Transcript of Speech of Senator Bongbong Marcos during the PHILCONSA Event: We cannot escape history

8 December 2016

Address of Ferdinand Marcos, Jr
Philippine Constitution Association
Manila Golf and Country Club

It’s always an honor for me to come and speak before PHILCONSA especially in your Christmas party as I know you always make a special effort to have a more relatively interesting speaker. I am glad that this is not the campaign trail otherwise the governors would already have a copy of my speech.

When I received your invitation, sabi ko this is a Christmas party. This is going a relaxed evening of pleasantries, gossip and reminiscences with old friends and colleagues.

But now that the day is here, I realize what a great difference a day makes.

Yesterday, I was just another private citizen preparing for this engagement with you to spend a quiet evening and bringing into our lives again the Christmas season. I was telling myself, that not being presently a public official, I should studiously avoid a talk on public policy.

However, after the developments of the last 48 hours, I find myself thrust back into the public square, because the decisions, acts and mishaps of others have irrevocably pulled me back to public attention.

Whatever some of you may secretly wish, I mean to avoid discussing here the firing and resignation of Mrs. Robredo from the cabinet of President Duterte -- or its possible reverberations on my electoral protest before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, which of course also involves her.

To relate to your professional concerns as the Philconsa, and in order to be timely, I will range freely in my remarks over issues concerning law, some history and international affairs.

It’s prudent to include history in the mix especially for this group, because you might be accused of revising history for inviting me here.

This is something that we have been hearing a great deal of which up to know I cannot understand what they are referring to.

50th year of Marcos presidency

As it happens, this year, 2016, happens to be the 50th anniversary of President Marcos’ inauguration in Luneta as the 10th President of the Philippines. Because although he was sworn into office on Dec. 30, 1965, the same year he won the election, the year 1966 was the inaugural year of the old man’s presidency.

It was in September 1966 too, that President Marcos succeeded in securing the agreement of the United States government to the shortening of the term of US military bases from 99 years to 25 years, counting from September 1966.

Before that epic agreement, there was no duration for the agreement at all between us and the Americans. The Americans could have kept the bases as long as they wanted. This was the true historical background of the epic decision that would transpire in September 1991, when the Philippine Senate rejected the renewal of the Military Bases Agreement.

What Ferdinand Marcos revised was not the history, but the agreement. But in so doing, he made history, which as he always believed is what presidents should do.

Trump and great again

Like some or many of you, we have been watching the campaign season during the election season in the United States and I take pleasure in the thought that the words that inaugurated the Marcos presidency in 1965, are remarkably similar if not actually the same words that have catapulted Mr. Trump into the American presidency.

Let me remind you 50 years ago, palagi nilang sinasabi we are revisionist, we are changing history, let’s do down to the facts.

50 years ago, President Ferdinand Marcos said:

“This nation can be great again. It is my article of faith, and Divine Providence has willed that you and I can translate this faith into deeds. I have repeatedly told you: each generation writes its own history. Our forebears have written theirs. With fortitude and excellence, we must write ours. We must renew the vision of greatness of our country.”

That was President Marcos in 1965.

Now, pause a moment, ladies and gentlemen and telescope time to 50 years later in America 2016. And you are listening to Donald Trump as he speaks campaigning for the US presidency:

These are his words:

To all Americans tonight, in all our cities and towns, I make this promise: We Will Make America Strong Again.

We Will Make America Proud Again.

We Will Make America Safe Again.

And We Will Make America Great Again.

“Great again” -- the words were echoed throughout America during this recent US election campaign.

And the words will be sounded again on January 20, when he is inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States of America.

Measure of a nation’s greatness

We look with skepticism at America today, because Vladimir Putin, not Barack Obama, is the one who has pivoted to Asia.

And that is why I think it was prescient of the President to quickly feel the pulse of history and immediately to have the wit to befriend Russia and China and to re-adjust our policy.

I think we are moving in the right direction.

But don’t make the mistake of counting America out. For all our misgivings, for all our worry, Donald Trump might be a better president than we expect. Time will tell.

