The Long View: The Marcos restoration

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.

Manuel L. Quezon III.

72 thoughts on “The Long View: The Marcos restoration

  1. According to this, all of Marcos’ infrastructure projects are just a pittance compared to how much money he had to work with.

    Table 1
    Estimates of foreign debt accumulation by administration
    In million dollars
    Indicator Marcos Aquino Ramos Estrada Arroyo
    1966-85 1986-91 1992-97 1998-00 2001-04a
    Foreign debt 26,252 29,956 45,433 52,060 56,718
    Accumulation 25,653b 3,704 15,477 6,627 4,658
    Annual accumulation 1,283 617 2,580 2,209 1,165

    a – As of March 2004
    b – Estimates peg total external debt at $599 million in 1965
    Source of basic data: Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas

  2. To All Marcos Apologists, Revivalists, Fanboys and Whitewashers

    Good news! So some of you are slowly and surely convincing me that Marcos should be the archetypal Philippine president. Being that I’m not old enough to experience first hand what happened during the Marcos years, and that my only recourse for facts is good old google and wikipedia, I just need just one final push to be convinced that Marcos ain’t that bad a president as he is demonized by many old timers.

    Forgetting for a moment that Marcos’ infrastructure achievements are just a pittance relative what his budget was (according to Ramrod’s figures), I’m slowly learning that his infrastructure projects were top notch, globally innovative (geothermal, coal and hydroelectric), and unprecedented in the history of the Philippines (Napindian floodgates, the bridge that connects the two islands, Marcos highway paved all the way to Baguio, among others).

    It has also been explained to me that the overthrowing of Marcos is U.S. conspiracy, a punishment for him pushing through with the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, which would have powered the Philippines into First World status. The CIA, wary of their “permanent aircraft carrier” becoming a rich, territorially sovereign First World nation (which would negate the need for U.S. bases leasing our cheap lands), sponsored Ninoy to be the anti-Marcos mouthpiece, even assassinating him eventually, so that the people would rise in people power to overthrow the out of favor Marcos.

    I’ve also heard the argument that the human rights violations committed by Marcos were not that serious compared to what has happened during GMA’s time , with all the killing of journalists and leftists. And that some of these “violated humans” are only faking it so they can get a piece of the Marcos billions that were being dispensed in the civil courts at home and the U.S.

    I’ve also been convinced that Marcos’ martial law proclamation was necessary to effectuate a singular point of dispensation of laws for stubborn Filipinos. I’ve read that most of Marcos’ laws are in the books to this day and have remained unchanged and are still in effect. And that, with the restoration of democracy, the rule of law has disappeared, crime has gone up, discipline decreased, all because the stubborn Filipino was released like a mad dog from the shackles of dictatorial rule. So Marcos knew the how to control the stubborn Filipino. Kudos to him and shame on me for harking for democracy like pre-programmed democracy automaton.

    I’ve also been told that Marcos is the consummate altruist, with all his historical, cultural, and philanthropic development and achievement. His wife’s (and by extension his) mini-projects, the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Philippine Heart Center, Lung Center of the Philippines, Kidney Institute of the Philippines, Nayong Pilipino, Philippine International Convention Center, Folk Arts Theater, Coconut Palace, Manila Film Center, etc. have opened the door to Filipinos to showcase their cultural legacy, in architecturally world class settings, and to have access to the nation’s best doctors in world class medical facilities.

    As for the dismal year on year national growth figures of the Marcos era, we can’t blame these on dictator. These were the fault of the First Quarter Storm hippies who did nothing but wreak havoc on the streets, ignoring for a moment that their duty is to study and be engineers and scientists for the nation’s eventual progress to First World status. Not smoke ganja and play guitar in the communes in the capital’s universities. Add to this the communists who were brainwashing farmers with commie nonsense and the revivalists of Islamic caliphate in Southern Philippines who were “the only ones brave enough” to go toe to toe with the dictator, then we have a sure fire formula to discourage foreign investments into the Philippines. Nope, not the fault of Marcos that the economy tanked. Blame the stubborn little Filipino running around like little spoiled brats (with guns and Molotov cocktails).

