The luck of Bongbong Marcos

The luck of Bongbong Marcos” was first published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Oct. 17, 2015 (Pilipino version: “Ang Suerte ni Bongbong Marcos“)

“I am the luckiest person that I know and being a Marcos is part of that and I am very happy that I was born into the Marcos family,” said Bongbong Marcos.

Obvious ba? Did Bongbong really have to rub this in?

When he was born in 1957, his father, Ferdinand Marcos, was already completing a third term in Congress. Two years later, Ferdinand won a seat in the Senate, from where he launched two successful presidential campaigns. Faced with term limits, he then imposed a martial law regime that enabled him to retain supreme power for another 14 years. There were few disadvantages for the only son of the Philippines’ most powerful politician.

It was not Bongbong’s fault to be born to wealth and power, and it is an act of virtue to express gratitude for the benefits received from parents. But his filial piety becomes suspect when he suggests that the blessings he enjoyed also spread to the rest of the population. It becomes delusional when he asserts that Ferdinand was the best leader the country has ever had.

Bongbong is aware of the issues raised in the past against the “conjugal dictatorship” of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos. He argues that “history should be left to analysts,” but believes that the Marcos “legacy” would boost his bid in the 2016 vice-presidential race. Bongbong and his family refuse to recognize that the “analysts” have already rendered a verdict on the Marcos legacy.

Take the myth of Maharlika, the guerrilla unit that Ferdinand supposedly organized and led from 1942 to 1944 in operations all over Luzon, whose exploits earned for him 32 medals for heroism. There is adequate documentation for three medals, which we should commend. But the other awards, from Alfred W. McCoy’s archival research, were figments of Ferdinand’s imagination, invented to support a scam. Investigations conducted by the Pentagon concluded that his Maharlika unit roster was a fabrication to support claims for American back-pay benefits. Its proclaimed achievements were “fraudulent,” “preposterous,” and advancing them is a “malicious, criminal act.”

On human rights violations during the Marcos regime, McCoy recorded a figure of 3,257 extrajudicial killings—compared to 2,115 under Pinochet in Chile and 266 under the military junta in Brazil—and over 2,500 “salvaged” victims. In September 1992, the US District Court in Honolulu found Ferdinand Marcos guilty of systematic torture and held his estate liable for damages to all 9,541 victims, later awarding nearly $2 billion in damages—the biggest personal injury verdict then in legal history.

Regarding plundered wealth, the 2004 Global Transparency Report listed Marcos second (behind Suharto of Indonesia) in its list of the World’s Most Corrupt Leaders. Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, often cited as a model authoritarian ruler that Marcos could have emulated, distanced himself from Ferdinand: “Only in the Philippines could a leader like Ferdinand Marcos, who pillaged his country for over 20 years, still be considered for a national burial. Insignificant amounts of the loot have been recovered, yet his wife and children were allowed to return and engage in politics.”

Bongbong would prefer to leave the past behind and to address today’s problems. He asks: “Why is the distribution of wealth not happening?” He should ask his mother. Speaking to the Inquirer in 1998, Imelda Marcos said: “We practically own everything in the Philippines—from electricity, telecommunications, airline, banking, beer and tobacco, newspaper publishing, television stations, shipping, oil and mining, hotels and beach resorts, down to coconut milling, small farms, real estate and insurance.” She was then planning to sue the cronies holding the family’s properties.

The Supreme Court estimated the total legal income of the Marcoses earned from 1965 to 1986 at over $304,000. The Presidential Commission on Good Government tasked to recover the Marcos plunder pegged what had been looted from the country at $10 billion, less than half of which has been recovered. Might kleptocracy help explain the inequitable wealth distribution that so concerns Bongbong?

“Why is our education sector miserable?” Bongbong asks. Recent research has shown that from the Magsaysay administration (1954-57) to the two presidential terms of Ferdinand Marcos (1965-81), education received the biggest share of the national budget, maintaining close to 28 percent. During the rest of the Marcos regime (1972-1985), education’s share dropped to an average of 11.6 percent of the budget, even while basic education enrollment was growing at about 2.4 percent a year.

