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