Music of a people-A A +A
Saturday, September 14, 2013
AS it has done over the past 19 years, Cebu media today will launch its Press Freedom Week celebration. This is a timely drill. The old threats against liberty of expression have taken new forms in cyberspace.
The anchor of Cebu’s unique Press Freedom Week is historical. Far too many of us today take liberty of expression as a constitutional given, “constant as the northern star” in Julius Cesar’s imperious image. This complacency courts tomorrow’s disaster.
“The first step in liquidating a people,” the historian Milan Hubl says,” is to erase its memory.” Imelda Marcos remembers-–selectively. So do her kith and bejeweled kin, with secret accounts in Virgin Island. Add aging loyalists.
“Martial law was a peaceful provision to ensure peace in our country,” she said after People Power ouster. “Tayo ang nagligtas ng demokrasya.”
Just before son Ferdinand Jr. was sucked into the pork barrel whirlpool, Madame insisted: Junior is ideal candidate for president come 2016. He’d “continue the legacy of the former president.”
That includes, 3,257 persons “salvaged,” 737 desaparecidos, plus thousands detained without trial, under the “New Society.” Factor in landing in the Guinness Book of Records for over $800 million theft.
Bongbong played coy: “When I was young, I really didn't want to be involved in politics.” And now that he’s older? “We shall see,”
Junior said, despite festering accusations of family sleaze. The US Court of Appeals (9th circuit) slammed Ferdinand Jr. and mother with a $353.6-million contempt judgment a year ago. Why? They tried to smuggle paintings and artworks subject to court decision.
“We have little collective memory of the past,” Ateneo University President Bienvenido Nebres, S.J., told the Legacies of the Marcos Dictatorship conference. “We tend to live in a perpetual present. Thus, we cannot see well in the future.”
There is an ongoing systematic attempt to whitewash the dictatorship’s past. “Long before fury against today’s pork scam broke out, the Marcoses were trying in YouTube to paint a rosy picture of martial law,” Inquirer’s Conrad de Quiros wrote. “They are not going to stop now that they espy an opening with which to barge through. Nor will the Arroyo camp.”
Back in June 2006, Visayan Daily Star warned against “a calibrated and bankrolled-attempt to rehabilitate, by installment, the dictatorship.” That swept in the bid, despite Joseph Estrada's help, to bury the dictator's corpse in Libingan ng mga Bayani, setting Marcos holidays to mass-producing textbooks “that alters what God cannot.”
In the 220-page text book “Marangal na Pilipino," for example, Rizal's name appears six times, that of Marcos 136 times. The record of five presidents, from Manuel Roxas to Diosdado Macapagal, is crammed into 8 pages. But it splurged 48 pages on Ferdinand Marcos.
"In the subliminal message that has been sent, who will students think did more for our country?," whistle-blower Antonio Calipo Go asked.” Where the book records the dictatorship's excesses, they're justified by Marcos' intentions. These colored judgments made "martial law appear benign.”
Media do not operate in a vacuum. We live in a “constrained democracy.” Institutions rebuilt from Marcos’ scorch-earth rule remain frail. They’re constantly besieged by power-seekers, through “coups for rent” or systematic smearing and lies.
As the song in the musical Les Miserables puts it: Media must sing…“the music of a people who will not be slaves again.”
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 15, 2013.