The martial law era under Ferdinand Marcos was not the golden age of the Philippines that some claim it was.
Jobs were scarce and wages were low. The labor export policy was adopted by the government, resulting in massive migration of Filipinos to other lands in search of better livelihood opportunities and causing a “brain drain” in the country. Landgrabbing became more prevalent, and thousands of peasants lost what little land they had to Marcos cronies and plantation companies. Thousands of urban poor settlers lost homes due to demolitions and Imelda Marcos’ beautification projects.
So-called development projects were approved for construction and operation in indigenous ancestral lands without the consent of Indigenous Peoples (IPs). Among these is the Chico Dam Project funded by the World Bank, which would have displaced thousands of Indigenous Peoples and inundated thousands of hectares of ancestral lands. Large-scale logging and mining projects under Marcos cronies caused deforestation and other environmental man-made disasters.
Basic social services such as health and education were almost inaccessible except for a lucky few in urban areas, and even then these services came at a cost. Education became more expensive when Marcos deregulated the education sector.
Marcos loaned billions of dollars from foreign countries and international finance institutions in exchange for tax cuts, trade deals and other agreements detrimental to the Filipino people, and the Filipino nation will have to pay for these loans until 2025. Gross national income was not increasing, but instead was going down at an alarming rate. To top it all, Marcos siphoned off a large portion of these international loans and public funds to line his own pockets as well as that of his family. He became America’s “best friend” in Southeast Asia, selling out the rights of the Filipino nation in return for continued United States support of his regime.
In order to counter opposition, his government implemented arrests and extrajudicial killings of activists and other opposition leaders on a massive scale. Trade unions, peasant associations, youth organizations and women’s groups were violently suppressed by the State. Newspapers were padlocked and those left open became government mouthpieces. Anti-government protests and criticizing the government became illegal, and the dead and injured littered the streets after violent and bloody dispersals of assemblies by government security forces. Thousands of critics were disappeared who have not been found until today.
But the people fought back against the Marcos regime’s repressive policies of fascism, corruption and submission to foreign interests. The La Tondena workers’ protest in 1975 revitalized the labor movement and forced the Marcos to accede to the 13th month pay. Indigenous Peoples fought back against encroachment of corporate projects on their lands, effectively ending projects like the Chico Dam. Hundreds of activists educated hundreds of thousands more and organized resistance against the continuation of the Marcos dictatorship, culminating in the historic EDSA “revolution” where millions of people went out to the streets and ousted Marcos from power.
The Marcos burial and the state honoring him as a hero is a travesty. It is historical whitewashing, and non-recognition of the efforts of the Filipino people to oust a corrupt and abusive dictator. It is forgetting that the Filipino people, the real heroes, kicked him out of Malacañang to end an oppressive regime that benefited only the few who were in power. It is erasing all the atrocities his dictatorship committed.
The Assert Socio-Economic Initiatives Network in the Philippines (ASCENT) unites with the Filipino people in remembering the atrocities of the Marcos regime, and strongly condemns the Supreme Court decision to recognize Marcos as a hero and allow his burial in the Libingan ng mga Bayani. We call on the Duterte administration to account for allowing this to transpire, as well all previous administrations for their political accommodation of the Marcoses, which allowed them to return to the Philippines and Marcos’ descendants to run for public office.
We call on the Filipino people to remember and never forget what transpired during the dark days of martial law, and challenge each and everyone to work together in blocking his burial at the LNMB and the government honoring him as a hero.
Because Marcos never was, and never will be, a hero.
Renmin Crisanta Vizconde
(photo by Bullit Marquez/AP)