I am posting this by a former Marcos loyalist as I think it adds weight to the discussion on this site.
I grew up in a somewhat Marcos loyalist family. My late lola used to keep a portrait of the Marcos family on her old and bulky radio in her room. And as far as I can remember, I never heard any condemnation of Martial Law from my father’s parents; I guess their being G.I. (Genuine Ilocano) already explains why. I was also in high school when I first read Marcos’ Notes on the New Society, an old book which I stumbled upon my tita’s bookshelves. And I can say his vision of the Philippines back then was really alluring for me until now. Since that book, I instantly became a fan of Marcos and his regime–but only until lately.
He was a very promising man. Before topping the bar, he defended himself in court against charges of murder and he actually won. He became a decorated soldier boasting of many medals awarded to him because of his service during the Second World War. More than this, he was the only president to be reelected into office under the 1935 Constitution, which is very telling of his performance and his charisma. He might be a very brilliant man but his vision for a New Society is even more brilliant.
In his writings (assuming that it was really his), he distinguished between the Old Society and New Society. The old one is characterized by the rule of the oligarchs which have restricted the full practice of democracy in the Philippines. The rich continued to rule our democracy, fine tuning its policies in order to cater to their own interests, not of everyone else’s, thus widening the gap between the rich and the poor . Marcos claims to wish to bridge this widening gap through the introduction of the New Society wherein private property is democratized–that is, controlled and limited by the government in order to democratically distribute wealth. The New Society is a democratic one, one that is characterized by peace and order, industrialization, land reform, and improved social services for according to him, any revolution which is not geared toward democracy is unjustified.
In order for us to get into this New Society, Marcos led what he called a “revolution from the center” for he believes that the government should locate itself at the center of the people and not from above. This revolution is what he operationalized as Martial Law. Even though this whole societal analysis and the cures he offered were used as propaganda, it is hard to deny that they are indeed very good. I actually still believe that this New Society is what we really need right now and his proposal of a revolution from the center is very plausible. But I guess what he forgot in the equation is the danger of a revolution coming from the center: abuse coming from his trusted circle and even from himself.
What he missed from the equation was actually his greatest failure as a visionary and as President.
In practice, this supposedly democratic revolution leading to the New Society only perpetuated the old one. Many roads, bridges and buildings were erected but only as a facade. They were all erected as monuments to foreign debts heedlessly incurred by the Marcoses primarily to fund their luxuries and partly to fund government projects. The suspension of the old society’s democratic liberties was not used to further democratic aims but to fortify the administration’s claim to power. Countless opposition leaders were detained, tortured and killed without any fair trial. Many discourses were consigned to silence. Freedom as we know it today was withheld in favor of those in power.
Communist rebels also multiplied in number during Marcos’ time. Since there were no other means to fight for freedom, the mountains became the cradle of the country’s heroes back then. Although private companies were seized by the government, the seizing was not done for democratizing wealth but only for monopolizing the market.
Marcos’ New Society experiment not just failed but failed heavily. Today we can only speculate whether Marcos sincerely envisioned the New Society or he just thought of a very pretty ornament to be placed on the barbed wires of his regime.
As a young Filipino who has no memory of Martial Law, it is indeed very dangerous having these materials penned by Marcos lying around without the proper education of what really transpired during this supposed transition period. I understand people of my generation who defend the Marcos era for I was once like them. Every bit of positive fact I encounter about the Martial Law automatically becomes a confirmation of my admiration for him and his regime. It took me quite some time and quite some research before I learned to condemn the Martial Law as the darkest era of Philippine history since the murder of Bonifacio.
Although I cling to his vision of a New Society, I despise him for what he actually did to my country and to my countrymen. Our forefathers fought guns and cannons with their humble bolos in order to attain the freedom and recognition that we have today. Marcos and his regime trampled upon the very freedom which the Katipuneros bought with their sweat and blood. And I despise him even more because even though his brilliant mind already came up with solutions to our perennial problems, he still chose to forward his own and his cronies’ selfish agenda over the betterment of the people he pledged to serve.
As we celebrate the 29th anniversary of the People Power Revolution, I join various groups in their call to never forget. We must never forget the abuses that happened. We must never forget the lives that were ended because of crying for justice and for freedom. We must never forget so that we can learn to treasure the freedom that our forefathers have given us.
Let me end with a quote from Ninoy Aquino’s very famous speech in Los Angeles while in exile: “Kanya (sic) po sa ating mga kababayan na nandito sa Los Angeles na ‘pag nakikita ang larawan ng G. Marcos at sila’y nasaludo pa at napalakpak, ‘wag n’yo sanang kalimutan ‘yung mga kasama n’yo saNational Psychopathic Hospital.” (So to our countrymen here in Los Angeles who still salute and clap before the picture of Mr. Marcos, do not forget your fellow patients confined in the National Psychopathic Hospital.)