Manila Standard : First person

8 November 2021

By Jude Acidre | Manila Standard

"How can we move forward?"

I seldom write in the first person. In a way, it is my amateurish attempt to ensure objectivity in my perspective of things - in a way ensure that the personalities don’t get mixed up with the issues.

But I am making an exception now.

I am disheartened by the wanton name-calling, the anger and hatred that I see all over Facebook right now about the events in our country. That is why I decided to write about those who have been very vocal about their opposition to the candidacy of Bongbong Marcos – or to their family’s legacy

I hope this will not begin another angry thread on my wall, or on yours. I do not want to fuel further the wanton debates here and there on social media.

I write because I want to understand, and of course to be understood.

Many of you know I work for Martin Romualdez. I voted for Bongbong Marcos for vice-president. I campaigned last election alongside the two of them on stage, at times together with Mrs. Imelda Marcos.

But, whether you believe me or not, I believe in EDSA. I believe it was a brave act to end a 20-year old regime, sweet justice to those who died, tortured and disappeared because of the innumerable abuses committed by the military, by those in power. I believe that Ninoy Aquino lived and died for this country, and rightly so, a martyr for freedom and democracy. I am thankful to Cory Aquino who readily responded to the call of rebuilding a fragile democracy. I miss Jaime Cardinal Sin for the role he played as a courageous prophet of our times. They are all heroes to me.

But I will not deprive Ferdinand Marcos, and of the legacy of his life’s work as a soldier and a former president of this nation. He is, after all, a survivor of the Death March. I believe he loved his country dearly, inasmuch as each one of us does. We may not agree with his politics and policies. He may have his sins and missteps. But let us let God and history be the judge of that. I will not dare to speak for everyone. After all, history favors those who succeed. Would our country have remembered him differently if EDSA turned violent and failed? Remember EDSA was first an attempted coup before it became the peaceful revolution that we now celebrate it.

I do not intend to be an apologist for the Marcoses. I respect you as a friend and as a Filipino. But, I hope you let me ask an honest question, “What justice do we really want?”

The Marcoses were deposed in 1986 and were exiled from our country for almost seven years. But more than 30 years have gone by since the revolution. We have changed the Constitution, instituting the Presidential Commission on Good Government to demand accountability from Marcos and his heirs. We have silenced the accomplishments of his 20-year regime, replacing it with tales of abuse, corruption and torture, as if it were the only truth about his years in power.

Since then, we have elected two Aquinos and another hero of EDSA to the highest office of the land. We had every chance to exact accountability and thus to affirm history as it should be. We had the opportunity to rebuild a new nation that would have lived up to the promise of EDSA.

But how could have we missed that?

Poverty remains the greatest challenge of our nation. The gap between the rich and the poor continues to grow. The menace of rebellion continues to threaten communities that have long lived in the midst of war. We brought back the oligarchy to power, created monopolies after monopolies, expanding by leaps, inequalities and social injustice. In the meanwhile, all throughout the last thirty years, we blamed a twenty-year old dictatorship for all these adversities, Marcos for his supposed abuses and his alleged corruption.

This does not mean however, turning a blind eye against the abuses, the killings, the corruption, and the crimes of the Marcos years. And yet we forget that the people who died, in the name of freedom, achieved their victory already when we finally restored democracy in 1986. They won when we finally brought a new political order under the 1986 Constitution and when we restored free elections.

But what did we do with the victory that we achieved? We betrayed them. Every administration that succeeded Marcos. Every Filipino who forgot the price for which our freedom was paid. We allowed the old oligarchy and a politics of patronage to exploit us once again. We allowed the courts to sleep over the Marcos cases, and now we argue about how the financial compensation for the HR victims would be distributed, as if they were loot that we took away from battle. We allowed apathy to infect our youth, mass media to corrupt their minds and hearts and consumerism to distort our values. We put a price on every institution we once held as sacrosanct – the votes we sold and paid for, the media that was once the bulwark of truth, and the moral values that we now consider relative depending on what one’s personal perspective was.

Who betrayed EDSA? Me. Me who forgot the lives who paid the price. Me who readily gave up truth and conviction for sensationalism and convenience. Me who remained apathetic, deaf and mute to the injustice and corruption all around us. Me who became callous to vote-buying and irresponsible politics. Me who thought liking, posting and arguing on social media made up for all the good that I have done but I have failed to do, that I have ignored. Me who could have done something, but chose not to.

Only time and history alone will prove if Marcos is a hero. But I believe that it is high time to move forward in history. We cannot all chain ourselves to the past, and allow future generations to inherit the pain, the hatred and the same.

Moving forward is not forgetting. It is not a blanket absolution. Forgiving is not about erasing the past alone. It will not take away the scars, or in an instant heal the wounds. It is about learning the lesson, knowing that the greatest justice is won when for all the lives lost, that injustice is something that future generations will never experience again; that for every life lost, is an opportunity for us, regardless of our past politics and persuasions, to work together and build a new future for our country.

I once read, “Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and wanting the other to die.” I think that poison is slowly killing our society, dividing us even further, as if we don’t both share the guilt and blame. Forgiveness is not about justice. In fact, forgiveness happens because we go above justice. Forgiveness does nothing to the person who has been forgiven; it is an act of the one who forgives, an action that says I am liberating myself of the past. The crime, sin and shame of the past do not control me anymore. That I am ready for new beginnings. That I am willing to make it happen.

I have read some social media posts about people saying this issue is personal to them. I cannot judge them for that. I cannot even question their stand. All I can do is respect them, hopeful that they too will respect mine. I know this will not be easy for anyone. Forgiveness is never easy; moving forward is always demanding.

So, how do you think we should move forward? How do you think we should build closure, so that the pain, the hatred and shame end with our generation? Not with the choices we make for others, and the judgments we make about them, but the choices we make for ourselves?