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.

71 thoughts on “The Long View: The Marcos restoration

  1. Too bad, many people have forgotten what the Marcoses have done to our country, moreso, to the lives of the Filipinos. I wasn’t born yet during the Marcos regime, but the effects of their policies(?) have trickled down to this generation.

  2. Well I was already 10-years old when Martial Law was declared and was 24 when it ended. During that time, we would have picked-up even the devil reincarnate to run against the Marcos’, yet after these many years, those who have lived then and now can truly say, we had better lives then than now. I cannot of course speak to those who were victims of oppression, as this is another story or chapter in our history. I am merely talking about the generalities of life of a common Filipino … then and now.

  3. consider this : life was, if not more difficult, then at least not much better, after edsa 1. whatever goodwill, or ill will in the case of the marcoses, edsa 1 brought disappeared, clobbered by disappointment. who wants to remember a revolution that didn’t actually revolutionize our life?

    consider as well: herman tiu laurel, a columnist in the tribune, says edsa 1 was arranged by george schultz and paul wolfowitz. so that revolution was not even ours? we were just played?

  4. Tama ba ‘yan? Kalimutan na lang ang mga masasamang ginawa ng mga Marcos? The plunder, the murders, the follies, the debts? Just sweep it all under the rug? You’re talking bullshit, man. It’s pathetic. I expect a better commentary from you. Since lifestyle columns and socialites have trumpeted the return and the restoration of the empress, we should all follow suit? “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.” DO YOU REALLY MEAN WHAT YOU’VE SAID? MUST we forget everything for the sake of the present times?
    But what about their moral crimes?
    So, we just have to lie back and enjoy the great rape of democracy, the restoration of tyrants?
    Tsk! Tsk! Tsk!

  5. luz, the fact i wrote this speaks for itself. as is the fact that for very many, they have already “moved on.” so for those who care, what’s left is to point this out, and no longer assume this is a matter capable of moving people the way they were once moved.

  6. Copy. Now I understand the context of your article. I just want to be assured that you remain anti-Marcos.

  7. To J_AG. You’re an idiot! Or, at the very least, you’re applying the psycho-analytic way of foregetting bad things.

  8. Hay, nakakalungkot isipin but MLQ3 is right. But we can’t blame the younger generation for simply being too young to remember and understand the Marcos years were about.

    I was born in 1967 and I remember my parents’ generation making us kids sing “Ang Bayan Ko” and having us distribute PDP-Laban flyers when Ninoy Aquino ran for election from his cell at Fort Bonifacio. But we didn’t understand what it was all about. My awakening came after the 1983 Aquino assassination, when I was a third year San Beda high school student then.

    That’s why it makes it important, especially in this time of HR 1109, for our youths to understand what the 1986 People Power Revolution means.

    Otherwise, we Filipinos will again suffer from a poor sense of history, if not the lack of it.

  9. Nice! I was hoping though that you’d also discuss and/or touch the Presidential Good, Very Very Good Government to the Marcoses who has essentially handed them back what’s ours (Filipinos) and geez was it everything?! Oh! And by the way, what ever happened to the Presidential Good, Very Very Good Government “OF THE” Marcoses???

    I doubt if this so called “political restoration” your talking is a “historical vindication finally achieved” na. Pour moi, hindi pa. The fat kapitana has not sung yet. At the moment, it looked like it is. I’d bet you, some “seated powers” were behind their “political restoration”. ~wink~ ‘course you know it. There’s no question that in their dreamlands they were able to make it. Though i doubt if they could make it on the national level. I still believe that history will be the best judge and they won’t be on the good side, they’ve never been. And history will tell us who “The Godfather” err “Godmother” was for their political comeback.

  10. Who else benefitted from the toppling of Marcos but the new succeeding oligarchies who were more of the same if not worse than Marcos. That 1986 so-called people power revolution was nothing to crow about, nothing for the new generations to be proud of because that was the signal, the start of our continuous decline to what we are now…the Philippines becoming the basket case of Asia.

  11. The Marcoses win by default. The dictator was replaced by an oligarchy that was just as “swapang”, perhaps even more so, because they were ravenous. Most of Marcos’ cronies remained largely unscathed. They only shifted allegiance to those who had assumed power. Nothing really changed, and the people know that.

    In the meantime, the country continues to

  12. In the meantime, the country continues to slog along, kept afloat by the greatest economic and cultural legacy Marcos bequeathed this nation: the OFW phenomenon.

