HISTORY books mainly chronicle the achievements of conquerors while playing down the sad plight of the vanquished. Hence, Filipinos routinely learn in history class that Ferdinand Magellan discovered them and not the other way around.
Yet, the truth of the matter is we woke up one morning and saw strange- looking people on our shores and that’s exactly how we discovered the Spaniards.
Ferdinand Marcos’ Martial Law regime will, therefore, most likely be featured in history books as the triumph of Capitalism over Communism, of theism over atheism, of law and order over anarchy. From the point of view, however, of the relatives and friends of those killed or made to disappear by the regime, Martial Law was a ruthless exercise of raw power.
For those who lost their businesses to the strongman’s cronies it meant economic backwardism. It also marked the beginning of our mindless slide towards amorality on the sled of political pragmatism. To compound the problem, Martial Law de-virginized the military politically, so to speak, that until today, in exchange for special favors, it props up the Arroyo regime with one hand while hanging the threat of a coup with the other.
Hence, I find it ironic (there’s that word again) that the son of the late dictator should be running for senator on a platform of reform. I find it utterly hypocritical that he should hit the Arroyo government for corruption and declare that those who have stolen money from the government should be made to return them when to this day the family fights to declare Marcos, who bled the country dry, a hero.
True, it is now commonly accepted that the Arroyo government is more corrupt than the Martial Law regime of Bongbong’s dictator father. But that does not make Bongbong any less the unlikely reformer that he is for being heir to his father’s Martial Law loot. People, because they know his late father upped the corruption ante, can be expected to ask, as I do now, why doesn’t he start by returning to the Filipino people everything his dictator father took from them?
Of these, money would be the easiest to return, yet the fight for the Marcos loot continues to this day in a painstakingly slow and corrupt way. Much harder, in fact impossible, would be the return of the lives of the thousands of Filipinos maimed, killed or otherwise made to disappear by the regime. And how does Bongbong plan to undo the politicization of the military, the economic backwardism and the loss of morality spawned by his father’s corrupt regime?
Is he perhaps running to atone for his father’s sins by undoing what the corrupt Arroyo government has done? But then, atonement usually comes after repentance and so far the Marcoses have shown to be unrepentant.