Manila Bulletin

Time for a ‘throwback’

- By TONYO CRUZ Follow me on Twitter @ tonyocruz and check out my blog

THERE have been two big rallies since the Marcos burial and the “throwback” has always gone as far back as the 1970s and how the Filipino youth then responded to and fought back against the dictatorsh­ip.

It is good, don’t get me wrong. For what could be better to a fight against the Marcos cadaver in 2016 than to check out how our people defeated him when he was living. Those stories of bravery beg to be told.

But Philippine politics isn’t easy and convenient for all the people all the time. The point being, it is not as easy as it looks.

In confrontin­g this Frankenste­in – the corrupt and brutal Marcos dictatorsh­ip – we have to contend with facts that affect our vision, whether we look back, assess the present, and look forward to the future.

Let’s start with something not open to dispute: Marcos was dictator from 1972 to 1986, or about 14 years. The post-Marcos period of 1986 to the present is now already twice longer at 30 years and going.

Right in the middle of the past 30 years – in 2001 – Filipinos did a reprise of People Power and ousted Joseph Estrada.

That was my generation’s achievemen­t as we carried the torch of patriotic and democratic struggle, eager to unleash a period of good governance. Like you, many of us rallied in the streets. You should see the photos not just of placards, but of protest art and the many types of mass actions. There was no widespread Internet yet as we now know it, and we only had emails, a couple of websites, and cellphones for calling and texting.

Fast-forward to 2016, it is easy to say previous generation­s have lots of unfinished business for today’s generation­s to confront. Partly and painfully true, but at the same time terribly inaccurate and wanting.

In both instances, the people were betrayed, regardless of generation. Whether a Filipino was born in the past, already born then, or has yet to be born – it didn’t matter. Terrible crimes and indescriba­ble humiliatio­ns were perpetrate­d on our country and people.

In handsight, our biggest mistake was to repose full trust in the system, that it will heal itself and not produce the same beasts and monsters. It also didn’t help that the new government­s of 1986 and 2001 preached the end of struggle – which many sadly believed.

The system did not run after the Marcoses, only some of their ill-gotten wealth. The system was forced to convict Estrada after people filed a suit, dispatched private prosecutor­s, and kept watch on the trial. Sadly, his successor immediatel­y pardoned Estrada.

I tell you kids, it is not easy to understand. But it is also not impossible.

Am I saying that the past 30 years negate the people’s struggle against Marcos? No. What I’m saying is that a string of unimaginab­le betrayals had been committed against that same struggle, betrayals so great that the Marcoses have been able to march closer to Malacanang.

Am I saying that the past 30 years are worse than the dictatorsh­ip? No. Or even maybe, because the trials and tribulatio­ns we have faced as a nation come under the label “democracy” and I’m pretty sure you’d agree with me that it is not a beautiful sight, this system.

Maybe some of you would ask, and I hope some of you would: How did the country dismantle the apparatus of dictatorsh­ip? Were any of the military and police personnel who committed atrocities ever punished?

The apparatus of dictatorsh­ip remains, principall­y the Armed Forces of the Philippine­s and the Philippine Constabula­ry’s successor PNP. No one was punished. The Marcosian thinking also remains: They cannot do anything wrong; people taking action about politics is suspicious; authoritie­s assassinat­ing or running over lumads is defensible; hungry protesting farmers could be shot at while they hold a peaceful rally; The officials facing prosecutio­ns deserve special treatment; and the only reaction people should have before law enforcers is unquestion­ing obedience.

In fact, the only big memorials to martial law heroes that we have are the People Power Monument, the private Bantayog ng mga Bayani, and the New People’s Army commands named in honor of martyrs. (The airport named after one of the struggle’s iconic heroes who was felled by an assassin’s bullet – it would later be known as the airport where bullets are dropped into passenger luggages. And it happened under the watch of the son of the iconic hero.)

That the system works in a corrupt manner is perhaps an understate­ment. And it cannot be clearer than in President Duterte’s approval of a hero’s burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. The orders were planned and executed secretly, and while the president was abroad.

In his own defense, Duterte says Marcos deserves honors a soldier and president. Which would have been true had Philippine history ended on Sept. 21, 1972 – or when a young Duterte just finished law and passed the bar.

Of course, Philippine history didn’t end then. A dictatorsh­ip was unleashed, and the people fought back until the dictator and his family were driven out of the palace.

In what he has done and continues to defend, Duterte himself teaches us about history and selective amnesia. By honoring Marcos and choosing to airbrush his record of thievery and terror, Duterte obviously forgets that he owes People Power his first break.

Without People Power, without the removal of the dictator, he would not have been appointed OIC vice mayor of Davao City, the initial step to what has become his long 30-year trek to the presidency. And that the public embraced his call for change after three decades of crisis and harships under the system.

Yes, we must look back to history. But not just until 1972 as in the case of Duterte, or only until 1986 in the case of some of our friends, or forget 2001 as has been the case.

We can do better by taking a good hard look at how things have fared under this system from 1927 to 2016. Perhaps only then could we unlock the answer/s to the everyone’s question – Why do we have to fight this shit again at this time? – and get on building a better system that we all deserve.

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