During the period when Marcos could determine budget allocations, he chose to cut down support for education. An educated population, of course, poses a threat to dictators.

The judgment on the Marcos record is clear, but we have not fully plumbed the depths of the damage inflicted by the Marcos regime on the country. How do we quantify the cost of leaders killed or suppressed during martial law? Bongbong’s gratuitous celebration of the Marcos legacy challenges us to pursue the research effort.

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ANG SUERTE NI BONGBONG MARCOS

Ako ang pinakamasuwerteng taong kilala ko at ang pagiging isang Marcos ay bahagi nito at tuwang-tuwa ako na ipinanganak ako sa pamilyang Marcos,” sabi ni Bongbong Marcos.

Obvious ba? Kailangan pa ba itong idiin ni Bongbong? Noong isilang siya (1957), ang ama niyang si Ferdinand Marcos ay nasa ikatlong termino na sa Kongreso. Pagkaraan ng dalawang taon, nanalong Senador si Ferdinand, at mula dito’y naglunsad ng dalawang matagumpay na kampanya para maging presidente. Dahil may hangganan ang kanyang ikalawang termino, ipinataw niya ang Batas Militar na nagpahintulot sa kanyang magkamit ng lubusang kapangyarihan sa 14 pang taon. Katiting ang problema ng kaisa-isang anak na lalaki ng pinakamakapangyarihang politiko sa Pilipinas.

Hindi kasalanan ni Bongbong na ipinanganak siya sa yaman at kapangyarihan, at mabuting ugali ang magpasalamat sa mga biyayang natanggap mula sa mga magulang. Ngunit naging kaduda-duda ang katapatan niya sa kanyang mga magulang nang ipahiwatig niyang ang mga biyayang natanggap niya ay natanggap din ng ibang mamamayan. Naging kababalaghan ito nang sabihin niyang ang kanyang ama ang naging pinakamagaling na pinuno ng bansa.

Alam ni Bongbong ang mga isyu na ibinabato noon pa man sa “conjugal dictatorship” nina Ferdinand at Imelda Marcos. Ikinakatwiran niya na “hayaang mga dalubhasa na lamang ang humusga sa kasaysayan” pero naniniwala siya na ang “pamanang” Marcos ay makakapagsulong sa kanyang pag-asam na maging bise-presidente sa 2016. Ayaw na ayaw tanggapin ni Bongbong at ng kanyang pamilya na hinusgahan na ng mga “dalubhasa” ang pamanang Marcos.

Tulad ng alamat ng Maharlika, ang pangkat ng mga gerilya na umano’y binuo at pinamunuan ni Ferdinand noong 1942-1944.  Dahil daw sa mga operasyon nito sa buong Luzon, nabigyan siya diumano ng 37 medalya para sa kabayanihan. May sapat na patunay para sa tatlong medalya, na dapat nating purihin. Ngunit ang ibang mga medalya, ayon sa panananaliksik ni Alfred W. McCoy, ay mula lamang sa guniguni ni Ferdinand at inimbento para maisulong ang isang pakana. Natuklasan ng imbestigasyon ng Pentagon na gawa-gawa lamang ang mga ipinagyayabang ng pangkat na Maharlika para maisulong ang paghingi ng back-pay mula sa Amerika. Ang ibinabandilang mga tagumpay ng pangkat ay “palsipikado,” “di-kapani-paniwala,” at ang pagtatanghal ng mga ito ay “gawaing malisyoso at kriminal”.

Tungkol sa mga paglabag sa karapatang-pantao noong rehimeng Marcos, naitala ni McCoy ang 3,257 na pagpatay na extrajudicial — kumpara sa 2,115 sa ilalim ni Pinochet sa Chlle at 266 sa ilalim ng junta militar sa Brazil– at higit pa sa 2,500 na biktimang na-salvage. Noong Setyembre 1992, idineklara ng US District Court sa Honolulu na maysala si Ferdinand Marcos ng at ipinasyang dapat magbayad-pinsala ng kanyang mga ari-arian sa 9,541 na biktima ng sistematikong pagpapahirap, at pagkaraa’y nagpataw ng halos 2 bilyong dolyar na bayad-pinsala–ang pinakamalaking “personal injury verdict” noon sa buong kasaysayan ng hukuman.

