2 PERSPECTIVES: My take on the Marcos Years – 1

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Wednesday, 29 June 2016 - Last Updated on June 29, 2016


The recent national elections saw the re-opening of old political wounds as Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr., only son of the dubbed dictator, took a bid at the vice presidency. The Liberal Party did not waste any tempo in reminding the public about the abuses under the Martial Law years. They even used it as a warning against the alleged dictatorial tendencies of maverick presidentiable Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte.

During the last stretch of the election campaign, Pres. Benigno Simeon Aquino III went so far as saying that the legacy of democracy left behind by his parents Benigno Aquino Jr and former Pres. Corazon Aquino will be put to waste if the Duterte-Marcos tandem won.

Political analysts pointed out that a Duterte-Marcos victory would mean a rejection of the so-called Aquino legacies.

On May 9, 2016, the vote of the silent majority spoke out. 39 percent of the electorate propelled Duterte to the presidency and Marcos finished second in a tight race with VP-wannabe Leni Robredo.

Incoming Pres. Duterte recently hinted on appointing Bongbong as Deputy President. If this happens it would be the realization of the Duterte-Marcos team-up for the new administration especially when Robredo’s VP-hood is in hot waters for her political party’s failure to meet the COMELEC deadline for the submission of the Statement of Contributions and Expenses (SOCE). This may be tantamount to her inability to carry out her functions as the second highest post-holder in the land.

This compels the public to take a second look at the so-called Martial Law years. While the military abuses undeniably paints an ugly picture of the Marcos administration, there is a flip side to this reality that is seldom hyped by the media and cited in history books.

As a Martial Law baby growing up under the regime of Ferdinand Marcos  I have seen the brighter  side. As a public school pupil, we received daily rations of nutri buns and powdered milk, had regular dental check-ups and received scheduled vaccinations. Other children in remote areas experienced the same. The government made sure that the future generation was properly nourished and healthy.

A strong sense of patriotism was inculcated among the youth as songs on the love of country and pledges like Bagong Lipunan (New Society)  and Panatang Makabayan were sang and recited everyday during flag ceremony. We had an awareness on caring for the environment with daily cleaners tasked to tidy up the school grounds and classrooms regardless of status.

The youth were given ample participation in nation-building and policy-making at the grassroots level with the creation of the Kabataang Barangay. This was later translated into thenSangguniang Kabataan.

Everybody was  involved in the Green Revolution by planting vegetables in the school yard and at home. Muddied hands were nothing compared to the excitement of reaping the fruits of our labor.

On weekends my mother could hardly walk straight with her two big bayongs filled to the brim with rations from the market good enough to last until the next payday. Our parents had a good value  for their hard-earned cash.

There were also Kadiwa Centers where vegetables and rice were sold at reasonable prices. Marcos effectively deleted the cartels and middlemen out of the equation with farmers directly selling their farm produce to the Kadiwa Centers.

Rice and sugar importation was practically unheard of. The only ijmported stuff we knew were PX goods like chocolates, corned beef, meat loaf, apples and grapes.

The agricultural sector had the proper infrastructure, research and monetary support to make sure that the Filipino nation would not starve. There were agricultural research and rural development centers in Nueva Ecija and Laguna benefitted not only the local planters but their Asian neighbors as well.

The Labor sector had decent wages and security of tenure as ensured under the Labor Code which was enacted in 1974.

The poor were given shelter through the BLISS housing project which started in 1979 by then minister of Human Settlement, Imelda Marcos. These housing complexes still exist today with most of its residents having improved lives. Not to mention the specialized hospitals like Heart Center of the Philippines, Lung Center of the Philippines and the National Kidney Institute as well as he CCP Complex structures designed for international gatherings, events and entertainment.

Surviving 5 presidencies after Marcos, no one seemed to compare to  his brilliance. He was a man with a plan. He came up with a long term vision of development that would unite a seemingly divided archipelago. Mahathir Muhammad  and Lee Kuan Yew looked up to Marcos as a mentor and adapted his blueprint of development, turning Malaysia and Singapore into the progressive countries they are now today. The Philippines used to be the leading ]nation in Asia in the 70s. Now, it lags behind the rest of its neighbors.

