‘Imelda may have won the bat­tle, but Filipinos have won the war’

The Philippine Star - - OPINION - CAR­MEN N. PE­DROSA

How was that state­ment to be ful­filled? It came af­ter two decades of trial when the anti-graft court or­dered the ar­rest of Ilo­cos Norte Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Imelda Mar­cos af­ter it found her guilty of seven counts of graft.

From Veron­ica Pe­drosa my daugh­ter who made the doc­u­men­tary “Imelda and Me” for Al-Jazeera.

She wrote this col­umn on what she thinks is the sig­nif­i­cance of this ver­dict. “In the dystopic novel ‘1984,’ Ge­orge Or­well writes: “Who con­trols the past con­trols the fu­ture. Who con­trols the present con­trols the past.” How you re­ceive the news of Imelda Mar­cos’ con­vic­tion, might in­di­cate to whom you’ve de­cided to hand over con­trol of the Philip­pines’ past, present and fu­ture.

Two gen­er­a­tions have come along since Imelda com­mit­ted the crimes for which she was con­victed, the dis­tance be­tween “then” and “now,” a slip­pery place of dis­in­for­ma­tion and mis­re­mem­ber­ing. It’s a space that works to the ad­van­tage of the for­mer First Lady as she was then, be­cause now she is a Con­gress­woman and po­lit­i­cal ma­tri­arch, and does any­one re­mem­ber she’s been through all this be­fore?

In 1993, she faced a max­i­mum 24-year sen­tence when the Sandi­gan­bayan found her guilty of in­volve­ment in a deal that was judged to be “dis­ad­van­ta­geous to the gov­ern­ment.” She ap­pealed and was ac­quit­ted, and just like that “Imelda Mar­cos” takes on an­other per­sona, the fairy­tale sur­vivor who’s been Beauty Queen, First Lady, Co-Dic­ta­tor and now what? From “Un­told,” her story has be­come “Over­told” lead­ing to a ten­dency for com­men­ta­tors to ridicule “Imelda Mar­cos” (the lead fe­male role); all the melo­drama and “dou­ble­think” make it so con­ve­nient to dis­miss her and her fam­ily’s power plays as part of an Ori­en­tal­ist nar­ra­tive in which our so­ci­ety is a mere pas­tiche for en­ter­tain­ment.

In fact, Mrs. Mar­cos and her dy­nasty (the pas­tiche char­ac­ters), have been so en­ter­tain­ing that they’ve eas­ily got­ten away with the most se­ri­ous of crimes of which they’ve been ac­cused. But then there’s Mrs Mar­cos, the per­son. She was said to have con­trolled pub­lic and pri­vate funds equal to 50 per­cent of the to­tal gov­ern­ment bud­get. She earned the nick­name “Mrs 10 per­cent” for the cut she al­legedly took off the top off large gov­ern­ment con­tracts, which she would use, not only to fi­nance projects, but also to pay for her truly ex­trav­a­gant life­style.

She was a full 50 per­cent of a con­ju­gal dic­ta­tor­ship that cre­ated a na­tion­wide sys­tem, pur­pose-built to trans­form the mil­i­tary and po­lice into in­stru­ments of torture and death. In 2015, 75,730 cases were be­ing pro­cessed by the board in charge of ver­i­fy­ing mar­tial law atroc­i­ties.

So that was “then,” what about “now”? That such bru­tal crimes have gone un­pun­ished ef­fec­tively breaks the con­nec­tion be­tween the two, be­cause any pass­ing mo­ment of out­rage is re­placed by deep cyn­i­cism.

Noth­ing changes, the per­pe­tra­tors go free and wield un­bri­dled power – why get in­volved? Imelda Mar­cos and her fam­ily and fol­low­ers pre­vail.

I think it’s that per­sonal choice for each and ev­ery one of us of which (if any) story you ac­cept, that’s the real sig­nif­i­cance of the de­ci­sion: who gets to con­trol the past is the same as who gets to con­trol the fu­ture, and who gets to con­trol the present gets to con­trol the past, as Or­well would put it.”

In the pros­e­cu­tion’s state­ment in the New York trial Imelda was charged with bring­ing stolen money and the pro­ceeds of fraud into New York to pay for an art col­lec­tion.

De­spite the strong state­ment from the pros­e­cu­tion and the moun­tain of ev­i­dence and di­rect ac­counts from wit­nesses, she was ac­quit­ted.

“Those who were there and un­der­stood the pro­ceed­ings re­al­ized it was an­other ploy at Amer­i­can dom­i­na­tion of the Philip­pines. The de­fense said the trial was made at the in­stance of Cory Aquino for the re­turn of Amer­i­can bases in the Philip­pines.

From the start, lawyers who sat dur­ing the trial told me that she will be ac­quit­ted be­cause the case was re­ally be­tween the New York Court and the De­part­ment of State.

In “Imelda and Me”Veron­ica traces the story. It tells the story that what we are fight­ing is the cul­ture of im­punity. In that, both the Mar­coses and the Aquinos are cut from the same cloth.

Pres­i­dent Noynoy’s gov­ern­ment turned out to be even worse than the Mar­cos dic­ta­tor­ship. And yet, those who did not strug­gle against Mar­cos’ mar­tial law do not want to ac­cept it. They deny this was the in­evitable re­sult of the failed trial of Imelda Mar­cos in New York. How she could have es­caped con­vic­tion is also a story of the flawed Amer­i­can jus­tice sys­tem.

It an­swers sev­eral ques­tions that have re­mained unan­swered to many – what was the role of the friend­ship be­tween Ron­ald Rea­gan and Mar­cos.

On the West­ing­house bribes, Mar­cos kept track of the in­stall­ments and where th­ese were de­posited ac­cord­ing to doc­u­ments left in Mala­canang but never fol­lowed up.

The Epi­logue in the book “The Ver­dict” is just as im­por­tant as the other chap­ters of the book and has ev­ery­thing to do with Mar­cos’ re­turn to power.

Veron­ica sought Imelda to an­swer some of the ques­tions that needed to be an­swered. She would not give the an­swers. But she asked Veron­ica if the con­flict be­tween us would go from gen­er­a­tion to gen­er­a­tion. The doc­u­men­tary en­ti­tled “Imelda and Me” can be viewed in https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=35zh­nYbG3Ug in Youtube. She can be reached through vpe­drosa@icloud. com.

With Ro­drigo Duterte as pres­i­dent promis­ing mer­i­toc­racy with re­ward and pun­ish­ment of gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials when­ever ap­pro­pri­ate, Aquino and some of those who have be­come op­por­tunist al­lies may have to an­swer ques­tions as well. We look for­ward to an end to im­punity.

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