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The Manila Times
Rep. Edcel C. Lagman’s
Weekly Thursday Column

[ Filipino ]

IN a peaceful upheaval which resonated across the globe and became the model for nonviolent popular change of repressive regimes, millions of Filipinos from all walks of life 36 years ago massed from February 22 to 25, 1986 at the Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA) to end the tyranny and pillage of the Marcos regime. The historic EDSA People Power Revolution ousted the dictator Ferdinand Marcos. The despot and his family fled to Hawaii, courtesy of the US Air Force.

As avarice overcame fear, the Marcoses found time to assemble “400 items of costly jewelry and gems valued at $4 million, including a golden crown and three diamond-studded tiaras, more than 60 sets of pearl necklaces and chokers; a $290,000 Burmese ruby, and a diamond-studded ornamental hair comb worth $44,410.” Marcos and his party also carried “22 crates containing $1.2 million in Philippine pesos.” These hoards were confiscated by the US Customs Service.

Lest we forget, reiterated are the following cardinal sins which the dictator Marcos committed against the Filipino people:

1) He imposed martial law to perpetuate himself in power; 2) padlocked the Congress and arrogated the role of sole legislator; 3) stifled dissent by incarcerating his critics; 4) emasculated the judiciary by ordering the resignation of judges below the Supreme Court even as most justices had been co-opted by him; 5) violated human rights as he caused the detention of ‘enemies of the State’ without bail and trial, the summary execution of ‘suspects’, and the forcible disappearance of countless victims.

6) He unlawfully closed media outlets and suppressed freedom of the press and of expression; 7) plundered the economy and amassed ill-gotten hoards amounting to billions of US dollars; 8) caused the foreign debt to balloon from $1 billion in 1965 to $28 billion in 1986 of mostly behest and corrupted loans; 9) submerged the economy to a Gross Domestic Product of negative 7%; and 10) inordinately enriched his cronies through behest loans, onerous contracts and illegal takeover of prime businesses.

The atrocities and pillage perpetrated by the dictator Marcos are fully documented in Supreme Court decisions, congressional legislation, and fact-finding reports of local and international private organizations.

In PCGG v. Peña (April 12, 1988), the high court upheld the validity of the exclusive initiatory jurisdiction of the Presidential Commission on Good Government “given the magnitude of the past regime’s ‘organized pillage’ and the ingenuity of the plunderers and pillagers”.

The Supreme Court in Marcos v. Manglapus (Sept. 15, 1989) opined: “The accumulated foreign debt and the plunder of the nation attributed to Mr. Marcos and his cronies left the economy devastated x x x while the recovery of the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses has remained elusive.”

Mijares v. Rañada (April 12, 2005) held that “Our martial law experience bore strange unwanted fruits and we have yet to finish weeding out its bitter crop x x x The cries of justice for the tortured, the murdered and the desaparecidos arose outrage and sympathy in the hearts of the fair-minded x x x  The damage done was not merely personal but institutional, and the proper rebuke to the iniquitous past has to involve the award of reparations due within the confines of the restored rule of law.”

The late President Benigno Aquino 3rd signed into law the “Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act” as RA 10368 on the 27th anniversary of the EDSA People Power Revolution on Feb. 25, 2013.  This Act, which I principally authored, also authorizes the construction of a “Freedom Memorial Museum” to immortalize the sufferings of martial law victims and constantly remind Filipinos of the perils of martial law. It likewise mandates the teaching from basic to tertiary education of the horrors of the Marcos martial law and the heroism of its victims.

The burning issues which galvanized the EDSA People Power Revolution are still the electoral issues today: unabated violation of human rights and civil liberties, increasing debt burden, escalating repression and authoritarianism, and worsening corruption.  These are among the grievous sins of the dictator Marcos to which Marcos Jr. has no clear agenda on how to combat and conquer.

Marcos Jr.’s repeated calls for “unity” devoid of any specific and concrete plan of action to resolve these issues, are hollow gestures. His lack of sincerity and absence of a viable agenda are aggravated by his perfidious adulation of the “glory days” of martial law and his adamant refusal to repent and seek forgiveness for the grievous sins of his father’s despotic and plunderous regime, of which he is a principal beneficiary.

Under these foreboding circumstances, far from being a unifying factor, Marcos Jr. foments divisive antagonism and causes extreme polarization. He inflames the grievances of countless victims of martial law. His wantonly expensive election campaign taunts Filipinos with the unrecovered Marcos ill-gotten wealth. Moreover, his pursuing the errant and repressive policies of President Rodrigo Duterte fires up opposition to the current administration.  

Verily, Marcos Jr.’s calls for “unity” is an inordinate sham because he himself is the figure of disunity, the reason for inimical polarization. He is like an outlaw exhorting obedience to the law; a terrorist pontificating on the primacy of peace; the corrupt exalting probity; a liar idolizing the truth; a convict professing innocence; and a despot advocating liberalism.  

Filipinos of all ages, gender and socioeconomic status must not desecrate the EDSA People Power Revolution by improvidently gifting the presidency of the land to the namesake of the ousted dictator Marcos. We must not install in Malacañang the son of the tyrant who does not only bear his name but also glorifies his evil regime. We must not forget the repression and plunder the elder Marcos had committed, the very mortal sins which his unrepentant son is bound to replicate.  

After we have liberated ourselves from the agony of despotism and the shackles of greed, we must learn from the bitter lessons of the past and cleanse our present from its odious remnants. We must not sully the sacrosanct precincts of democratic elections by tolerating the betrayal of the ennobling and liberating spirit of the EDSA People Power Revolution.


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