Tipping Point and the Marcos Burial - Blueboard by Alma Maria O Salvador
An Ateneo de Manila professor has, in social media account, apologized to his millennial-students for the “complacency” of the EDSA generation of elders and vanguards to guard against the re-entrenchment of Marcos power in the Philippine society.
This is a point of view worth reckoning against what we may have thought of as evidence and symbolisms of our own vigilance and remembering of EDSA that we believe our gatekeepers and we have helped to institutionalize against dictatorship. Symbols that we thought have memorialized Post EDSA Philippines’ Never Again response to martial rule: A Presidential Commission on Good Government, a People Power monument, a museum, commemoration of the EDSA holiday and of Martial Law’s declaration on September 21, 1973; the education of the youth and the role of media in never letting us forget are some examples.
Apparently these concrete symbols have not been commensurate to the ideal whole of nation approach that few countries with a desire to learn from its history of violence such as Germany has built governmental, media, academia, private sector and societal institutions to unite against acts of historical revisionism and collective forgetting.
Apparently our symbols did not stand strong enough against other structures that were far bolder and deeply entrenched to exonerate the Marcoses from any of their crimes or to allow them to evade prosecution and incarceration.
History has already established that President Corazon Aquino allowed Imelda Marcos and her children Imee, Irene and Bongbong to return to the Philippines in 1991 to face trial but the judicial system was so weak to stand up against Marcos’ gargantuan wealth.
Our societal efforts may not have matched the bolder structures that allowed the Marcoses to incrementally inch in and to consolidate their return to power absent any barrier imposed on them to run for public office. During Corazon Aquino’s presidency, only five years after the Marcos’ exile to Hawaii and the people power that ousted them, Imelda and Bongbong were given the opportunity to compete and to set foot in the Congress. In 1998, Imee Marcos captured the province of Ilocos Norte as its governor. The electorate, the first past post the system and local elite intra-murals allowed the Marcoses to seek and re-capture second and final terms of public office.
We have not instituted long term countermeasures, direct or indirect to prevent the Marcoses from re-establishing their strongholds at the local and national governmental levels. And perhaps our fervor to prevent a dictator’s burial in the Libingan ng Mga Bayani is not as strong as Bongbong Marcos’ desire to vindicate his family’s honor and capture the presidency — slowly but surely.
Bongbong has seized national power, with his 2010 senatorial victory. Slowly, media have reflected the indicators of the shifting tides in public opinion for the former dictator as the surveys in 2011 revealed. In the second year of Benigno Aquino III’s term, the lower house successfully passed House Resolution no.1135 urging the Aquino III administration to allow Marcos’ burial in the Libingan ng mga Bayani. A few months ago, Bongbong Marcos nearly won the vice presidential elections. He is currently contesting the electoral results that have favored vice presidential candidate Leni Robredo.
Social media has been quick to implicate the schools for the youth’s miseducation in the light of Marcos’ heroism and his role in society. Many have clamored for an “accurate” Martial Law curriculum in the basic and tertiary levels of education.
As in the symbols of EDSA, this is a comparatively weak response in the face of the larger issue of the plight of the marginalized to realize their rights to education and to participation— in general so that these can serve as equalizers against the political and electoral institutions that have favored only the moneyed and powerful interests to govern.
Post EDSA, national and local politics have remained deeply dynastic. At the local, district and national levels, the first past the post and the system of plurality of elections continue to tilt the balance of power in support of money politics and “uncontested political races”.
During the last 2016 local elections, hundreds of candidates including Imee Marcos ran unopposed and were “assured of victory” in their bailiwicks. Entrenched clan politics has enabled the Marcoses to subdue their electorate and their opponents by capturing only a plurality of seats in a system where limited elite circulation prevails.
These factors and Rodrigo Duterte’s new patronage and authoritarian politics have changed the political opportunity structure that eventually connived to pave the way for a Marcos burial in the Libingan ng Mga Bayani.
Such was an unthinkable and dubious act. How this government owns up to this act and not risk its political survival will be a next major concern.
Our long term challenge is to participate in the building of institutions that will promote access to power and justice in an oligarchic political-economic system. These may be considered part of a whole of nation— an integrated strategy against dynastic political -economic forces that entrench the interests of only a few and disenfranchise the many.
Meanwhile the immediate challenge for us is to guard against the next Marcos move to contest the 2016 vice presidential elections. This time around it will be on our watch.
Alma Maria O Salvador, PhD is Assistant Professor of Political Science of the Ateneo de Manila University.