WE DON’T want to demonize President Duterte early in his term, but this year’s observance of the 44th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law is taking part amid a state of emergency he himself has declared over what he himself (again) has proclaimed as a state of lawlessness in the country.  His own twin declarations should belie the claim of his losing running mate last May 10 and his lackey in the Senate in the latter’s effort to stop the legislative inquiry on alleged extra-judicial killings of drug suspects—that under the three-month-old administration, the Philippines had become secure and peaceful “like Singapore.” Although Singapore has had a history of strongman rule, we don’t think it would be comfortable being remotely linked to extrajudicial killings. In any case, what peace is that troll from Taguig talking about?

Not that Duterte doesn’t want to be associated with Ferdinand Marcos and Martial Law. He himself has shown partiality toward the strongman’s son, “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, in the latter’s election protest to contest the vice-presidential victory of Leni Robredo. And he has divided the nation by pressing for the burial of the strongman’s remains at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. And during the campaign, he had threatened to declare a revolutionary government even if elected constitutionally!

Parallels are uncanny. On Sept. 21, 1972, Marcos declared Martial Law on national TV, citing the “increasing threat of communism in the country.” At once, he unleashed the military and constabulary to close down the media and arrest and detain 8,000 persons. Marcos said he was launching a “new society” and getting rid of the “oligarchs.” In their place he favored his relatives, cronies and warlords and ushered in a “kleptocracy.” Duterte in contrast has cited the threat of the Philippines becoming a “narcopolis” in pressing for a draconian anti-drug campaign that is feared to have now have gunned down some 3,000 persons and just about everyone except for the big drug dealers and top police officers that Duterte himself has identified and which the Philippine National Police under him hasn’t remotely fired a shot at, much less nabbed. He has made a new establishment out of his own police and military supporters, his own cronies and lapdogs. In fact Duterte has done much better than Marcos: he has included trolls in the new status quo.

The only difference between Marcos and Duterte is that the former hasn’t blamed the communists even if there are strong evidence showing the traffic of prohibited drugs originates in China. He cannot do that because as a student of Maoist diehard and Communist Party of the Philippines leader Jose Maria Sison at the Lyceum in the 1960’s, he has a romance with socialist totalitarianism and is pro-Beijing. He may have cursed Pope Francis and Obama and called them names, but he won’t do that with China and its communist bosses and Vladimir Putin who’s nostalgic about the old communist Soviet Union. He wouldn’t curse China and Putin because they’re totalitarian like him and like thieves, there should be honor among despots or wanna-be despots.

China has become the Philippines’ gravest threat to its territorial sovereignty because of its encroachments on and reclamation of large parts of the West Philippine Sea, but Duterte and his jester at the foreign ministry who calls himself perfect haven’t used the ruling of the International Court favoring the Philippine protest to counter the Chinese threat.

It is due to totalitarian hangover and delusion that no wonder, Filipinos like Duterte have pressed for state burial honors for Marcos!

Marcos apologists perpetually tell everyone that it is “time to move on.” But do they really know what to move on from? Those who want to move on from the horrors of Martial Law did not even live through its horrors or having lived through them, have suddenly turned amnesiacs and intellectual vegetables! The Marcos regime. was associated for wholesale abuse of rights. Thousands of people were tortured and summarily executed; many simply disappeared.

Cronyism and nepotism were institutionalized. Roguery and corruption became the order of the day. The youth extol Imelda Marcos, crediting her for building monuments that were built through behest loans from government corporations and through international aid that went to private pockets. Generations of taxpayers are still paying for the debts! Several people even have the effrontery to challenge accounts of abuses by Martial Law survivors.

Under the Duterte administration, the Philippine state’s Official Gazette (OG) in its Facebook page paid tribute recently to the late dictator on his 99th birthday and tried to revise history by claiming, “Marcos stepped down from the presidency to avoid bloodshed during the uprising that came to be known as ‘People Power.’”

The Facebook post was promptly taken down after widespread social media protest, but not before Ramon Cualoping, assistant secretary of the Presidential Communications Operations Office, betrayed his illiteracy. He said the OG was “not in the business of revising history” and it was merely reporting on what was “documented in the official records.”

The moral debasement of Filipinos is worsening. The Catholic-dominated nation has now abandoned the teachings of the Church. Many openly support extra-judicial killings and seem reluctant to take the Duterte and the PNP to task how so-called vigilante squads seem to operate unchallenged. Some have called for the restoration of the death penalty despite the Church’s opposition to capital punishment because it is cruel and inhuman. During the last administration, the reproductive health (RH) law was passed that basically restored the Marcos 1973 Constitution, the only charter in history to enshrine family planning and institutionalize the state contraception of poor couples. Meanwhile, Duterte’s proclamation of a “state of lawlessness” may be paving the way for the restoration of Martial Law. We should heed what the Spanish philosopher—and lapsed Catholic—George Santayana has warned: “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”


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