    But not to worry, Marcos still had plan C to save the Philippines from total collapse. I’ve been told by Carl that, had it not been for Marcos’ OFW (it was called OCW then) innovation, our economy and finances would be much, much worse than they would have been. And that all the presidents that followed after Macoy, still had the OFW template as the saving grace of the Philippines. It’s one heck of an achivement if you think about it, considering, Cory’s, Ramos’ Erap’s, and GMA’s plan A for Philippine progress is only Marcos’ plan C. That makes Marcos’ genius all the more apparent and I apologize to Marcos fanboys for putting Ramos, the intellectually inferior cousin, in a higher league than the dictator.

    That said, there is just one niggling hump over the Marcos Argument for Greatness that I cannot get over. And I need all of you, Marcos loyalists, to use your all your powers of persuasion to convince me that this hump is ignorable or is outright false. That hump my friends, is the oft-stated fact that MARCOS IS THE SECOND BIGGEST THIEF IN THE MODERN HISTORY OF THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD! Seriously, how can you Marcos apologists, revivalists, whitewashers and fanboys, be able to justify or argue for Marcos’ greatness when he had stolen so brazenly from the wallets of your parents and grandparents and did it to such a wide and unprecedented extent, that it put the Philippines on the map (well, into the Guinness Book of World Records)? Am I missing something here? Please convince me, show me the way, show me some facts, show me the truth, show me something that will persuade me not to treat Marcos as nothing more than a common criminal, a thief by all accounts, whose grave should be pissed on and whose memory should be insulted. I want to see the world through your eyes. Because from my point of view, it doesn’t matter how intelligent you are or how much you’ve achieved. If you kill, maim, steal, or rape, you ain’t worth the air of my breath or a neuron of my memory.

    I’ll be waiting for your replies and arguments in anticipation.

  3. Bravo, sop!

    If the Macoy’s tutas are still unconvinced—maybe we need “back to the future scenario” and see what happens when they encounter the Metrocoms, the Cosacs, the non-ending parades in Dewey/Roxas Blvd. lined by rain soaked grade school children waiting for the conjugal dictators. Ahh, maybe they will not change, they are part of the dictatorship and part of the caravan!

  4. Let’s try a re-run when they are soundly sleeping with their wives and children during a moonless night…

    Badong! Sumuko ka na…na…na..naaaa!

    Metrocom Ini…ni…ni…niiii!

    Tingnan lang natin kundi magtago ang balls na mga iyan sa kanilang lalamunan.


    “Please convince me, show me the way, show me some facts, show me the truth, show me something that will persuade me” that this is true, and not just the product of somebody’s wild and bloated imagination.

    Let’s do some basic ‘rithmetic. How much “loot” did we say he got away with? What was FM’s budget in his 20-year “reign”. Does it match, somehow? How much did his successors spend during their term? What do they have to show for it?

    Those rain soaked children waiting for the “conjugal dictators” were having three meals a day, so much unlike the starving children cramped up in our schools today who are too weak to even curse their fate. Or too ignorant event to know anything better. Never mind that a lot more are out of school groveling for morsels of food with their mothers.

  6. Yes, in this day and age of computers and internet some are still willing to make our beloved country the doormat of the trapos as long as they have three meals of tuyo and lugaw while their infants are relying on “am” for survival. Never mind the lost of our freedom as long as our stomach have crumbs.

    Many are still awed by the Heart Center, the Kidney and Lung Centers. How many have seen San Lazaro with so many dying infants lined up on a very long table many of them did not even have IV fluids? How many have seen North general wards, PGH and even the Orthopedic wards? Priorities my friends, they did not have priorities during those days, its all about public image at pabongga sa katulad nilang trapo. IMMR and MMR were soaring while the dictators were building the Heart Center.

  7. “Yes, in this day and age of computers and internet some are still willing to make our beloved country the doormat of the trapos as long as they have three meals of tuyo and lugaw while their infants are relying on “am” for survival. Never mind the lost of our freedom as long as our stomach have crumbs.”

    – Now, you’re talking. And this is not FM’s era, surely. Then, the poor eat with bare hands. Now they are forced to use spoons, the only way to eat soupy noodles. An impartial survey would show that people felt safer walking the streets in FM’s time than now.

    – Government hospitals are in a worse condition now. Yet we no longer have to build a Heart, Kidney and Lung center. It’s already there to serve us. It seems that FVR and GMA would rather go on junkets than build lasting edifices. Talk of priorities!

