Thirty years after, Marcos still a legend for some

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Philippine revolution anniversary
Filipinos on February 25, 2016 commemorated the peaceful 1986 revolution that ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos

A peaceful revolution, the “People Power” uprising, on February 25, 1986, brought an end to one of the most violent and oppressive presidencies in the younger history of Southeast Asia: The 20-year-two-months regime of Ferdinand Marcos, among the most unscrupulous and rogue leaders the Philippines ever encountered. Over 75,000 cases of human rights violations were filed against Marcos and his cronies, especially in the period from 1972 until 1981 when he ruled under US-backed martial law, and he and his family known for their kleptocratic attitude is believed to have embezzled billions of dollar from state funds and external aid.

While he is revered by some for the economic impulses he set for the country, development projects were largely debt-financed by borrowing large sums from international lenders. The country’s debt rose from $360 million in 1962 to around $28 billion in 1986, making the Philippines one of the most indebted countries in Asia. Today, more than half of the country’s revenues still go toward the payment of interest on these loans rather than into national development.

Poorly implemented structural reforms paired with widespread corruption and nepotism caused the unemployment rate explode to 28 per cent in the mid-1980, while the average monthly income of salaried workers fell by 20 per cent and an agricultural programme that mainly benefited large US agro-corporations pushed the majority of domestic farmers into poverty. From the early 1970s into the 1980s, agricultural production fell by 30 per cent and has still not recovered as of today.

By unofficial estimates, Marcos had $10 billion of opaquely acquired assets. While some $4 billion reportedly have been recovered, the Philippine government is still seeking to regain about $1 billion worth of assets accumulated by Marcos through about 100 court cases at home and overseas. However, the late dictator’s wife Imelda, known for her lavish lifestyle under her husband’s rule, repeatedly said the family “did not steal from the people” but “acquired its wealth legally.”

Some seem to trust her. A part of Filipino millennials have come to believe that life under Ferdinand Marcos represented a “golden age of peace and prosperity.” In fact, in the decades since Marcos was ousted and fled the country, the outrage has faded for many Filipinos. None of the Marcos family members have been jailed, and they wasted no time to quietly return to politics. Imelda Marcos became a member of Congress, while her daughter Imee Marcos is a governor and her son Ferdinand “Bongbong” is a senator and runs for vice presidency in the May 9, 2016 elections. None of them ever acknowledged human right abuses during Ferdinand Marcos’ presidency, let alone apologised for them.

Bongbong supporters
Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, the late dictator’s son, enjoys rising popularity among some of the Filipino youth

Ferdinand “Bongbong” in his elections campaigns usually points out his father’s development programmes and complained that they have been interrupted by the 1986 revolution. He also claims that the Philippines had the highest literacy rate in the Marcos era, and that there was “peace and discipline.” Some of the younger Filipinos seem to support his stance as Bongbong gets a big part of his rising popularity from young people, who say they know little or nothing about his father’s regime, or believe it was a “progressive time” for the country.

In an interview last August, Bongbong was asked if he would ask forgiveness for his father’s alleged abuses, but answered “What am I to apologise for?”, adding he shouldn’t say sorry “for his father’s success in infrastructure, agriculture, power supply and literacy.” He said any human rights abuses weren’t ordered by his father personally.

Incumbent Philippine President Benigno Aquino III urged voters in his revolution anniversary speech on February 25 to “stamp out” the stunning political resurgence of Ferdinand Marcos’ family. Aquino, whose parents were symbols of resistance against the Marcos dictatorship, belied claims that the latter’s administration ushered in the “golden age” of the Philippines.

Aquino speech
President Benigno Aquino in his anniversary speech

“I can’t help but shake my head because there are still those who say that the time of Marcos was the golden age of the Philippines. Perhaps we can call it the golden days of Marcos, since after being president for two terms or eight years, he found a way to remain in power,” Aquino said in his speech.

He added it was also “the golden age of our inflated national debt” and “for those who abused Filipino Muslims” and those responsible for “rampant land-grabbing in Mindanao.”

While he conceded that “the sins of the father” should not be blamed on the son, he said that Bongbong should show some discernment.

“A dictator’s son could have said, ‘My father was wrong,’ or ‘We were wrong; give us a chance to correct this.’ But think about this, this was his answer, ‘I am ready to say sorry if I knew what I have to be sorry for.’ If he wasn’t able to see that what their family did was wrong, how could we be sure that he would not repeat it?” Aquino argued.

