DISSOCIATING himself from the Marcos dictatorship he had served even before the declaration of martial law in 1972, Juan Ponce Enrile told an interviewer in 1986 that the Marcos administration of which he had been a part since 1965 faked the “ambush” on his car that Ferdinand Marcos used as his immediate excuse for placing the entire country under martial law. In 2012 Enrile denied he ever said so, and declared instead that the “ambush” was not faked; it had merely been “staged.”
Nowadays raids on communities, arbitrary arrests, abductions and enforced disappearances have become “development” efforts in the deceptive language of a military apparatus whose corruption and fascist ideology have withstood the half-hearted attempts by every administration since Marcos to uproot and replace it with something approaching human decency.
This is the kind of gall, the effrontery and sheer impudence, that’s running riot in this country, where the worst claim to be the best, torturers say without flinching that they’re for human rights, and the vilest creatures have the audacity to accuse their moral betters of committing the crimes they themselves habitually inflict on others.
And then there’s Imelda Marcos, who’s in a class by herself.
Ferdinand Marcos’ widow and Minister of Human Settlements said in a recent interview with the Japanese news service Kyodo News timed with the 27th anniversary of the EDSA mutiny that overthrew her late, unlamented dictator of a husband that her son Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. should be President of the Philippines.
Her son, she said, “is well-educated and he is prepared. And his record in Ilocos is very good. He has been a good executive.” In addition to Marcos Jr.’s possession of degrees from the United Kingdom’s Oxford University and the Wharton School of Business in the United States, his mother also said he had been “molded, even as a child, in an atmosphere of service to people. He knows exactly what leadership is.”
Marcos Jr. may indeed have been a good executive, although it could be argued that being governor of a province, especially a province like Ilocos Norte where the Marcoses are assured of the support and even adulation that earned for it in Marcos Sr.’s time the preferential treatment he withheld from other, less adoring provinces, isn’t the same as running an entire country.
But granting that Marcos Jr. has the executive ability to do so, what his own father’s regime hopefully taught the country was that neither administrative ability nor political acumen — even brilliance, or at least the guile his enemies grant the older Marcos had plenty of, isn’t enough without the moral compass, the compassion, the plain humanity and even just the imagination that can prevent a President from ruining a country and attacking his own people. As guileful as Ferdinand Marcos was, he had neither the imagination to create in these islands the alternative society the best and the brightest have been fighting for since the Spanish period, nor the empathy for human suffering that could have prevented his regime from turning into an elite instrument of murder and torture.
To this very day, no Marcos has ever admitted that reality. Marcos Jr. himself said only last September 21, 2012, the 40th anniversary of the declaration of martial law, that “My father was always one to comment on current events and history, and the conversations I had with him cumulatively over the years gave me a more complete, if not complex, picture of the context in which martial law was declared.”
And what was that context with which he became acquainted? Was it perhaps Marcos Sr.’s desire to remain in power beyond the two-term limit in the 1936 Constitution and his wanting to be President forever? Or did Marcos Sr. acquaint him with one of the primary reasons why he declared martial law, which was the increasingly deadly contention between the traditional landed elite that had made the shift to industry like the Lopezes on the one hand, and on the other, the upstart bureaucrat capitalists, of which Marcos himself was the exemplar, who coveted their assets and thought the former an impediment to their quest for unlimited pelf and power?
Did Marcos Sr. perhaps acquaint his offspring with the reality of US support for dictatorships such as his, Suharto’s of Indonesia, and Stroessner’s of Paraguay so long as they were anti-communist, thus assuring the worst dictatorships not only of US political patronage but also of economic and military aid?
Or was it none of the above, Marcos Sr.’s official justification for martial rule being to “save the Republic and reform society” – through which buzz words he suggested that he was only being nobly moved by love for the democracy that, as limited as it was, nevertheless did bar him from another term, and did have a Constitution with a liberal Bill of Rights that he immediately suspended on September 21, 1972?
An even more interesting question because of the probable answer is whether Marcos Sr. also passed on to Junior the limitless appetite for wealth that qualified Senior for inclusion in the Guinness Book of World Records. Did Junior also learn at his father’s feet the imperative to seize absolute power as the precondition for accumulating as much wealth as possible, and to amass yet more, and yet more – and still more?
The sins of the father, we are told, should not be visited on the sons. And yet, are not children nurtured by their parents on, among others, what values they should hold most dearly?
Could among those values be the unbridled lust for the material things that could only be assuaged by its companion, absolute power — for, as Mrs. Marcos told her Kyodo News interviewer, “all the jewelry, all the paintings, all the buildings I could afford”?
It is of course possible that Marcos Jr. is the President this country has been waiting for — the leader who will finally take it to that long promised land of peace, justice, prosperity and independence that it has so far failed to reach. But it is also possible that he isn’t, and is in fact truly his father’s son. The possibility of the second is a risk the Filipino people can no longer afford to take — not at this time, and not ever again.