  8. tax, you did not get it or my note is not clear. what i was saying is that modern men like you are still willing to bear the horrendous poverty and lost of freedom during the time of macoy and at this point you and cohorts, the “well informed filipinos” are it seems , still in favor of how macoy ruled rp.i’m really not comparing other administrations with macoy’s. all i know is macoy’s term was very, very bad for rp and with the mentality of some filipinos who are supposed to be the intellectual group, rp is leading its path back to macoy’s time.

    ultimately the people’s will prevails whether it is under Ramos, Enrile, Cory or Cardinal Rosales. if the filipinos, especially the intellectuals are willing to lose their freedom and have a partially full tummy, this will happen.

  9. pilipino,

    – “i’m really not comparing other administrations with macoy’s.”

    Does it hurt so? Then, by all means don’t. But, how else can you say, “macoy’s term was very, very bad for rp.” Very, the word, is a Grade 1 lesson. If I remember correctly, it’s about comparisons.

    – Horrendous poverty. Where were you in FM’s time? Where are you now? If it was horrendous then, is it less so now? Please tell me. I’m sorry about the comparison, but can we avoid it?

    – Lost freedom. Did you find it in Cory, FVR, ERAP or GMA? Tell me, please. Did Cory really really restore democracy? In the first place, did we ever really have one? If so, are you happy with it?

    – ultimately the people’s will prevails. When was this?

  10. If we are willing to lose freedom of speech (like what we are doing now) then by all means bring Macoy back.
    If we are willing to sacrifice the dusk till dawn gimmicks at Embassy, by all means bring back the curfew with Martial Law.
    Marcos applied the Machiavellian principles to the hilt, ruling with an iron hand while bombarding propaganda with the other. For those who are content to just scratch the surface, it was heaven (at least for simpletons who believe that life is just having a meal 3 times a day). Some people just can’t see beyond certain paradigms.
    We are free, lets celebrate it at least. Otherwise try moving to Myanmar, or Vietnam, see if you can easily put up a business there.
    Of course, living with a dictator is easy, you just stay on his good side, say yes all the time, and sing praises or Bagong Lipunan. If you happen to be on the brunt end of the stick (like your business conflicts with crony interests) then sell asap to them. If a member of your family gets picked up arbitrarily by police in the middle of the night in your home, say thank you. How many desaparedos were there? They deserved it, all those students, teachers, farmers, and losers.

  11. Under the martial law Marcos disregarded the constitution. For instance, he violated the provision which guaranteed the Bill of Rights (Article III). Upon his orders, the military picked up and detained thousands of Filipinos suspected of subversion. Among them were his critics and political opponents namely Senator Benigno S. Aquino, Jr., Francisco “Soc”Rodrigo, Jose W. Diokno and Jovita R. Salonga. Hundreds of detainees were tortured by their captors. Some disappeared and were never found again. Many were held in military detention camps for years without trial.

    As a result of the foregoing measured, the crime rate in the country was reduced significantly. People became law-abiding. But these good gains did not last long. After a year of martial law, crime rates started to soar. By the time Marcos was removed from power, the peace and order situation in the country had become worse.

    This communist insurgency problem did not stop when Marcos declared Martial law. A government report in 1986 showed that the NPAs already numbered over 16,000 heavily-armed guerillas. The NPAs waged a vigorous war against government forces They staged ambuscades and engaged in terrorist activities such as assassination of local officials who were known to be engaged in corrupt activities. The NPA killer squads were called Sparrow Units. They were feared in the areas under their control. They also imposed taxed in their territories.

    To fight the growing NPA threat, Marcos increased the armed forces to over 200,000 men. He also organized Civilian Home Defense Forces in the rural areas threatened by the NPAs . Several NPA leaders were captured like Jose Ma. Sison, alleged founder of the communist Party in the Philippines; Bernabe Buscayno, the NPA chief, and Victor Corpus, a renegade PC lieutenant.

    The rampant violation of human rights of the people in the rural areas suspected of being NPA sympathizers, the injustices committed by some government officials and powerful and influential persons, and the continuing poverty of the people were used as propaganda of the NPA in attracting idealistic young people. Even priests and nuns who were witnesses to the oppression of the Marcos dictatorship join the NPAs. One of the priests who joined the NPA was Father Conrado Balweg of the Society of the Divine Word (SVD). He became a rebel folk hero to the ethnic tribes in the Cordilleras in Northern Luzon. As of July 1993, Balweg claimed to reports: “I am still in charge”.

