EN­RILE BE­FORE HIS­TORY VAN­TAGE POINT

He’s run­ning again for the Se­nate, and he cer­tainly does not want to be re­mem­bered come Elec­tion Day as re­spon­si­ble for the abuses of the regime he served for two decades.

Business World - - Opinion - LUIS V. TEODORO www.luis­teodoro.com

What the me­dia de­scribed as an “apol­ogy” last Oct. 24 from for­mer Mar­cos De­fense Min­is­ter Juan Ponce En­rile was in the same league as that of Mar­cos’s daugh­ter Imee’s and son Bong­bong ’s.

But un­like the “apolo­gies” of those two, En­rile’s sounded like an ap­peal not only to the elec­torate but also to the judg­ment of his­tory. He’s run­ning again for the Se­nate, and he cer­tainly does not want to be re­mem­bered come Elec­tion Day as re­spon­si­ble for the abuses of the regime he served for two decades.

In con­trast, the judg­ment of his­tory was far­thest from the mind of Imee Mar­cos, who in 2016 “apol­o­gized” to those who were “in­ad­ver­tently” hurt dur­ing her father’s rule, but de­clared that the Mar­cos fam­ily will never ad­mit guilt for any of the of­fenses its dead pa­tri­arch is ac­cused of, among them ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings, and the record-break­ing theft of pub­lic funds con­ser­va­tively es­ti­mated at USD 20 bil­lion. She de­scribed all these as un­der­stand­able “mis­takes,” be­cause, af­ter all, “we’re only hu­man.”

This year she also dis­missed de­mands for the fam­ily to ac­knowl­edge its pa­tri­arch’s crimes and for a less than self­serv­ing pseudo-apol­ogy by say­ing that the coun­try has to “move on” — mean­ing to for­get the mar­tial law past, the atroc­i­ties of which her fam­ily re­fuses to ac­knowl­edge.

Her brother Fer­di­nand, Jr. had “apol­o­gized” in 2015 to those who “claim” to have suf­fered dur­ing their father’s 21-year (1965-1986) rule, but said that the fam­ily has “noth­ing to apol­o­gize for,” and that his father’s regime, had it not been over­thrown in 1986 by the EDSA 1 civil­ian-mil­i­tary mutiny, would have made the coun­try into an­other Sin­ga­pore — which its first Prime Min­is­ter Lee Kuan Yew trans­formed from a malar­ial swamp into a first world city-state in less than 20 years.

The drive for even more power of both Mar­cos heirs has been en­cour­aged by the sup­port they have been get­ting from their ally, Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte, and the Supreme Court, which, de­spite the Na­tional His­tor­i­cal Com­mis­sion’s dec­la­ra­tion that the Mar­cos regime was a bru­tal dic­ta­tor­ship, nev­er­the­less said when it al­lowed Mar­cos’s 2016 burial in the Libin­gan ng mga Bayani that his­tory is yet to judge it.

Com­pared to the Mar­coses’ non-apolo­gies, En­rile’s ver­sion of events sounded more like an apol­ogy. But it was also an at­tempt to once again jus­tify Mar­cos, Sr.’s plac­ing the en­tire coun­try un­der mar­tial rule in 1972. He also tried to make it ap­pear that the ar­bi­trary de­ten­tion, the tor­ture, the rapes, the en­forced dis­ap­pear­ances, the ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings and the other hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions that so char­ac­ter­ized that dark pe­riod were aber­ra­tions — ex­cep­tions, rather than the rule.

In­ter­viewed over Cig­nal TV’s One News The Chiefs pro­gram last Oct. 24, En­rile said “I’m sorry — if I have to apol­o­gize (em­pha­sis mine). But it was not our in­ten­tion to harm any­one but to pro­tect so­ci­ety.”

What “they” (mean­ing Mar­cos, him­self and their civil­ian and mil­i­tary ac­com­plices) were try­ing to do, En­rile fur­ther claimed, was to “un­leash (sic) a sys­tem of gov­ern­ment con­trol that had to be firmly es­tab­lished to pre­vent vi­o­lence.”

The signs of the vi­o­lence En­rile said Mar­cos and com­pany sup­pos­edly wanted to pre­vent ap­par­ently in­cluded the demon­stra­tions, marches, strikes and other protests against the Mar­cos regime that were so com­mon in the first two years of the 1970s as well as the bomb­ings in Metro Manila and the “am­bush” on En­rile’s car that he him­self ad­mit­ted in 1986 they staged to jus­tify the dec­la­ra­tion of mar­tial law.

The vi­o­lence that in many cases fol­lowed protest ac­tions was also not so much the do­ing of pro­test­ers as it was that of the po­lice, the mil­i­tary, and their agents. But leave it to En­rile to make it ap­pear that the vic­tims of state vi­o­lence were re­spon­si­ble for their own suf­fer­ing, and that the regime he served from 1966 (he was act­ing Sec­re­tary of Fi­nance in the first Mar­cos ad­min­is­tra­tion) to 1986, when he joined then Armed Forces Vice-Chief of Staff Fidel Ramos at EDSA, was moved by the best of in­ten­tions.

