Marcos, a charismatic leader?

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By Arnold Van Vugt

The Living Spirit

Saturday, December 22, 2012


DURING the martial law years, there were many people who believed that Marcos was a charismatic leader. That is why they still believe that he should be buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani, like our lawmaker from Cagayan de Oro.

Many of our bishops during martial law thought that Marcos was a charismatic leader. That is why their policy was critical collaboration with the Marcos regime.

Marcos was believed to be a charismatic leader, because he thought that our society needed discipline and law enforcement. After he grabbed power in 1972, one of his first acts was the public execution of a drug trafficker in Luneta. Then he put in jail all those activists whom he branded as communists. Workers’ rights were suspended, no more strikes, no more demonstrations.

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Marcos controlled also the media. In the newspapers you could read all the good news about the New Society he created. The Association of Major Religious Superiors, who ever since the beginning of martial law protested against the evils of the Marcos’ regime, set up its own newspaper called Signs of the Times. I myself was part of the management of that newspaper. We reported all the bad news that we received from the provinces about the so-called New Society of Marcos. This you would not read in the Marcos’ newspapers. That is why we called the paper Signs of the Times, to respond to what was going on in the countryside during Marcos’ time. Our printing office was raided several times.

We reported also about the work of the real charismatic leaders among us: Sr. Cristine Tan of the Association of Major Religious Superiors of Women in the Philippines and Sr. Mariani Dimaranan of the Task Force Detainees of the AMRSP. I myself worked in the underground movement.

The Marcos regime reminded me of Adolf Hitler during the Second World War. I remember, Hitler presented himself to the German people as a visionary and many ordinary Germans believed in Hitler. In his Mein Kampf he presented his brutal vision: ‘He who does not want to fight in this world of eternal struggle, does not deserve to live.’

Like Marcos, Hitler had also his para-military groups who went after the Jews all over Europe, which led to the Holocaust of millions of Jews. After the first world war of 1914-1918, the German people were desperate and they chose to have faith in a leader they felt had charisma.
Hermann Göring, Hitler’s defense minister, said: ‘We love Adolf Hitler because we believe that he was sent to us by God to save Germany.’ People looked on Hitler as a messiah.

After the war, the common excuse of the German people was: Wir haben es nicht gewüszt – we didn’t know it.

The Carmelite Fr. Titus Brandsma was requested by the Dutch Bishops to expose in the national media the evil of the Nazi ideology. For this, he died in the concentration camp in Dachau.

This all sounds very familiar in our ears. Marcos with his New Society idea as our new messiah. Our defense minister Juan Ponce Enrile, the hench-man of Marcos, faking an ambush for him. The military under Marcos, picking up communist activists all over the place.

Marcos’ rise to power in 1972, I believe, is a warning to us of what can happen in desperate times. We must be wary of our so-called charismatic leaders in Senate and Congress. We must look for the real charismatic leaders among us.

(For your comments, email nolvanvugt@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on December 23, 2012.

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