Imminent danger

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Never mind the 2017 Duterte State of the Nation Address, which was replete with profanities, self-serving claims of current and future progress on various fronts, among them the regime’s brutal and failing war on drugs, and justifications for the use of unaccountable State violence. Take his so-called assurance that he won’t place the entire country under martial law with a reasonable amount of skepticism. All SONAs are after all political and since Commonwealth days have served the ends of every Philippine regime without exception.

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The past in the present

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If those who fear martial law are “living in the past,” it is because much of that past, with or without martial law, is still very much in the present. Human rights defenders are still under threat, and farmer leaders, indigenous people, protesters and political activists harassed and even killed, even as a brutal “war on drugs” that presumes guilt rather than innocence continues to claim dozens of lives every week at the hands of a police force emboldened by President Rodrigo Duterte’s frequent assurances of impunity, or exemption from punishment.

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Things fall apart

Imee Marcos and Rodrigo Duterte
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The 31st anniversary of EDSA 1986 was marked — the government didn’t exactly celebrate it — with both chaos and indifference. The disorder was evident in the differences in the various groups’ and even the government’s separate and conflicting activities to observe it. Apathy was the usual response of much of the populace to an event whose significance has continued to elude them in the same way that they can’t tell what happened in much of Philippine history, thanks to what we laughingly call the educational system.

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Refuge of scoundrels

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TO Samuel Johnson (born 1709; died 1784), poet, essayist and author of A Dictionary of the English Language (published in April, 1755), do we owe the observation that “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.”

His biographer James Boswell (born 1740; died 1795) claimed that Johnson wasn’t condemning patriotism but how it was being misused by the unscrupulous to justify even the foulest of deeds. If that was indeed what Johnson meant, he was not not only being astutely observant about his times; he was also being prophetic. Scoundrels have indeed used patriotism, or love of country, to justify even the worst crimes.

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Villain in hero’s guise

Ferdinand Marcos
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The Libingan ng mga Bayani is not, as it name suggests, literally a heroes’ cemetery. Soldiers, policemen, and former Philippine presidents can be buried there, apparently on the tenuous presumption that by having worn a police or military uniform, or being elected to the Philippine presidency, an individual becomes a hero — meaning an exemplar of humanity, and worthy of emulation for, presumably, having risen above the limits of personal, familial and class interests in behalf of country and people.

Most dictionaries define heroes and heroism in less socially redeeming terms. A hero, says the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is “a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities,” or “a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability.”

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Earning credibility

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Ferdinand E. Marcos, the Philippine government’s Official Gazette’s social media post finally said in its third revision of the caption accompanying the late dictator’s September 11 birthday photo, was “the longest serving President of the country for almost 21 years.”

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Let the dead bury their dead

Libingan ng mga Bayani (Makati Portal)
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“Cemetery of Heroes” is the English translation of “Libingan ng Mga Bayani,” where burying the remains of the late Ferdinand Marcos, Sr. has been resisted for years by most of the victims of the fascist dictatorship he erected on the ruins of the Republic in 1972.

That has not always been the Cemetery’s name. Established as the Philippine equivalent of the American Cemetery and Memorial in Manila where the remains of United States military personnel killed during World War II are buried, it was created in 1947 as the Republic Memorial Cemetery, and given its current name only in 1954, during the administration of then President Ramon Magsaysay — who is himself not buried there.

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History as tragedy, history as farce

Sen. Bongbong Marcos in Pangasinan (Senate photo)
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Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. (“Bongbong”) was talking “revolution” last Saturday, October 17. The occasion was his formal declaration during a ceremony in Manila’s Intramuros (walled city) that he’s running for Vice President of the Republic in 2016.

He didn’t sound as if he were running for the country’s second highest post, however, but for its highest. He said he would “lead a revolution in the mind, in the heart, and in action (“Pamumunuan ko ang isang rebolusyon sa isip, sa puso, at sa gawa”). He also said “Hindi pa tapos ang rebolusyon. Hindi pa tayo lubos na malaya (The revolution is not yet over. We are not yet truly free).”

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Martial law by presidential default

Ferdinand Marcos declaring martial law on September 23, 1972 (Presidential Museum and Library)
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The Philippine government marked the 43rd anniversary of the declaration of martial law with the usual mantras about the need for everyone to see to it that “never again” will there be authoritarian rule in this country.

Speaking for President Benigno Aquino III, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, who was himself a political prisoner during the period, described martial rule—which Ferdinand Marcos imposed throughout the country in 1972 through Presidential Proclamation 1081—as “one of the darkest chapters in the country’s history.”

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