  12. tax, with your kind of reasoning and questions we will not be going anywhere. i will just say i lived years before , during and after martial law. i experienced being part of the press, the sit-ins, the rallies, the medical missions, the medical teams etc. i did not go to the mountains and fight like the crazy commies who in my opinion are more dangerous.several of my relatives were dead because of martial law, some were with the rangers and the army, some were civilians.i hope you will have an open mind and see the real things and not the illusions made by macoy and company.

  13. last note , tax…we will not be here with manolo’s blog if martial law is still in effect. we should have been salvaged a long time ago!

  14. If history were written by society columnists, then the Marcoses are fully restored.

    But if they truly are restored, at the behest of the uninitiated youth, then there’s hell to pay for them… but perhaps someday they’ll curse their misfortune and sing, never again!

  15. “taxj on Thu, 9th Jul 2009 10:41 am
    How much did his successors spend during their term? What do they have to show for it?”

    If GMA was a dictator like Marcos we would have had a National Broadband Network and North Rail by now. By thank God for democracy, the people’s representatives can scrutinize the fuzzy financial estimates.

    Marcos didn’t have that kind of oversight, so his projects went through unopposed. Of course, the estimated $5 to $10 billion he skimmed of those projects and the national coffers went unopposed as well.

  16. The problem of the Filipino youths today is that they are not interested about our history anymore… many doesn’t care about politics and current affairs… so when it comes to election, they have no idea what the Marcoses had done to the country in the past..

    Don’t tell me its unfair to make this statement to the youth.. coz I’m a youth… I’ve seen a lot of unpatriotic Filipino youths in my lifetime.. who doesn’t care about their country anymore…

  17. “By thank God for democracy, the people’s representatives can scrutinize the fuzzy financial estimates.”

    – Thanks for democracy, we saw the tip of the iceberg, and was able to stop it. Was it because of “the people’s representatives”? Where are the culprits now? Where is Chairman Abalos? Where is Jlo?

    – What’s so great about being able to blog freely? What so great about being able to bay the moon? Did it in anyway diminish the endless junkets? And the unexplained disappearances like that of Jonas Burgos?

    – Ok, the ravenous monster’s gone. But I have no time to rejoice, nor fear it’s return. Not when insatiable leeches are sucking me dry.

  18. A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.
    -Ralph Waldo Emerson

  19. There are two characteristic attitudes among Marcos loyalists that have become adopted by too many Filipinos today; mostly, alarmingly, by young people 25 and below.

    The first characteristic is relative morality, as opposed to absolute morality. In other words, “FM ( substitute with another politician’s name as necessary) was the best because his successors have not done better.”

    Our moral standards as a people have become so low that we no longer require our national leaders not to be liars, murderers, and thieves.

    That the mere whiff of an impropriety is unacceptable has become a foreign concept to us.

    The second Marcos loyalist characteristic attitude is being beholden to glamour, physical beauty, wealth, eloquence for the sake of eloquence, and overt display of power and authority, which is interpreted as strength and decisiveness, regardless of intentions.

    As a college student, I had to endure many hours of insults to President Cory’s dressing preferences and even the way she smiled, from my loyalist professors, during class hours. All followed by talk of how pretty Imelda still is and how magnetic FM was.

    This is the attitude that informs that now-infamous PDI gushing news story.

    And the youth? If indeed they call Imelda a “celebrity” instead of a word that describes a criminal on the loose, despite the readily available information on the Internet about what she did, the beholden attitude is there among them too and it is a very sad thing.

    Two years ago, I was 36, and my office assistant was 24. During a conversation he suddenly said, with apparent conviction, “ang pinakamagaling talaga si Marcos.”

    I was too stunned to say anything. There were too many thoughts running in my head.

    It’s not so much that the Marcoses have been restored. It’s just that we as a people have sunk lower, and are continually sinking, into a pit where values no longer exist.

    Sent on a phone using

  20. If the succeeding administrations, from President Aquino to President Macapagal (a span of twenty three years!) had moved this country forward in a significant way, if only from “3rd world” to “2nd world,” then I’m sure the vilification of Marcos’ reign would ring “true” to this day. But the older people will be the first to tell their children that nothing has changed, if not changed for the worse. History continues to be written and if the Marcos era is beginning to look better from this distance, we only have to blame what came after.

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