The Long View
The Marcos restoration
By Manuel L. Quezon III
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 04:02:00 07/06/2009
Saturday’s gushing coverage in this newspaper of Madame Imelda Romualdez Marcos’ 80th birthday brings up a provocative question, considering the Snap Election and People Power origins of this paper. That question is: wasn’t the proliferation of glowing Imelda coverage a sign that the battle for history has been won – by Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos?
For there seems to me no better proof that the rehabilitation of the couple is now complete: the fluffy, cooing front-page lifestyle-style story was devoid of reproach, as was Kit Tatad’s paean to Madame as a victim of the uneven application of justice. Who, then, can doubt, that their being a political issue has been laid to rest; their political restoration, at last, complete; and with it, their political and historical vindication finally achieved.
Ms Marcos has been winning cases in court, and in 1995 she served as congresswoman for her home province; her children have taken turns representing her husband’s district in Ilocos Norte and being chief executive of the province, and one of her grandsons became a billboard icon. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is said to be poised to make a bid for a Senate seat, under the auspices of the Nacionalista Party. As the old Ethel Merman song goes, “Everything’s coming up roses.”
A friend in his late 20s recently made a comment that stuck in my mind: “You have to realize that for our generation Imelda’s simply a celebrity, we don’t view her the way older people do.”
I first got an inkling of this a few years ago, when Ms Marcos deftly filed an injunction to prevent the showing of Ramona Diaz’s documentary “Imelda,” which only whetted the public’s appetite for the film, which the public then lapped up when it was finally allowed to be shown. The documentary was (unintentionally, to be sure) a magnificent PR piece because it presented her as an eccentric but essentially charming personality incapable of monstrosity.
A politician considering running for national office told me the other night that he’d in fact asked voters in a survey if the Marcoses mattered, politically, and the answer was no – for those 40 years old and below, who incidentally comprise the overwhelming majority of the electorate. The Marcoses are a negative factor, the politician added, for those who are older – but they only constitute about a third of voters.
And so, for Ms Marcos or her children, the shadow of her husband over the public imagination, which once loomed so large in a sinister way, can be said to be benefiting from a kind of nostalgia for the ’70s. A simpler, happier, more optimistic time, which can only get more golden in retrospect.
Of course the rehabilitation of the Marcoses, while far advanced socially, has been going on for some time, politically.
Indeed, Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) chieftain Eduardo Cojuangco Jr. could have won the presidency in 1992 if Ms Marcos hadn’t split the loyalist vote in that election. Her taking 8 percent of the vote was enough to deny Cojuangco victory. In 1998, with Joseph Estrada, himself a loyalist, partial vindication for the Marcoses, who supported Estrada, was achieved: the Estrada political machine in large part was built on the remnants of the old Marcos machine and he was surrounded in many respects by the senior faces of the leadership of the New Society.
Arguably, the process of rehabilitation is inevitable; the lifetime of specific personalities or the great causes of a particular era seems to comprise about a generation.
For 20 years the Federalistas, after they made the initial political mistake of advocating statehood instead of independence, and who thereafter adopted a more cautious approach to the inevitability of independence, doomed themselves to a slow but inevitable slide toward political extinction – even when they tried rebranding themselves as the Democrata Party.
The Democratas dissolved in 1933 with their leadership realigned with the Anti Hare-Hawes-Cutting faction of the Nacionalistas. So it would be when the remnants of the formerly monolithic KBL found a new lease of political life first in GAD, then the revived Nacionalistas and then the NPC (itself a faction of the NP).
Just as, in the first two decades of the postwar era, the question of collaboration was a potent weapon in political campaigns, so did the issue of the dictatorship remain politically potent for 20 years after martial law. The splintered forces of Edsa from time to time reunited in opposition to the Marcoses, though from their return the old bailiwicks of Ilocos and Leyte returned the Marcoses and Romualdezes to power with resounding majorities.
The appeal, then, of Edsa in 1986, has dissipated, as far as its being able to summon political participation for or against an issue or candidate, among the young. For those who actually lived through the dictatorship, fought it, or suffered at its hands, or who simply believed it had outlived its potential and turned, instead, into an albatross around the neck of the country, it is next to impossible to get young voters to summon the imagination required to recapture the feelings – the lessons – of those times.
So it is that every generation passes and with its passing, its memories and feelings are lost; and so it must be that we are, at long last, truly entering the post-Marcos era. In which case the fulsome coverage of Ms Marcos’ birthday celebrations was less something to be outraged about, and instead, simply something to take notice of: a signpost of how the times have changed, as they must.
And it is, for us, simply to take notice of such things, to observe them, chronicle them, and by so doing, usher in what is, and no longer what once was.