From ear­lier deny­ing, dur­ing his now in­fa­mous on­line chat with Mar­cos, Jr. last Septem­ber, that any­one was ar­rested or killed dur­ing the Mar­cos regime of ter­ror, En­rile ad­mit­ted last Oct. 24 that some peo­ple were in­deed ar­rested and even killed.

But he de­scribed such in­ci­dents as the work of “aber­rant” in­di­vid­u­als who, he ad­mit­ted, abused their power but over whom, he claimed, he had no con­trol. Echo­ing the Mar­cos sib­lings, he was, he said, “only hu­man,” and just one man who was try­ing to pre­vent oth­ers from be­ing harmed. He also said that the regime did kill, but for a rea­son.

“We never killed peo­ple need­lessly or with­out any rea­son — need­lessly, with im­punity,” a state­ment that sug­gests that rather than mean ex­emp­tion from pun­ish­ment, “im­punity” to En­rile refers to killing “with­out rea­son.”

But even more se­ri­ously does that state­ment raise the ques­tion of what ex­actly those rea­sons could be. Re­bel­lion? Sedi­tion? In­cit­ing to ei­ther, whether “wit­tingly or un­wit­tingly” as the ar­rest or­ders En­rile signed by the thou­sands said? Those of­fenses were then pun­ish­able with prison terms, not ex­e­cu­tion. That peo­ple were killed for no other rea­son than on the sus­pi­cion that they com­mit­ted these of­fenses only demon­strates that the killings were mat­ters of pol­icy.

The num­bers in fact say that the killings, the tor­ture, the ab­duc­tions and the dis­ap­pear­ances were far from be­ing mere aber­ra­tions. A hun­dred thou­sand men and women, not just sev­eral, or a few dozen, or even a hun­dred, were ar­rested and de­tained dur­ing En­rile’s watch as the Mar­cos Mafia’s chief en­forcer and con­sigliere. Over 3,000 were sum­mar­ily ex­e­cuted (“sal­vaged”). Hun­dreds were forcibly dis­ap­peared. Thou­sands were tor­tured and abused in mil­i­tary camps and safe houses, about which En­rile, as the Num­ber Two man of the dic­ta­tor­ship, was cer­tainly aware.

All are clear in­di­ca­tors of a pol­icy of re­pres­sion, in­tim­i­da­tion, ab­duc­tion, tor­ture and ex­tra­ju­di­cial mur­der at work. The “aber­rant” crea­tures in the then Philip­pine Con­stab­u­lary, po­lice, and mil­i­tary re­spon­si­ble for this at­tack on la­bor, peas­ant, stu­dent and op­po­si­tion lead­ers, on jour­nal­ists, aca­demics, artists, po­ets and writ­ers — on any­one the regime thought could, as En­rile him­self ad­mit­ted, be the ral­ly­ing point of protest — cost Philip­pine so­ci­ety dearly. To sim­ply dis­miss these atroc­i­ties and the dam­age they in­flicted on the present and fu­ture of this coun­try as solely the work of moral de­viants rather than the re­sults in­tended by the pol­icy of us­ing State vi­o­lence against its own peo­ple is the aber­ra­tion.

But even if we grant his claim that only a few moral de­viants were re­spon­si­ble for the out­rage that was mar­tial rule, more than an apol­ogy should be de­manded of En­rile as he once again runs for Sen­a­tor of the very Repub­lic that he once helped de­stroy.

A dec­la­ra­tion from him that pre­cisely be­cause an au­thor­i­tar­ian regime in­evitably em­pow­ers mon­sters — that it awak­ens the worst not only in the al­ready crim­i­nally-in­clined, and that ab­so­lute power leads not only to ab­so­lute cor­rup­tion but also to to­tal moral and in­tel­lec­tual bank­ruptcy — never should this coun­try and its peo­ple abide despo­tism by what­ever name. Nei­ther should they re­turn to power those who so loudly ex­cuse and sup­port it.

Such a dec­la­ra­tion now, when the coun­try is once again in the same grave dan­ger as dur­ing his for­mer boss of bosses’ rise to power, could help bet­ter his­tory’s fi­nal ver­dict on Juan Ponce En­rile. But the pos­si­bil­ity of his mak­ing such a dec­la­ra­tion seems as un­likely as the po­lit­i­cal dy­nas­ties’ trans­for­ma­tion into true ser­vants of the peo­ple rather than their mas­ters.

nLUIS V. TEODORO is on Face­book and Twit­ter (@luis­teodoro).

The views ex­pressed in Van­tage Point are his own and do not rep­re­sent the views of the Cen­ter for Me­dia Free­dom and Re­spon­si­bil­ity.

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