  13. I believe that no amount of self-flagellation will change the past. However, we should learn from our rich political experience…it seems that only the oligarchs and neoligarchs have shown readiness to adapt and take advantage of all these nuances – thats why we see them enjoying the fruits of “their” labor. In every venture, there are winners and losers, its up to us where we want to be…

    On another topic, is there a site where the presidentiables or candidates are presented in an objective and comprehensive manner (responsibilities, job descriptions, objectives vis-a-vis accomplishments)? Why not invite them to post their resumes for objective and civilized review sans the showbiz fanfare? That would be something different for a change right? Just a thought…

  14. Blame Cory for the restoration of the Marcoses. She could have made a deal with then in during her term. She could have said ‘You can return to the Philippines but every member of the Marcos family will give up their political rights for the next 100 years’. But she didn’t do that and instead concentrated on recovering the ill gotten wealth and created the PCGG to deal with it. Where is the money now?

  15. The irony is lost on the Inquirer.

    What we’re seeing is not so much the beginning of the post Marcos era as the continuation of the celebrity era. This period being that one can be celebrity just by simply being famous — never mind the reasons for being famous.

    So don’t flagellate yourselves. The Marcoses have not won. Our history will always brand them as crooks and future generations of history students will see it that way.

  16. “it is next to impossible to get young voters to summon the imagination required to recapture the feelings—the lessons—of those times”

    Oh please Manolo, you’re giving the young too little credit. Isn’t it the old generation of state attorneys, judges and justices who let Imelda off the hook? Maybe if these OLD people had the gumption to put let this woman rot in jail then the young could make sense of the evils that the other half of Marcos had done to our country.

    Marcos leaving Malacanang in a helicopter, people kicking his portrait when the mob raided Malacanang-why isn’t this image being replayed over and over instead of the propaganda-esque paintings and self-portraits that your very blog is guilty of reposting and republishing? I think you’re partly guilty of this Marcos revivalism Manolo, even as you profess to criticize those who try to whitewash the former dictator’s memory.

  17. It isn’t so much that the old coat of paint isn’t being whitewashed. It’s that there hasn’t been a new and better coat painted over the old one. As I pointed out, our finances and our economic policy is still anchored and built around the old Marcosian foundation of exporting OFW’s.

  18. While I take the point Manolo is making, i.e. that the PDI’s – of all the media – kowtowing to Imelda does seem very odd, to say the least, I tend to agree with Carlito on this being more celebrity-driven thing than judging the history as such. I simply don’t believe Filipinos will not be able to make the distinction between democracy and dictatorship when looking back in a few years’ time.

    BTW, my own country is just about to celebrate 20 years of freedom (our own – Czech/-oslovak – version of EDSA came to be known as Velvet Revolution), and while it is true that the young generation does not necessarily feel the same hostility towards the once-dominant Communist Party as their parents do, I don’t see this as a danger for our democracy, nor to our sense of history. In other words, the evil that had been perpetrated by the communists over the spate od 40 years, is undeniable and will remain so. The same, I believe, goes for the Marcoses.

  19. It looks like the old generation had no guts to punish Marcos and his cohorts. They should have put them all in Munti or in an unkown isolated island somewhere in Pacific. Now we are seeing the results of what they failed to do and some are about to blame the young ones for the faults of the old ones.

  20. “As I pointed out, our finances and our economic policy is still anchored and built around the old Marcosian foundation of exporting OFW’s.”

    OFWs predominate, but there have been other innovations like the call center economy from Ramos’ time. Ramos also completely floated the peso vs the dollar, which really gave impetus to Filipinos to chase the dream of dollars abroad.

    Funny thing is, the Marcos apologists don’t even use the OFW innovation (which by most accounts is a pathetic economic strategy) when discussing Marcos’ legacy. Their arguments for Marcos’ legacy are the low crime and clean streets of Metro Manila.

  21. Also, before the Marcos fanboys go nutball on me, I should mention Marcos’ infrastructure contributions.

    But this pale in comparison to the damage he’s done: the crippling debt, the unabated rise of commie and Islamic rebels, crony capitalism, human rights abuse (although I believe this has been equaled, if not surpassed by GMAs record of journalist deaths), the revisionist monoculture of our history and culture sponsored by the strongman.

    The “young” people could help me fill in the other bad legacies of Marcos.

  22. Ramos was also responsible for the industrial parks that dot the country, which helped ease unemployment in the 90’s. Although this has become uncompetitive of late and became a marginal factor in our growth given the rise of slave labor in China’s manufacturing sector.

