The killing of our best and brightest | Inquirer Opinion

The killing of our best and brightest

/ 12:06 AM November 28, 2016

We have mediocre leaders because the best and brightest members of the generation that now holds the reins of power in our country were killed during the Marcos dictatorship. There’s a vacuum of nationalistic and inspirational leaders because their ranks were decimated during the martial law period.”

These words of lamentation were said by Dr. Ruth Callanta, founder and president of the Center for Community Transformation (CCT), a nonprofit organization with an outstanding international reputation because of its microfinance and livelihood programs for the poor.


Callanta spoke with torment and anguish when I met her last week, because of events that distressed her memory of the past and her concern about the present.

Her memory of the past hounded her when the Supreme Court issued its decision allowing the burial of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ remains in the Libingan ng mga Bayani. Callanta was part of the young generation when Marcos declared martial law, the same generation that now walks the corridors of power in government. She had friends who were killed, and she herself was imprisoned during the dark years of the Marcos dictatorship.


Her concern about the present troubles her immensely. In a span of one week, she attended five separate wakes for victims of the Duterte administration’s campaign against illegal drugs dubbed “Operation Tokhang.”

Callanta’s CCT is a Christian faith-based organization that cares for the poor in Metro Manila and a number of provinces through feeding programs, halfway houses, and livelihood training. The five victims were urban poor residents who were availing themselves of CCT programs in their struggle to transform and improve their lives.

Callanta rattled off some of the many names that her generation could have offered as great leaders of this country in these current times: Lorena Barros, Edgar Jopson, Voltaire Garcia, Joey Calderon, Letty Pascual, Bobby de la Paz, and Raquel Edralin Tiglao. Some of these fallen heroes were either killed or made to endure suffering and eventually died during the dictatorship.

Because the cream of the crop of Callanta’s generation sacrificed their lives during martial law, the leaders who emerged from that generation were the sycophants of the Marcoses. These are leaders who thrived as bootlickers of the dictator, amassing great personal wealth at the expense of a national economy that was run to the ground.

They utilized their wealth to capture political power, and then used the powers of government to amass even more wealth. Survey and investigate the list of the political dynasties that blight our country, and they will be seen to have been spawned mostly during the Marcos dictatorship.

The kind of politics allowed to thrive and the type of leaders permitted to flourish during the dictatorship were responsible for our culture’s steep fall into the abyss of wanton corruption. We have not been able to crawl out of that abyss to this day.

The type of politics and the breed of corrupt leaders that flourished during martial law sidelined and rendered inconsequential the surviving leaders who have genuine love of country, while others were coopted and swallowed by a political system that was high on corruption.


The generations that came into their own after the country was freed from the dictatorship carry the task of removing the dictator’s legacy of a corrupted political system and preventing the ominous return to power of his heirs.

The burial of the dictator’s remains in the Libingan ng mga Bayani signals the brazen attempt of the Marcoses to return to the glory days of their political power. In the many protest rallies that followed the burial, young people came in droves and showed impassioned indignation at the shameless move to erase the sacrifices of the exemplary members of a generation that showed heroic love of country.

It warms the heart to feel hope that the martyrdom of the best and brightest of a storied generation may not be in vain.

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TAGS: dictator, Libingan ng mga Bayani, marcos, opinion, politics
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