State of denial (Inquirer Opinion / Editorial)


Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:15:00 07/07/2009

Filed Under: People, Graft & Corruption, Dictatorship, Justice & Rights, Crime and Law and Justice

THE RECENT ostentatious and extravagant celebration of the 80th birthday of former first lady Imelda Marcos at the Sofitel Hotel at a time when nearly 3 million families are going hungry marks the height of insensitivity for someone who professes that her heart bleeds for the poor. It calls to mind the story of Marie Antoinette of France who, when told that the people had no bread to eat, is reported to have said, “Let them eat cake.”

The effusive reports about the Madame’s grand celebration point up three things: (1) Many belonging to the old generation seem to have forgotten the economic, social and moral plunder committed by the Conjugal Dictatorship; (2) People belonging to the younger generation seem to have no idea about the dark and evil legacy left by the dictatorship; (3) In the Philippines, crime does pay, and under a climate of impunity, one can gain rehabilitation after a certain period of time.

During a conference on “The Legacies of the Marcos Dictatorship” 10 years ago at the Ateneo de Manila University, Fr. John J. Carroll, S.J., expressed concern that Filipinos “are in a state of denial with regard to the crimes of the Marcos regime.” He said, “[T]hat willingness to forget these massive crimes against the nation and against individuals reflects the weakness of the ‘common conscience,’ a weak sense of nation and of the common good.”

We are now seeing the results of that state of denial. Perhaps it’s time the collective memory of the nation was jogged, and people were reminded of the dark legacies of the Conjugal Dictatorship.

The Marcos dictatorship debased the entire fabric of Philippine society: it plundered the economy; committed 3,257 extrajudicial killings, tortured 35,000, jailed 70,000 and caused the disappearance of 737 people; corrupted the entire political system, including the courts; suppressed freedom of the press and other freedoms and rights; committed abuses against indigenous peoples; and even rewrote history to suit its ends.

If we have to refresh the memory of the old generation and tell the younger generation about what happened during the Marcos regime, we can start by having them read the Conference Report on “Memory, Truth-telling and the Pursuit of Justice,” published by the Ateneo de Manila University in 2001. As for the plunder of the economy, estimated at $5 billion to $10 billion (Guinness Book of World Records), the best starting point would be former Senate President Jovito R. Salonga’s “Presidential Plunder: The Quest for the Marcos Ill-gotten Wealth.”

Salonga says that among the techniques by which the Marcoses acquired and safeguarded ill-gotten wealth were:

1. Creation of monopolies in certain vital industries and placing them under the control of Marcos cronies or associates.

2. Awarding of loans by government banking or financing institutions to favored individuals, with little or no collateral, at the behest of Marcos or Ms Marcos.

3. Takeover by Marcos relatives or associates of large public or private enterprises with nominal amounts as consideration.

4. Direct raid on the public treasury and government financing institutions. For instance, intelligence funds were disbursed for the trips of Ms Marcos.

5. Issuance of presidential decrees and orders to favor certain individuals and enterprises to enable them to amass wealth for the joint benefit of these individuals and the Marcoses.

6. Kickbacks and commissions from firms or enterprises doing business in the Philippines.

7. Use of shell corporations and dummy companies to launder money and invest in real estate in such places as New York, California and Hawaii.

8. Skimming of foreign aid and other forms of international assistance.

Days before her birthday celebration, Imelda Marcos appeared in public without her glittering jewels and cried that she was practically penniless. This, from a woman who said in December 1998, “We own practically everything in the Philippines.”

We have seen, from the way people gushed over Imelda at her recent birthday celebration, that many of them have forgotten what happened during the Conjugal Dictatorship. When shall we end our state of denial? When shall we stop idolizing those who have wronged and betrayed us and regain our sense of right and wrong and exact justice from those who have committed crimes against the nation?#


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