  23. SoP, what damage has FM done that his successors didn’t do or “bettered”? With what did we replace FM? Do we want another EDSA? Just follow EDSA 1’s formula: hakot and free food.

    EDSA 1 doomed RP into perpetual poverty when Cory shelved the Bataan Nuclear Plant. OFW’s were prime exports in FM’s time. Now they’re a dime a dozen.

  24. Because she is such a polarizing figure, the way Mrs. Marcos celebrated her birthday (or any celebration of hers, for that matter) enraged her detractors. Remember the old adage which goes something like — “the best revenge is to live well”? Well folks…… she’s living well at the age of 80 — she’s in the pink of health, she looks very good for her age, her almost 1,000 cases have all been dismissed save for about 30 more which don’t seem to be going anywhere, and , despite her tale that she is “impoverished, she is able to live in a duplex Penthouse at One McKinley overlooking Forbes Park, the Manila Golf Club and the Polo Club, and is a fixture at lavish parties whisked around in her BMW 7-Series limousine.

    And her enemies? Gnashing their teeth and shouting that she should be put in jail and burned at the stake. After all the sh*t that she’s been through and after all the sh*t thrown at her, whether or not it is an act of revenge on her part and whether or not it is justified under karmic law, NOBODY can dispute the fact that IMELDA IS LIVING HER LIFE WELL.

    And we all just have to live with that fact. A lot of us may not be able to grin about this, but everyone just has to bear with it.

  25. iving well is, indeed, the best revenge. And Imelda has become jolly and plump, while Cory looks like an old wasted hag.

    As for outsourcing, call centers and the like, I don’t know if Ramos would like to grab credit for that. There weren’t too many BPO’s during his time. The full fruition of BPO’s happened during GMA’s time. And as for industrial parks, Teddy Pena will attest that these were first undertaken by Marcos under his export processing zones. Furthermore, Marcos had a more comprehensive energy program, which has not been approximated by any of his successors. Cory only brought the darkness, while Ramos only brought in sky-high power costs, and onerous debt via Napocor, through his poorly thought-out IPP’s.

  26. “SoP, what damage has FM done that his successors didn’t do or “bettered”?”

    Our basic democratic rights-to vote, to assemble, free speech, are way better than in Marcos’ time. Redress in the courts is better than in Marcos’ time. You can expect to get treated fairly enforcing your property rights today than in Marcos’ time.

    Sure Marcos’ successor’s did “better” the national debt that ballooned year on year, but there are other things that post Marcos presidents achieved which surpassed Macoy’s achievements.

    Take the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant. That project was doomed from the start as it was built on a fault line. But Ramos enabled a lot of laws that ensured the energy security of the country, tapping geothermal and hydroelectric sources. It was flawed in execution, but it’s way better than the BNPP.

  27. “while Ramos only brought in sky-high power costs, and onerous debt via Napocor, through his poorly thought-out IPP’s.”

    I don’t see how you people can consider Marcos’ energy plan to be better than Ramos’. BNPP was built on a fault line and close to Pinatubo. It would have been shut down during the Pinatubo eruption. So how that be, by any measure, be considered a comprehensive plan? The energy sources built during Ramos’ time dot the country all over and are varied in source. This is more secure than having Luzon’s electric needs powered predominantly by single source.

  28. “iving well is, indeed, the best revenge. And Imelda has become jolly and plump, while Cory looks like an old wasted hag.”

    Have you guys ever noticed the stutter in Imelda when she speaks? It’s a mark of a pathological liar. Someone that has to lie all the time will develop this.

    Sure she “lives well” with all the trappings of a wealthy person, but could it be considered the “good life”? Could it be that Imelda had to be rich, snaring the most ambitious man in the country, buy 4000 pairs of shoes, jewelry, be surrounded by hollywood royalty, etc. because she was trying to fill an emptiness inside?

    By contrast Cory was a devout Catholic, a spiritual woman, who was instrumental in restoring democracy in our country.

    Wouldn’t you rather be reborn as a Cory than an Imelda?

    So does it come down to this? Is your definition of “living well” based on superficial basis like wealth and good looks? No wonder you people are easily impressed by Marcos’ superficial, on the surface achievement.

  29. So many things have been said about Ramos already, but personally I’m glad to be rid pf all those damned brownouts, and who among us here believes that BPOs will even be around if we still had power problems? It was a decision a leader had to make, and we are in fact benefiting from it. Unfortunately, we could not reach the bar, the vision, he had for the country. Inspite of stepping up to the challenge by improving our lot we may have been “tulog sa pansitan” and of course we looked for someone to blame.