It was Winston Churchill who said, as he rallied the battle-weary people of Britain during World War II, that the true measure of a nation’s greatness is what it can do when it is ruling the world but what it can do when it is tired.

I believe that now we are seeing rallying forces not only in the United States but also here in the Philippines. It is a time when America is increasingly fatigued from endless responsibility abroad, to rise again to leadership in the world.

Supreme Court as our rock

Yesterday, I was interviewed by GMA- TV to comment on the assertion and I think we have to come to the subject that we are all waiting for. I was asked to comment on the assertion that there is a plot to steal the vice presidency.

I said in comment, that this is basically an affront to the Supreme Court, which as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, has the sole authority to adjudicate the election protest concerning the vice presidential contest of May of this year. The High court will not countenance any attempt to manipulate the hearing of the protest.

However, we can see that clearly there are attempts to do just that.

I submit that whoever we are, we must measure our words when we speak of our Supreme Court.

No doubt because he was a lawyer, because of his unusual story and because of the role that the High Court played in his life and his career, my father from first to last had an enduring, even a reverential regard for the Supreme Court. He shared with his family these words of personal tribute and again I quote:

“However much the storms and the typhoons of political life may rage outside, however transitory the honors that the members of the legislature and the executive may attain in the domestic or international scene, there is one rock upon which we build our government. There is one rock that is immovable and immutable, and that rock is the Supreme Court of the Philippines.”

Those who talk about presidents and history should remember this humdrum truth: Presidents are supposed to make history. It is up to others to record that history.

“Sometimes there is a disparity between the history that is made and the history that is written.” And so I believe that from that we can see where revisionism comes in.

T.H. White, in his fantasy novel The Once and Future King, had an interesting take on this tension. Merlyn the magician experiences time in reverse. He knows what will happen, he laments, but not what has happened.

Unlike Merlyn, we ordinary humans remember the past but not the future. We get older but younger. There is a distinct arrow of time pointing in one direction. It is the arrow of history.

There are times when my sisters and I get weary of all the contentions and talk about history and martial law, and all the historical baggage that people would choose to put upon us. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy to carry any historical baggage that my father actually did and put on us. But those inventions that our detractors would like to add to that baggage or redefine that baggage, I will not accept.

And so we sometimes think, we can‘t we just lay all the history aside and get on with the work of development? Why can’t we just turn away from that and refocus our effort on what our people want us to do? But then I quickly recall us to the pregnant words of Charles Krauthammer:
“You cannot escape history. History will find you.”

Three political heresies

This being Christmas time, I hope you will allow me, a non-lawyer, to quote a few words about the rule of law to a society of lawyers and constitutionalists.

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, in an address to the American Bar Association, declared that justice requires those in public life to repudiate a number of fashionable heresies. And this is what she said:

The first heresy is that if only a determined minority gathers (and here we can see the actuations of a determined minority) together in large enough numbers to bully or intimidate others, the law either will not, or cannot, be enforced against them. The inference is not only that there is safety in numbers, but that this brings with it some kind of collective immunity from legal process. It does not.

The second heresy is that, if you feel sufficiently strongly about some particular issue, you are entitled to claim superiority to the laws and are therefore absolved. This is arrogant nonsense and deserves to be treated as such.

The third heresy is that the law can be obeyed selectively. Those groups who would pick and choose among our laws, obeying some and breaking others, imperil liberty itself. The law must stand as whole and be obeyed as a whole.”

And that is why the great Iron Lady is a great idol of mine. She spoke with great understanding of government and the law and the tension between those two institutions.

I quote her words because the heresies can be applied in one way or another to what some are doing today, and to all the indignities and disrespect that have been heaped upon my father and to all the indignities and disrespect that had been heaped upon my father when he was interred at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

The bitterness never ends because some fear that they will be reduced to their true measure, once President Marcos is allowed his measure of greatness.

Thank you very much for giving me the privilege to speak to you.

Merry Christmas and a happy New Year to all.