Decoding the Context

Are we losing our sense of history? With the recent Supreme Court decision allowing the hero’s burial of a dictator, the answer is a clear yes. It holds back the remaining hopes for the countless victims of former President Ferdinand Marcos’ regime. It also sets a compromised discourse of history in public spaces and discussions.

We have a thriving history of collective struggle fueled by mass-based organizations and the broad marginalized masses. If we take a moment to reflect on this struggle, historical accounts will prove that we as a nation are capable of reshaping our political and cultural state by means of mobilizations and resistance.

In the past, we learned how our indigenous people championed territorial disputes against interventionists and colonizers. We are aware of the underground press which formed part of the people’s movement that exposed the tyrannical US-Marcos regime in the early 70s to 80s. We witnessed how the promising united fronts of workers, students, teachers, and activists judiciously toppled Marcos in 1986.

So what sense of history is at stake here?

It is the history of collective struggle. It is not an overnight experiment, as it is not festive and grand because the people who joined the struggle had to pay the price of freedom suffering torture, disappearance, censorship, imprisonment and worst, killing.

Take the case of Macliing Dulag who mobilized the people of Cordillera against Marcos’ dam project that could have displaced and killed thousands of indigenous people in the North. His apt resistance led some government soldiers to silence him in April 1980. He is now among the estimated 3,200 killed during the fascist rule of Marcos, 35,000 tortured, 70,000 arrested. Currently, there is a pending class suit of 9,539 victims of Martial Law.

To venerate Marcos as a hero is to belittle the countless lives that suffered and perished under his regime. The heroism that some legal minds wish to entitle Marcos disregards the very reason why collective movements sparked and later toppled the dictator.

Equally, unworthy heroism can stimulate dilemmas and confusions in public discourse.

Consider the school as a place where knowledge is supposedly cultivated. To pay tribute to someone who perpetrated a number of abuses against his people is a self-defeating proposition to start with. It contradicts our notion of heroism whenever we attempt to historicize values like collectivism and resistance in the classroom. I can only imagine how uncanny and disturbing it is for an educator to discuss nationalism and heroism knowing that a dictator’s tomb finds grace at the country’s Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes’ Cemetery).

The social media environment is another arena where historical contradictions are popularized. State and Marcos’ apologists may invoke some extent of online ascendancy to honor the dictator more so to intimidate the historical accounts of the victims of martial law. With ample legal backing to Marcos’ heroism, the power to dismiss the decades-long struggle of the victims and rights advocates is now possible more than ever. And I can only surmise that such invocation of power will transcend the boundaries of social media.

The other alarming issue is the reclamation of innocence and political glory by the Marcoses. With the pending election protest of Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. for vice presidency, governorship of Imee Marcos and congressional position of Imelda Marcos. The plan to regain power and perhaps what others say as the move of the Marcoses to return to Malacañang is inevitable.

We too can expect more of the “moving on” and “healing the nation” arguments from the Marcos apologetics. That we must move on and allow Marcos’ remains to be buried at the Heroes’ Cemetery once and for all. And that we must move on in the spirit of unity and reconciliation.

But this is exactly where the dilemmas come in. The paradoxical position of moving on in itself encourages impunity. It rewards the crimes of Marcos while punishing even more the martial law victims. It strengthens unity between Marcos’ cronies and sympathizers while marginalizing the pro-people democratic movements against historical revisionism.

In effect, the decision in favor of the hero’s burial recognizes no boundaries between legality and history. It further blurs the line between justice and morality.

So how can we as a people go about this?

The struggle entrenched in the hearts and souls of Martial Law victims and the masses will continuously haunt the memories of the dictator. The abuses committed by Marcos are forever embedded in the history of our people and will be accorded with greater defiance in spite of legal backing by the State.

I have faith that collective struggle will serve as the quintessential keyword these days. We may have lost some sense of history today, but the struggle will remain ubiquitous and burning.

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