Pacete: Revisiting the Marcos years, 2

THERE was the visibility of armed soldiers, even in civilian areas, private firearms were confiscated (that includes my favorite practice shooting rifle), and the curfew of Marcos was imposed to sew fear. Reporters had their moment of silence. Those who opposed Marcos knew that this was only a show to prove that Martial Law was good.

Public utilities were confiscated. The Sugar Producers Cooperative Marketing Association (SPCMA) in Negros was obliged to close shop because the sugar man anointed by Marcos would want to have his own. This is documented in the movie “Pureza” by Jay Abello. Publications, radio, and television stations were closed down and those that were allowed to operate, there was censorship.

Radical history teachers called Marcos as “Zeus” and Imelda was “Hera.” Malacañang Palace was “Olympus.” We did not doubt that because in the heavenly painting of the couple, Marcos was “Malakas” and Imelda was “Maganda.” They have elevated themselves as “Lakan” and “Sultana.” That could be fun for them and funny at the expense of the Filipino people.

Marcos lifted Martial Law on January 17, 1981. He made up his mind to beautify his image for the arrival of Pope John Paul II who would be visiting the country. Only Martial Law was lifted but not the laws and decrees he made under Martial Law. Marcos was clever as a fox and astute as a monkey.

He held a presidential election in June 1981. He won with a big margin. That gave him the power again to be president for another six-year term. The opposition boycotted the said election. They did not want to participate in a “Moro-moro” election. Marcos was forced out of Malacañang in a popular peaceful revolution. Tita Cory and the yellow army believed there was miracle at Edsa.

What were the ingredients in the Marcos Regime? There was government overspending and unprecedented extent of graft and corruption in the Philippine government according to Transparency International (a global corruption watchdog). There was a practice of nepotism and cronyism. He appointed his relatives and close friends to positions of power in the government.

Human right violations were on top of the line. There was widespread poverty, social inequity, and rural stagnation. Rising criminality was visible and there was agrarian unrest in Luzon and chaos in Mindanao. In the Visayas, there was also labor unrest and crisis in the sugar industry. Violent student activism made intelligent students as street fighters to oppose the evils of Martial Law.

Let history judge Mr. Marcos and his Martial Law Empire. Yes, we were able to drive away a dictator. Are our new leaders able to reform the country? Are we better off now than before? Have we felt the economic recovery in us? Have our new leaders restored peace and order? Do we obey our laws? Do we respect our leaders?

Why do we Filipinos need Martial Law to follow the rules? Why can’t we behave well without a master brandishing a rod at us (just like during Martial Law days.) I never favor Martial Law but it seems that Filipinos (majority) could only follow what should be followed if there is an iron hand waiting.

Does that mean that when the Americans granted us independence in 1946, we were not ready to accept the responsibility? Are we comfortable only with our colonial masters (until now we look up to Uncle Sam)? Bonifacio would want us to be out in the bondage of slavery. It is one thing to aspire to be free and another to be ready for it.

Jose Rizal was right when he advised the Filipinos in his novel “El Filibusterismo,” “We must win our freedom by deserving it, by improving the mind and enhancing the dignity of the individual, loving what is just, what is good, what is great, to the point of dying for it.”

Probably we will not just blame Marcos and our present leaders. Filipinos need to achieve growth and development (physical and spiritual). Only mature Filipinos deserve mature freedom. As a gift freedom is not something that is given to us from without. Freedom is not a free lunch. We have to cook for it. Does that sound funny?
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