw-Tirol. All of these have served as historical references for academic researchers and news and public affairs television programs.
And yet, public discourse on the Marcos regime—or on any other important sociopolitical issue, for that matter—tends to degenerate into cringe-worthy displays of failed logic and rhetoric, appalling grammar, insults and venomous threats coming from what can only be described as idolatrous fan clubs.
Our schools and teachers can only do so much, because this intellectual despondency is directly attributable to martial law. Years of repression have produced generations of Filipinos who are simply not used to dispassionate, evidence-based argument.
And this is not just about millennials. The Eggie Apostol Foundation itself was organized just 10 years after the 1986 People Power Revolution because the insight and perspective gained from that event were already receding from the public consciousness.
Memory may fade, but the wounds that martial law inflicted on our nation’s soul still bleed to this day.
Butch Hernandez ([email protected]) is the executive director of the Eggie Apostol Foundation.
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