No other predecessor admitted that they took off from Marcos’s long term plan but they did.

Under the Marcos blueprint, spectacular infrastructure were built like the San Juanico bridge connecting Samar and Leyte over the vast sea waters of the San Juanico Stait. The North and South Diversion Roads now known as Northern Luzon Expressway (NLEX)  and SouthernLuzon Expressway (SLEX) linked the national capital to the suburbs and far flung provinces. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo continued this concept with the Roll-on Roll-off or Roro Inter-island transport system, which was also part of Marcos’ unfinished plan.

The Metro Rail Transit System or MRT which was started under Cory Aquino, built under Fidel Ramos, inaugurated under Joseph Estrada and expanded under Noynoy Aquino were mere continuation of the first Light Railway Transit (LRT) that plies the Manila to Pasay route.

As early as 45 years ago, Marcos foresaw the power crisis and had the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant in Morong constructed. Unfortunately, Cory had it shutdown before it even went fully operational right after the EDSA Revolution, using the explosion of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant as peg for the scare campaign against nuclear power.

Back then, people  knew and felt where their taxes went with projects and policies  directly benefitting them.

Fast forward to the so-called Aquino legacy. The Aquino Family was given twice the chance to propel an ailing nation to the path of progress but where has it gone so far?

It seemed that Cory as the symbol of democracy remained just that, a symbol. What she left behind is a tradition of contractualization that placed the labor force in a very vulnerable position, being terminated at the whim of the bosses.

The  move towards privatization which was adapted by her son through the Public Private Partnership  rendered government seemingly inutile and inefficient to run public schools, hospitals and agencies and building infrastructure projects.

The very people who accused Marcos and his cronies of abuse of power, gave even more clout to their capitalist friends and relatives being direct beneficiaries of the PPP projects. One of the latest multi-billion PPP projects was the Manila Bay Integrated Flood Control, Coastal Defense and Expressway Project granted to the San Miguel Holdings Corporation. where Noynoy’s uncle Danding Cojuangco is chairman of the Board

The PPP renders the public at the mercy of oligarchs especially those holding utility companies like electricity, water, transportation, oil and power. Consumers are helplessly held hostage to poorly justified price increases. They have no other choice but to pay.

The Aquinos constantly accused the Marcoses of cruelties under their regime. People were killed for their political beliefs are definitely immoral but then again Martial Law was imposed under the context of Communism growing strong in the rural areas and universities. Martial Law actually spared us from a larger scale of suffering that happened in North Korea, North Vietnam, China, USSR and other Communist-turned countries that deprived their citizens of precious freedom.

What is harder to comprehend is the killings of innocent people under a democracy and in peaceful conditions.

Under The regained democracy, farmers took to the streets to air their sentiments on lack of support from government, no land of their own to till and no food on the table for their families but they were gunned down.

The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program under the Cory Administration may have been a program with good intentions but it was never fully realized. Case in point was the Cojuangco-Aquino- owned Hacienda Luisita where the sugar planters never got their share of the land. They were even massacred during their protest.

The Luisita farmers won their case at the Supreme Court with the decision penned by then Justice Renato Corona. When Noynoy was voted president, Corona was later impeached as SC Chief Justice for failure to disclose his Statement of Assets and Liabilities to the public. He was found guilty by an LP-majority led Congress.

The massacre of farmers were duplicated in Mendiola under Cory’s term and in Kidapawan under Noynoy.s helm. Poor starving farmers taking to the streets to air their sentiments were fed with bullets to silence the increasing discontent.

Despite Noynoy’s declaration that the Philippine economy is getting bullish, stark realities show otherwise.

Poor families continue to live under conditions not even fit for animals, surviving in the streets with their caritons serving as their homes and garbage dumps as source of food and income.This is hardly the realization of real freedom under the a healthy democracy.

The statements on economic boom remain as mere rhetorics if the benefits are not  felt at the grass roots level especially the marginalized sector of society. No wonder the public clamored for drastic, unconventional change.

And the votes have been cast.

Photo credits:

Jasmine Barrios (56 Posts)

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