The Philippine Star : The BBM interview

News & Interviews
23 September 2021

By The Philippine Star

The controversial Bongbong Marcos interview is the most watched video upload in the YouTube channel of Toni Gonzaga, entertainment personality and blogger on social media.

As this column was being written on Monday, Sept. 20, 2021, that interview logged 5.3 million views – and the numbers were still going up.

From where I sit, social media has defeated television as a medium of knowledge and entertainment.

An impartial and objective observer would say that the interview catapulted Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos Jr., son of the late ousted president, to the forefront of possible presidential contenders in the 2022 elections.

And yet, the young Marcos – BBM to his friends and supporters – has not yet decided if he was running; that is, as this column was being written.

Had his legions of critics ignored that interview, BBM would still be a political wallflower.

But since that interview and the bashing Toni Gonzaga got from it, BBM, the defeated vice presidential candidate in the 2016 elections, has made people aware that he’s capable of holding the country’s No. 1 post.

Bongbong showed the Marcos brand of eloquence in that interview. His reply to difficult questions fielded by Gonzaga was spontaneous.

Eloquence is a trait every leader should have.

Now, let me dissect the criticisms directed at Gonzaga and Marcos because of that interview.

On the matter of trying to revise history, there are always two sides to the coin: the stories of the victors and the vanquished.

Many of those born after the departure of Marcos and his family or were too young at the time were taught history from the perspective of the victors. History, after all, is written by the victors.

But the vanquished also have their story to tell.

Bongbong Marcos talked about that part of history, which victors would rather skim through or skip altogether, because it would weaken their credibility.

And where’s our vaunted freedom of speech and of the press if Gonzaga was prevented from interviewing Marcos?

A columnist in another paper who was probably born after Marcos or too young to know about the martial law period blurted out:

“Those who cry out to protect Gonzaga’s tender feelings should probably wonder why her feelings should bear greater weight than those in the press who were silenced by guns, arrests and forced resignations, rather than the noise of the internet. Her freedom may allow her to play at journalism, but she deserves no thanks, credit or protection for giving a platform to one who would humanize a monster.”

If Marcos were a monster, do you think the EDSA crowd would have succeeded in ousting him?

I covered the so-called People Power Revolution from start to finish, and I could say without batting an eyelash that the EDSA crowd was there only through Marcos’ sufferance.

When then Armed Forces Chief of Staff Fabian Ver, who was with President Marcos during a TV interview, volunteered to bomb the EDSA crowd, the old man cut him short.

Here’s a transcript of that fateful TV broadcast beamed nationwide:

Ver: Please, Your Honor, (allow me) so we can immediately strike them. We have to immobilize the helicopters that they’ve got. We have two fighter planes flying now to strike at any time, sir.

Marcos: My order is not to attack, no, no, no! Hold on, my order is not to attack.

Ver: They are massing civilians near our troops and we cannot keep on withdrawing. You asked me to withdraw yesterday.

Marcos: My order is to disperse without shooting them.

Ver: We cannot withdraw all the time.

Marcos: No! No! No! Hold on! You disperse the crowd without shooting them.

Bongbong Marcos, recalling those critical hours, quoted his father as telling him: “I have spent my whole life defending Filipinos. I can’t hurt them now.”

If Marcos were a heartless leader, do you think Cory Aquino would have been installed?

Let’s talk about what could or might have been.

If Marcos ordered bombs dropped, say, 200 meters from the EDSA crowd, people would have scampered helter-skelter for dear life.

As a personal witness to the EDSA People Power revolution, I knew that the crowd was composed mostly of miron (curious onlookers) and unwilling participants. The diehards were Cory supporters, priests and nuns. They would have stayed on and would have been killed.

The Marcoses could have escaped to the Ilocos region and set up a government there. There would have been a bloody civil war as the population at the time was split right down the middle for or against Marcos.

Many people didn’t know Cory Aquino then. Despite the assassination of former Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino upon his arrival at the Manila International Airport, many citizens believed that Marcos didn’t have a hand in it.

Some objective observers of the 1986 snap election, where Aquino supposedly won, surmised that Marcos would have won by a slight margin even if the elections were not rigged.

People now talk of journalists and martial law critics being jailed. There was suppression of press freedom.

True on both counts. But in the latter part of martial law and after it was lifted on Jan. 17, 1981, the government became lenient towards criticisms.

When I was made a columnist of the Manila Bulletin in May of 1982, I hit the ground running.

I became a nemesis of abusive soldiers and police officers. Even people in high places, such as Marcos’ Cabinet officials and military or police generals, were not spared from my acid pen.

I was neither arrested nor even told to stop. Instead, the officials I exposed in my column were either dismissed or reprimanded.

In contrast, I was booted out of the Bulletin during the early days of the Aquino administration because I exposed the interference of a husband-wife tandem in the new regime.