I have been partly reflecting on a recent Inquirer piece by the sociologist Randy David in which he wrote about the making of a tyrant, that is, President Rodrigo Duterte. The other part came to mind days ago as the faithful supporters commemorate the birth of the dead dictator, Ferdinand Marcos Sr.
The now-viral interview by Toni Gonzaga of former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. is not a new issue.
Put it differently, it is an old issue that fits the context of the rise of so-called “vloggers.” It is not an affront to the popularity of the platform nor the mode, and not even pick on the host as she is, but is more of the unrealized responsibility that vloggers carry (and this also includes paying taxes.
The video came out days after the 104th birthday of his father, Ferdinand Marcos, Sr., and days before the 49th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law. The timing is tricky as it is strategic. With less than a month before the filing of certificates of candidacy, we cannot decouple these interviews as if they exist in a vacuum. Regardless of the intent—neutrality (which in itself is false balance) or merely to attract viewership, the interview has very well spawned the talk of the younger Marcos gunning for a higher post than the one he previously held.
In a way, the ascension and meteoric rise of Mr. Duterte is a partial fulfillment of the return of a dictator at worst, an authoritarian leader at best. The failure of imbibing the lessons of the excesses of the Marcos conjugal dictatorship after their fall in 1986 has contributed greatly to the subconscious knowledge of the supremacy of the 20 years of the deposed dictator. It has largely been framed as the political position of the liberal democrats, most specifically the Aquinos. The catalyst of this was the transition of Noynoy Aquino from being a popular president to one that has faced one controversy after the other. It is this segment of his administration that has been blamed for the rise of Duterte—the latter was touted as one who is willing to circumvent the norms and boundaries of the law to get the job done, no matter what the consequences are. To blame his rise solely on this segment is myopic.
The simplification of those who subscribe to the idea that the anti-Marcos campaign is largely a making of the Aquinos, or “yellows”, or communists, does not obliterate the atrocities under the Marcos regime. The mention of the killings against farmers and indigenous people, and the mistakes of the second Aquino administration, does not discount the fact that thousands were imprisoned, tortured, and killed in the name of the New Society. They do not serve as counter-examples, rather, they amplify the thought that neither of these killings should have happened. The dichotomy is a disservice, a simpleminded take that lives have to be offered at the altar and that administrations have to be judged by way of how fewer killings happened under their watch.
This is where the Marcosian myth-making enters. For so long, the inadequacy of basic education to inculcate the abuses of the Marcos regime by softening the atrocities by equally presenting the projects under the regime (which are funded by loans that we repay up to this day or part of Imelda’s edifice complex) and the purported discipline during the implementation of Martial Law has led to the gradual blurring of the facts. I am not sure if Marcos Sr. intended it to be that way, but the family that he left made sure that his memory is never forgotten.
As soon as they returned to the Philippines in the early 90s, they wasted no time entering into the political arena—led, of course, by the other half, Imelda Marcos. And then the progenies continued. Their base in Ilocos Norte proved to be a fort that they retreat to whenever they suffer losses on the national scale. The stronghold of the so-called “Solid North” sounds very much alike to how the Dutertes, after the EDSA Revolution in 1986, have never left their seat in Davao City. So much so for parallelisms.
This dream of a Marcos return was somehow fulfilled by Rodrigo Duterte’s rise to power. Duterte is no Marcos, that has to be made clear. Marcos is a master strategist that even historians reading into his diary would make one’s head scratch. Duterte, on the other hand, is a continuum of outbursts to which he hinges on his decision-making. It is an unpredictable navigation of government policies that flip flop at whim and is in direct contrast to earlier pronouncements in which many have anchored their belief.
Those who believe Duterte after five years are likely to believe in the myths and falsehoods of the Marcoses. Notice how the President has aided in rehabilitating the Marcoses that at one point he wished Bongbong Marcos to succeed—not duly elected Vice President Robredo nor the loyal running mate Alan Peter Cayetano. Whether this is a slip of the tongue or an indirect admiration of Marcos by Duterte, is anyone’s guess.
Fully overturning their belief in Mr. Duterte at this point is like taming the powers of Gryffindor’s sword by killing a basilisk: it does not destroy the sword; it merely reinforces it. And so that has fully convinced me that if we are to bury the myths of the Marcoses, their lies, and fully hold them accountable to justice, it is necessary that the generation that rehabilitated their reputation naturally comes to pass and, in a way, let the truths finally take hold and gain ground—as a seed germinates when the conditions for it to do so allow it to.
The myth would stay on, no thanks to misinformation and disinformation in social media. It is, in a way, a double-edged sword for I think that those who have been fully convinced that Marcos is the opposite of what his supporters believe him to be would not have known the truth without social media.
In the parlance of romantic love in the time of social media, Marcos is not the one that got away. He is a dictator. He is not a hero. And he is, and will never be the best president this country had.
Enough of the lies. Never again and never forget.
About the Author
Edward Joseph H. Maguindayao is a graduate of UP Los Baños.