  30. Don’t forget that FM negotiated amendments to the 1947 Bases Agreement.

    1) In 1979 all bases reverted to Philippine control and placed each base under a Philippine Base Commander
    2) US$500 million over five years starting in 1979
    3) US$900 million in economic and military aid over the next five years starting in 1984

  31. Don’t forget that FM negotiated amendments to the 1947 Bases Agreement.

    1) In 1979 all bases reverted to Philippine control and placed each base under a Philippine Base Commander
    2) US$500 million over five years starting in 1979
    3) US$900 million in economic and military aid over the next five years starting in 1984

    These “accomplishments” were not purely for national interest. Alfred McCoy had something on this in his book “Closer than Brothers” unfortunately I gave my only copy to a friend of mine already so I can’t look it up.

  32. Marcos’ energy plan does not only include the construction of the BNPP. It also includes the construction of geothermal plants, coal fired plants and dendrothermal plants. I forgot the location of that dendrothermal plant but everyone knows MAKBAN, Tiwi and Tongonan geothermal plants and the 2 Calaca coal-fired palnts.

  33. Ramos tapped geothermal and hydro? Really? Most geothermal plants were done under Marcos. Hydropower was extensively done under Ronnie Velasco’s tutelage when he was Energy Minister. What hydro can Ramos point to? Casecnan? That was a huge multimillion dollar rip-off. Only the proponents made money, hand over fist. It was a scandalous theft, as many of Ramos’ power projects turned out to be. Ramos was a Marcos wannabe. But he was a very poor imitation of his cousin. He never had the intellectual stature or the internal fortitude to be a great leader.

  34. My favorite Marcos’ era infrastructure is the Manila flood control project. The Napindan flood gates and Manggahan floodway are part of that project. Without the flood control project Manila is like Lake Manila during the rainy season.

  35. SoP: “Redress in the courts is better than in Marcos’ time. You can expect to get treated fairly enforcing your property rights today than in Marcos’ time.” In FM’s time we never spoke of disfunctional and damaged institutions as we do now.

    Japan is a virtual fault line, yet they don’t hesitate to build skyscrapers, and have their own nuclear plants. Technology, my friends. If indeed BNPP’s a lemon why do we have to pay for every nut and bolt in it? It seems to me that we’ve been had by interests that conflict with ours. And, we still tow their line.

    After FM, we gained the right to vote, for oligarchs. And even that is stolen from us almost at will.

  36. If Marcos Jr. wins a national election, it will be another sad day for the Philippines. I’m an expat and experienced first-hand the atrocities of the Marcos regime. Why Filipinos still grovel and kiss up to the Marcoses is beyond me. Is it because of Imelda’s notoriety? She is a laughingstock here in the U.S. Is it because of the glamourous lives they now lead, paid for in blood shed by Filipinos? It just goes to show how superficial the majority of the people have become. I’m glad I don’t live there anymore.

  37. Hi! MLQ3, I’ve been reading your blog for a while now.
    KaElin, Imelda is not only a laughingstock in the US but in so many other parts of the world. I had a british neighbour before who asked me, is imelda marcos smart or greedy? I said, she is greedy and immoral. For me and to my family and friends, imelda marcos and gloria arroyo are the same. Mga walanghiya.

  38. Not only geo and hydro, but natural gas as well. Connecting the grid and upgrading and expanding the transmission lines was also done in his presidency-all the 6 short years of it.

    Marcos did more of infrastructure project compared to his predecessors and successors respectively, but taking into account that he had 20 years to do this, it’s pathetic. He could have done more but didn’t because he’d rather skim the money to offshore banks.

  39. “In FM’s time we never spoke of disfunctional and damaged institutions as we do now. ”

    It’s because you didn’t have freedom of speech.

  40. “If indeed BNPP’s a lemon why do we have to pay for every nut and bolt in it? It seems to me that we’ve been had by interests that conflict with ours.”

    It could have been functional sure. But we had to buy uranium, which we don’t have, and figure out a way to dump the toxic waste on our already cramped, overpopulated islands. We also have to pay foreign scientists and foreign corporations for upkeep and maintenance.

    If the billions spent on the BNPP were spent on cheaper geothermal and hydroelectric alternatives, which could virtually infinitely provide for our energy needs, we would have saved billions. But Marcos, in his infinite megalomania and kleptomania, just had to go nuclear.

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