Thanks to Ate Glo, Marcos now looks good!
HIGH GROUND By William M. Esposo 2005-02-20
Today marks the 19th anniversary of the start of the 1986 People Power Revolt that ended the Marcos dictatorship. Ferdinand Marcos, who rose to power in 1965 on the promise that “This nation can be great again”, had to flee the country under the protection of the US government after the four days of the People Power Revolt made his further stay in Malacañang Palace untenable.

The drama of the four day People Power Revolt that was followed by the whole world via live television awed and inspired nations when they witnessed the new phenomenon of peaceful non-violent activism remove a well-entrenched dictatorship. In previous historical cases, removing tyrants needed nothing short of protracted armed struggle with great losses in lives. An American television anchor said it best when he commented on the manner Filipinos removed the Marcos dictatorship: “We Americans like to think that we taught Filipinos democracy. Well today they are teaching the world”.

It was a proud moment to be a Filipino and for Ferdinand Marcos it was the greatest humiliation a dictator could have ever experienced what with the whole world cheering as your countrymen were succeeding in ejecting you from power. Marcos joined the ignominious gallery of world class tyrants the world loved to hate - Idi Amin, Doc Duvalier, Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini and so forth.

But don't look now - the very same Marcos is beginning to look good these days to a Philippine public who are largely under 30 years of age and have hardly lived through the nightmare of his dictatorship. Filipinos who are under 30 years of age today did not have the experience of living through the 1950s and the early 1960s when the Philippines was second only to Japan in economic performance and so they do not have the basis to compare what it was like before and after Marcos ascended to power in 1965.

What made me reflect on this was a recent overseas phone conversation with a friend from high school days who now calls New York home. In the course of our phone conversation, this friend of mine - a 1986 EDSA participant who bravely placed his body as buffer between the Marcos armed forces and the Ramos-Enrile rebel group holed up in Camp Crame - asked me to put on my political thinking cap and analyze what will be the likely scenario if Bongbong Marcos will now attempt to recapture Malacañang. Bongbong Marcos ran for senator some years back and he was roundly rejected by voters who still harbored fond memories of EDSA I.

I had to agree with my friend that the political terrain may be quite different now and if Bongbong Marcos makes a try to regain their residence along the Pasig River for over 20 years - the result could well be successful. The following new factors will make the big difference:

1. The tremendous goodwill of EDSA I is very much eroded now. For the majority of Filipinos, neither EDSA I nor EDSA II delivered them from their never ending cycle of poverty. The same goes for the icons of EDSA - Cory Aquino, Jaime Cardinal Sin and Fidel V. Ramos. Individually or jointly, they can no longer cast their spell on the Philippine public.

2. EDSA II being the more recent, its bigger failure is what most people associate with the legacy of EDSA.

3. Comparing the average household income and the prices of basic commodities in 1985 vs. that of 2005, people then had more food on the table and could afford a lot of other things. In some places hardest hit by the economic dip following the 1983 Aquino assassination, people still managed to eat at least twice a day. Nowadays, many report experiencing hunger and admit to eating only once a day. It is only now that Filipinos are competing with rats for the leftover food in trash cans.

4. It cannot be denied that the 20-year Marcos era left behind many edifices that make the four succeeding presidencies pale in comparison. To the youths of today, these structures make a visible positive impression while at the same time it contrasts with the lack of accomplishment of the present regime. The Macapagal-Arroyo regime is best associated with the Diosdado Macapagal Boulevard and following the graft case now filed with the Sandiganbayan - this only makes the contrast more pronounced.

5. The fact that the Marcos wealth issue remains unresolved and is less likely to be resolved now weakens the negatives that can be leveled against the Marcos family. Again, in contrast, the people are only too familiar with the corruption issues against the current regime, regardless if these are even lodged in court or not. Having a poor sense of history, people tend to associate their poverty more with the current government than with the one 19 years or so ago which laid the foundations and set the example for grand scale looting and plunder.

6. The dismal performance of the Macapagal-Arroyo regime and the extent of the Philippine problem have led many to conclude that only a period of authoritarian rule can reverse the situation. These views are now being espoused by people who would never have echoed such opinions ten years ago. When such a way of thinking becomes fashionable, it follows that the Marcos regime finds 'justification' and would even appear as 'an idea ahead of its time'. The horror story that was the Marcos regime is recycled unwittingly as a historic saga and given an undeserved romantic flavor.

7. Even former First Lady Imelda Marcos, who was a major issue and a lightning rod against the Marcos regime then, is now seen more as a figure of amusement.

Last Tuesday, I was in another table at the Peninsula Hotel lobby just a few meters away from Ms. Marcos. She was comfortably seated and relaxed in a table that caught your attention as you entered the Pen. Quite a number of people were greeting her as if nothing happened in this country from 1972 to 1986 when she figured in the “Conjugal Dictatorship”. There were even requests for photos to be taken with her. When she left the Pen, the orchestra played the Imelda theme song “Dahil sa iyo” and Ms. Marcos - never to lose a beat - blew kisses towards the mezzanine section where the orchestra played.

This Marcos restoration discussion is of course all part of a political scenario building exercise and we do not know for sure if Ilocos Norte Governor Bongbong Marcos is considering a retaking of Malacañang or if anyone in the Marcos family is also contemplating that. What we are saying is that the current administration has failed so miserably that it is now effecting a warped appreciation of the Marcos regime that was once viewed with derision and contempt.

People have such short memories and in this country which has been conditioned to focus on the problem of getting the next meal, there is a real possibility now that a Marcos restoration has become politically viable. Under the conditions that Macapagal-Arroyo created, the once reviled Marcos regime can thus be repackaged by skillful propagandists that money can buy to appear as a “once upon a time Philippine Camelot”.

This aberration is no different from those who now occupy the bottom most pit of the new social order in the former Soviet Union who long for the return of the old communist order. The masses especially are plagued by such short memories which in turn render their minds vulnerable to mythmaking and to romanticizing false messiahs. To the Philippine masses, what they will recall is that they ate better and felt safer during the Marcos regime.

The abject failure of the Macapagal-Arroyo regime not only makes a Marcos restoration viable, but it also opens the door for anyone who wishes to duplicate Marcos. In fact, as we discuss this, a Marcos wannabe may already be contemplating that in the wake of the recent Valentine's Day bombings. A similar pattern of bombings set the stage for the declaration of Martial Law in 1972. All this talk and longing among the many sectors of Philippine society - including the conservative businessmen - for a period of? authoritarian rule as a form of intervention that will recast both the political system as well as the leadership structure must be fueling the power cravings of adventurers and messiah wannabes that we have never been in short supply of.

A Marcos wannabe could well be worse than the original Marcos. This is the price we pay for not knowing our history and the history of other nations. From a dictatorship just 19 years ago, we come full circle and now find ourselves toying with the idea of another one. We have a difficulty moving forward simply because we have not reconciled with our past and we are forever caught in the cycle of repeating those lessons we failed to learn from our history.

You may email William M. Esposo at:

  Previous Columns:

It had to happen on The Ides of March and Holy Week

Suggested guidelines for liability- free Internet posts

Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

All Excited by Pope Francis

A great disservice to P-Noy

[Click here for the Archive]

Home | As I Wreck This Chair | High Ground | Career Brief and Roots | Advocacies | Landmarks Copyright 2006 The Chair Wrecker by William M. Esposo