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Reading Time: 3 minutes

Filipinos on February 25, 2016 commemorated the peaceful 1986 revolution that ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos

A peaceful revolution, the “People Power” uprising, on February 25, 1986, brought an end to one of the most violent and oppressive presidencies in the younger history of Southeast Asia: The 20-year-two-months regime of Ferdinand Marcos, among the most unscrupulous and rogue leaders the Philippines ever encountered. Over 75,000 cases of human rights violations were filed against Marcos and his cronies, especially in the period from 1972 until 1981 when he ruled under US-backed martial law, and he and his family known for their kleptocratic attitude is believed to have embezzled billions of dollar from state funds and external aid.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Philippine revolution anniversary
Filipinos on February 25, 2016 commemorated the peaceful 1986 revolution that ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos

A peaceful revolution, the “People Power” uprising, on February 25, 1986, brought an end to one of the most violent and oppressive presidencies in the younger history of Southeast Asia: The 20-year-two-months regime of Ferdinand Marcos, among the most unscrupulous and rogue leaders the Philippines ever encountered. Over 75,000 cases of human rights violations were filed against Marcos and his cronies, especially in the period from 1972 until 1981 when he ruled under US-backed martial law, and he and his family known for their kleptocratic attitude is believed to have embezzled billions of dollar from state funds and external aid.

While he is revered by some for the economic impulses he set for the country, development projects were largely debt-financed by borrowing large sums from international lenders. The country’s debt rose from $360 million in 1962 to around $28 billion in 1986, making the Philippines one of the most indebted countries in Asia. Today, more than half of the country’s revenues still go toward the payment of interest on these loans rather than into national development.

Poorly implemented structural reforms paired with widespread corruption and nepotism caused the unemployment rate explode to 28 per cent in the mid-1980, while the average monthly income of salaried workers fell by 20 per cent and an agricultural programme that mainly benefited large US agro-corporations pushed the majority of domestic farmers into poverty. From the early 1970s into the 1980s, agricultural production fell by 30 per cent and has still not recovered as of today.

By unofficial estimates, Marcos had $10 billion of opaquely acquired assets. While some $4 billion reportedly have been recovered, the Philippine government is still seeking to regain about $1 billion worth of assets accumulated by Marcos through about 100 court cases at home and overseas. However, the late dictator’s wife Imelda, known for her lavish lifestyle under her husband’s rule, repeatedly said the family “did not steal from the people” but “acquired its wealth legally.”

Some seem to trust her. A part of Filipino millennials have come to believe that life under Ferdinand Marcos represented a “golden age of peace and prosperity.” In fact, in the decades since Marcos was ousted and fled the country, the outrage has faded for many Filipinos. None of the Marcos family members have been jailed, and they wasted no time to quietly return to politics. Imelda Marcos became a member of Congress, while her daughter Imee Marcos is a governor and her son Ferdinand “Bongbong” is a senator and runs for vice presidency in the May 9, 2016 elections. None of them ever acknowledged human right abuses during Ferdinand Marcos’ presidency, let alone apologised for them.

Bongbong supporters
Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, the late dictator’s son, enjoys rising popularity among some of the Filipino youth

Ferdinand “Bongbong” in his elections campaigns usually points out his father’s development programmes and complained that they have been interrupted by the 1986 revolution. He also claims that the Philippines had the highest literacy rate in the Marcos era, and that there was “peace and discipline.” Some of the younger Filipinos seem to support his stance as Bongbong gets a big part of his rising popularity from young people, who say they know little or nothing about his father’s regime, or believe it was a “progressive time” for the country.

In an interview last August, Bongbong was asked if he would ask forgiveness for his father’s alleged abuses, but answered “What am I to apologise for?”, adding he shouldn’t say sorry “for his father’s success in infrastructure, agriculture, power supply and literacy.” He said any human rights abuses weren’t ordered by his father personally.

Incumbent Philippine President Benigno Aquino III urged voters in his revolution anniversary speech on February 25 to “stamp out” the stunning political resurgence of Ferdinand Marcos’ family. Aquino, whose parents were symbols of resistance against the Marcos dictatorship, belied claims that the latter’s administration ushered in the “golden age” of the Philippines.

Aquino speech
President Benigno Aquino in his anniversary speech

“I can’t help but shake my head because there are still those who say that the time of Marcos was the golden age of the Philippines. Perhaps we can call it the golden days of Marcos, since after being president for two terms or eight years, he found a way to remain in power,” Aquino said in his speech.

He added it was also “the golden age of our inflated national debt” and “for those who abused Filipino Muslims” and those responsible for “rampant land-grabbing in Mindanao.”

While he conceded that “the sins of the father” should not be blamed on the son, he said that Bongbong should show some discernment.

“A dictator’s son could have said, ‘My father was wrong,’ or ‘We were wrong; give us a chance to correct this.’ But think about this, this was his answer, ‘I am ready to say sorry if I knew what I have to be sorry for.’ If he wasn’t able to see that what their family did was wrong, how could we be sure that he would not repeat it?” Aquino argued.

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