Tungkol naman sa nakaw na yaman, inilista ng 2004 Global Transparency Report si Marcos na pangalawa (kasunod ni Suharto ng Indonesia) sa talaan nito ng World’s Most Corrrupt Leaders. Inilayo ni Lee Kuan Yew ng Singapore, na madalas banggitin bilang sana’y autokartikong tinularan ni Marcos, ang kanyang sarili kay Ferdinand: “Sa Pilipinas lamang maisasaalang-alang na ilibing bilang bayani ang isang pinunong tulad ni Ferdinand Marcos, na dinambong ang yaman ng kanyang bansa nang higit sa 20 taon. Kakaunti pang nakaw na yaman ang nabawi, pero ang kanyang asawa at mga anak ay napayagang bumalik at makisangkot sa pulitika.”

Mas gusto ni Marcos na kalimutan ang nakalipas at harapin ang mga problema ngayon. Ang tanong niya: “Bakit hindi naipamamahagi ang yaman ngayon?” Dapat niyang tanungin ang kaniyang ina. Sabi sa Inquirer noong 1998 ni Imelda Marcos: “Pag-aari namin ang halos lahat ng yaman sa Pilipinas — mula sa elektrisidad, telekomunikasyon, airline, mga banko, serbesa at tabako, publikasyon ng mga diyaryo, langis at minahan, mga hotel at beach resort, hanggang sa pagpoproseso ng niyog, maliliit na sakahan, real estate at insurance.” Binabalak niya noon na sampahan ng kaso ang mga crony na hawak ang mga ari-arian ng kanyang pamilya. Tinaya ng Korte Suprema na ang kabuuang legal na kita ng mga Marcos mula 1965 hanggang 1986 ay higit lamang sa $304,000. Ayon sa Presidential Commission on Good Government na inatasang bawiin ang ninakaw ng mga Marcos, ang ninakaw ay S10 bilyon at wala pang kalahati nito ang nababawi. Hindi kaya maipaliwanag ng malawakang pagnanakaw ang di-pantay na pamamahagi ng yaman na pinuproblema nang lubha ni Bongbong ngayon?

“Bakit miserable ng sektor ng edukasyon natin?” tanong ni Bongbong. Ayon sa pananaliksik na ginawa nito lamang nakaraan, mula sa administrayon ni Magsaysay (1954-57) hanggang sa dalawang termino ni Ferdinand Marcos bilang presidente (1965-71), tumanggap ang edukasyon ng pinakamalaking bahagi ng pambansang budget, na laging halos 28%. Sa nalabi pang mga taon ng rehimeng Marcos (1972-1985), bumaba ang kabahagi ng edukasyon sa 11.6% ng budget, kahit pa lumalaki ang bilang ng mga nasa mababang paaralan ng humigit-kumulang 2.4% taun-taon.

Noong si Marcos ang nagpapasya tungkol sa alokasyon ng budget, pinili niyang bawasan ang suporta sa edukasyon. Siyempre, ang mga mamamayang edukado ay malaking banta laban sa mga diktador.

Malinaw ang hatol sa rekord ni Marcos, pero hindi pa natin nasisisid ang lalim ng pinsala na idinulot ng rehimeng Marcos sa ating bansa. Paano nating masusukat ang halaga ng mga pinunong pinatay o sinikil noong batas militar? Hinahamon tayo ng makasariling pagdiriwang ni Bongbong ng pamanang Marcos na isulong ang pagsisikap na magsaliksik upang mailantag ang katotohanan.

Edilberto de Jesus
Edilberto de Jesus is a former Secretary of Education. He is also professor emeritus at the Asian Institute of Management.

2 Comments

  1. Bongbong and his family refuse to recognize that the “analysts” have already rendered a verdict on the Marcos legacy.

  2. Bongbong is aware of the issues raised in the past against the “conjugal dictatorship” of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos.

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