I have said on many occasions that I would rather leave to historians, trained historians, the verdict or judgment on the 20 year rule of my late father in general and if one so wishes, on Martial Law in particular. Personally, I was barely 15 years old when Martial Law was declared and I can’t pretend to have been consulted about it but at that age, frankly, neither was I particularly interested in it.
The milieu in which Martial Law was declared was at a time when the cold war was threatening to go the direction of nuclear annihilation of mankind and the super powers were constantly and menacingly, beating their chests while the poorer countries, us included, sought the protection of either the USA or the USSR. It was also the time of mass student demonstrations in the streets of most capitals of the world. This youth movement, unprecedented in that it was shared among various nationalities, questioned old age beliefs and traditions but, also, got somewhat mired in the sudden proliferation of recreational and experimental drugs that only complicated things; but this rebelliousness world-wide added to if not fueled the political and social tumult most countries were experiencing and the Philippines was no exemption.
In South East Asia, the communist insurgencies were fast gaining ground with support from their Communist State principals – mainly the USSR and China. And just north of us, the Vietnam War was raging and for the first time, with the advent of satellite technology, was being shown live on TV and watched from inside living rooms across the world. Here at home, it was the time, too, of the Plaza Miranda bombing which has since been confirmed to have been the doing of the CPP.
Here and in most places around the world including cities across Europe and the US, turmoil was taking place and getting more violent. But that’s as far as I’ll delve into the historical backdrop at the time Martial Law was declared. Because, as someone said: "history is an argument without end." That is particularly more true when the "historians" are untrained in the discipline of chronicling and giving coherence to inter-related past events, while needing to remain objective, impartial, and cognizant of its dynamic nature. It gets even more confusing when the “past” spoken of is that of a time fairly recent with passions still running high in some quarters.
The version of the 20 year "Marcos rule" that’s been widely disseminated since we were whisked away to Guam and eventually, Hawaii, (even the way we were forcibly taken out of our country is not well known) has been for the most part written by the succeeding administrations or their professional wordsmiths since ‘86, now going on our 5th President since Marcos. The old oligarchy from the pre-martial law era did not waste time in re-establishing their past foothold on the apparatuses of traditional media and have since served their benefactors in the Palace in a mutually beneficial relationship where wealth and power is preserved and shared among a few. But that, too, is changing as the “new digital media” engineered by the internet looms larger and is poised to dominate the way communication is controlled or rather, decontrolled in these days of what we now call the information age. Because of this democratization of information, the old forms of propaganda machinery are losing their monopoly in the business of disseminating information and so what they had managed to instill in the minds of people over the last 25 years has now become diluted owing to more information from more sources. That, plus the fact of the passage of a quarter century, has provided the ordinary man in the street a yardstick (25 years) longer than the entire period of Marcos’ rule, allowing for comparisons to be made. Consequently, the long held opinions of not a few people regarding the last half century are showing revisions that continue to change as technology lets slip away the old monopolies of information from the hands of a few.
Still, history begs to be written from a relatively distant future and even then, the same studies in the hands of various scholars and historians with no affiliation whatsoever to any of the major players of any given period, would still have different treatments, applications, and approaches to research and inevitably, different conclusions.
So, in as much as we are commemorating the events of 1986, going back some twenty five years before that, and another twenty five years leading up to today, I would rather, as I’ve often said, leave to historians the job of writing history.
In the last elections held, we all heard the politicians rant and rave about the “dismal” situation we find our country in today and this was being proclaimed by the same people that marched in EDSA 25 long years ago. Some have been elected and now occupy the highest positions in government. Having said that, I now go back to what I’ve been saying: we can choose to get stuck in the “blame game” which, I think, is a formula for failure because, already, it provides an excuse to fail and blurs the needed focus; or, we can train our eyes to look forward, unite, and work to make this country a better place for all.
Today, there is in the Philippines a new generation holding the reins of power both in government and in the private sector and in my view, this presents a unique opportunity for a resurgence of a national consciousness capable of putting aside differences, mostly inherited, and rallying our country in a way history will judge to have been spurred by this generation, our generation. My personal concern and undoubtedly, I am not alone in this, is to be able to help pick up the pieces strewn within our midst and rebuild our broken nation to one deserving of each and every Filipino, with justice, freedom and economic prosperity to make life for all, especially for our children, somewhat easier, a little brighter, and a good deal more fair and equitable. This is a dream only because it is not yet so; certainly, not because it cannot be so.