NO, this isn’t about the self-serving attempt to deodorize martial law and the role of such individuals as Juan Ponce Enrile in it, in the worst case of historical revisionism since Gregorio Zaide claimed that Spanish conquest was the best thing that ever happened to these islands.

Two events occurred in the past week during which the political dynasties that have had a monopoly over political power in this country since 1946 went on an in-your-face display of how, despite the occasional shootings among them, they’re all in the business of running this country into the ground together. Both events showed that even if they do sometimes fight for power and its spoils, basically they’re all one family, whatever the difference in the names of their so-called “political parties,” which makes elections not about choice, but about keeping the same people and their relatives in government.

The first event was that display of intra-elite conviviality during the launch of Enrile’s so-called memoirs. Benigno Aquino III’s presence was bad enough. But he made things worse by shaking hands with Imelda Marcos. That took, if not a bad case of amnesia, a cast iron stomach that enabled him to keep his lunch despite being in the same company as some of the people who were very likely among those responsible for the murder of Benigno Aquino Jr. in 1983, and the “she’s- just- a- housewife- she- doesn’t- know-anything” campaign against Corazon Aquino during the elections of 1986.

The latter was at the time the mantra of the Marcos dictatorship, which, among its other pretensions, claimed to know everything, but actually knew nothing despite the abundance in it of craven bureaucrats with a sackful of college degrees.

Among the things it didn’t know was that not all Filipinos were so stupid as to believe that Marcos was electable in free elections in 1986. It didn’t know either that some still had courage, principle and patriotism enough to resist oppression, despite the torture and murder in which its military thugs had become expert.

Neither did the regime know housewives, who in this country manage to run households on meager budgets despite inflation, drugs in the schools, crime in the streets, and floods and landslides. Neither did it understand—it didn’t care– that by killing poets, teachers, doctors, journalists, students, labor and farmer leaders as well as priests and nuns so Marcos and his cronies could hang on to power, it was compromising the future of this country by dumbing down its people for at least two generations.

That was what martial law was all about, after all: about vaulting ambition, and about the scum of the earth’s torturing and killing some of the best and brightest men and women ever produced by a society in crisis. Most of all was it about halting the march to authentic democracy. It isn’t something like a snub you can forgive and forget: it was about thousands of men and women, and an entire country still in ruins today.

Ninoy Aquino understood what was at stake, which was why he risked death by returning to the country in 1983. So did Cory Aquino, flaws and all, which was why she too risked everything by running against Marcos in 1986. But here comes Aquino III in 2012, strolling into a roomful of people who once upon a time did everything in their power to keep the country poor and oppressed, and succeeding in that enterprise.

And did we really hear right? Did Oscar Lopez of BenPres Holdings and ABS-CBN , whose companies Marcos seized by imprisoning his brother Eugenio Lopez Jr., actually acknowledge the “humanity” of Marcos’ number two man during the hellish days of martial law?

Equally indecent were the events signaling the start of the seasonal freak show Filipinos call elections in this country. First came press reports that the Liberal Party coalition had completed “its” Senate line-up, which turned out to be less its coalition than that of four other, supposedly contending groups. Then followed the Club Filipino announcement, during which Mr. Aquino didn’t flinch when introducing his cousin “Bam” Aquino, whose qualification is his surname, among his candidates for the Senate.

Mr. Aquino even belabored his kinship with his cousin, referring several times to his parents and, in so many words, how they would have approved. Meanwhile, running for the Senate in the United Nationalist Alliance, or UNA, as if to make sure the clan would always have a hold on power, was Mr. Aquino’s aunt Margarita Cojuangco.

But the Aquinos were not alone in this public display of dynastic cohesion. The same UNA had Enrile’s son Jackie and Joseph Estrada’s son JV in its Senate slate, while Edgardo Angara’s son Sonny was in the Liberal Party coalition. In both groups were also the usual assortment of people who have long ran out of ideas, but who still think they have anything to say, or who never did anything in Congress, unlike those who did do something, but who were conspicuously absent from either roster. In between the two groups was a phenomenon unique even for this country: that of “common candidates,” meaning people who were in the slates of BOTH coalitions.

What other evidence than these validate the view that Philippine elections are not contests over principle, platforms, or programs, but veritable conspiracies among a class of people that, having shared power with Spanish conquistador, Yankee carpet-bagger, and Japanese invader, has been monopolizing political power in these isles of forgetfulness since 1946 and dooming its people to eternal poverty, social injustice, and misery?

These are the people who claim to be part of the solution, but who’re as much part of the problem in this country as dengue, tuberculosis, earthquakes, floods and typhoons—and who, much like those natural adversities, reproduce themselves in wives, sons, daughters, aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters so prodigiously even the Pacquiaos—Manny and his brother and his wife—are getting into the dynastic act by seeking re-election and election in 2013: he for the same Sarangani district he’s been neglecting since he was elected, his brother for another seat in Congress, and she for vice governor of Sarangani province.

But what of it? The House of Representatives is already teeming with hardly sentient beings, anyway. And Gregorio Honasan and Antonio Trillanes IV are after all already senators, and running again in 2013, the only difference between them being the people they launched coup attempts against. And isn’t the only way you can tell between Vicente Sotto III and Francis Escudero is the difference in what they don’t know? The former didn’t know what plagiarism is, while the latter didn’t know that criminal libel is part of the Cyber Crime Prevention Act when he signed it.

The mantra so piously hummed by election advocacy groups every election period is that people must go out and vote. There’s only one answer to that, and it’s a question: what in Heaven’s name for?—or, to put it in another way, who will they vote for, tweedle dum or tweedle dee?


Prof. Luis V. Teodoro is a former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication, where he used to teach journalism. He writes political commentary for BusinessWorld.

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