TO BE fair, the Official Gazette wasn’t the only one to have tried it. Its attempt was even mild, in comparison to others.
Last Sept. 11, on the 99th birth anniversary of Ferdinand Marcos Sr., the Gazette posted a photo of the dictator with a caption that included this claim: “In 1986, Marcos stepped down from the presidency to avoid bloodshed during the uprising that came to be known as ‘people power.’”
This attempt at historical revisionism—by employees paid with taxpayers’ funds, no less—quickly inspired satirical posts about other historical events, hashtagged #SuperficialGazette. It was an instructive demonstration of how social media users can call out inaccuracies in public discussions. For every citizen who asks for an end to all talk of martial law in the spirit of “moving on,” we need others who remain willing to keep examining its lessons, in order that we may all avoid repeating mistakes of the past.
This week, Sen. Risa Hontiveros and Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin filed resolutions asking President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration to require schools to conduct educational activities focused on the declaration and consequences of martial law, for the entire September of each year. “We must not allow the Marcoses to steal from us again. We must not allow them to rob us of our truth and sense of history,” the senator said.
Her office has also released on Facebook an infographic that shows some key figures from that period: US$5-$10 billion in stolen wealth, according to the Supreme Court and the Presidential Commission on Good Government; 3,240 persons killed, 70,000 imprisoned, and 34,000 tortured, according to Amnesty International.
In response to the public’s outcry, the Gazette quickly took down its post that made the end of his brutal regime seem like an act of charity on Marcos’ part. That same public can, if it so wishes, throw its support behind the creation of a memorial or library in honor of the victims of human rights violations during martial law. That’s one of the provisions in the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013.
It would be risky to dismiss revisionism as one careless Gazette staffer’s slip or just some hardcore loyalists’ attempt to redeem the dead dictator’s name. We can only hope that it’s not part of a larger program: that of making authoritarian rule acceptable again to more Filipinos, particularly those in the political center and the middle class.