Monday, September 20, 2010

Marcos never left the building

Thirty-eight years ago, Ferdinand Marcos stamped his foot on the dishonour roll of dangerous and invasive species of world dictators.

With the proclamation of martial law on September 21, 1972, Marcos literally obliterated the freedoms the Filipinos fought hard to achieve from the 1896 Revolution against Spain to emancipation from the Japanese occupation after the Second World War.

For almost two decades, Marcos would rule with an iron fist, putting to prisons those who criticized and opposed his regime. The People Power Revolution of 1986 deposed him, forcing him to sneak out to Hawaii, which was as far as he could enter the United States, his principal supporter who propped up his dictatorial and repressive regime.

Marcos’ eldest daughter, Imee, now governor of Ilocos Norte, has called for a “thorough and objective study” of her father’s rule that would take into account the merits of the martial law period and not just its flaws. Imee bragged that her father built better bridges and roads, and better movies were also shown during her father’s time. Poor Imee had no recollection of the almost one thousand Filipinos who involuntarily disappeared and more than 35,000 who were tortured during the Marcos years. Nor she could remember that when her father assumed the presidency in 1965, the country’s foreign debt was less than $1 billion, which shot up to $28 billion after his ouster in 1986.

After his banishment and ultimately his death on the sunny shores of Hawaii, Marcos never really had left the country. His business cronies, political and military supporters were all rehabilitated under Corazon Aquino’s administration. They would eventually take elective positions and assume powerful positions in government. Now, the Marcoses are back in full force: son Ferdinand “Bongbong” Jr. is a newly-minted senator, daughter Imee is the new Ilocos Norte governor, and wife Imelda Marcos is also back in Congress as representative of Ilocos Norte.

Even the self-proclaimed architect of the “Marcos martial law” has stayed in power despite his master’s downfall. Now 86 years old, Juan Ponce Enrile is the current president of the Senate, probably the highest office he would hold until he fades away. Forever the masterful political wizard, Enrile knew how to bestow loyalty to whoever was the president at the time, but he would always remain a faithful “Marcos boy,” in the words of the dictator’s widow, Imelda Romualdez-Marcos.

Enrile is not the only successful Marcos retread. Among the prominent Marcos cronies who made good in politics or business are Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, popular kingmaker and powerful business leader, also the first cousin of the late President Cory Aquino and uncle of the current President Noynoy Aquino; Joseph “Erap” Estrada who became the second president to be ousted by people power like Marcos; Jose de Venecia, former speaker of the House of Representatives and pretender to the presidency; and Lucio Tan, Filipino-Chinese business magnate and billionaire who owns Asia Brewery, Fortune Tobacco, Tanduay Holdings, and Philippine Airlines.

Also included in this M-list is General Eduardo Ermita, a graduate of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), and said to hold the reins of power known as “little president” during the administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo where he became defence secretary and executive secretary. Another PMA graduate with strong ties to the strongman from Batac is Senator Panfilo Lacson, known as “torturer” during his time in the military and also once a presidential contender. Now a fugitive from the law, Lacson is wanted for the killing of broadcaster Bubby Dacer. There are many other military officials who are now entrenched in high positions in government that have been linked in one way or another to the Marcos era.

According to the Transparency International’s (TI) “Global Corruption Report 2004,” Ferdinand Marcos (1966-1986) was the second most corrupt head of the state in the world. Marcos allegedly embezzled US$5-10 billion during his presidency. On top of Marcos was Sukarno, president of Indonesia, who embezzled US$35 billion during his rule from 1967 to 1989.

In the same report, Joseph Estrada ranked number 10 as most corrupt head of state. He reportedly amassed US$78-80 million. Like strongman Ferdinand Marcos, Estrada was also ousted by people power 15 years apart of each other. It remains to be seen how the Truth Commission established by President Noynoy Aquino will compare Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo with the rest of the heads of state who made it to the international corruption gallery of rogues.

To most fanatical Marcos’s devotees, the dictator is still alive. They could be damned right because many of the people who walked mightily on the landscape of power that Marcos built during his regime continue to hold on to power. Now that members of his own family have returned to power, they could be back with vengeance.

What used to be a poison in the Philippines, the Marcos name now appears to be the most bankable for a son that also rises. After his remarkable showing in the last elections, Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. might just be retracing the footprints his father left behind. Remember that the old Marcos was a popular senator in his heyday before being elected president.

The dictator’s son has insisted that he has nothing to apologize about his father and namesake’s 20-year iron-fisted rule of the country, a regime dominated by widespread human rights abuses, embezzlement of billions of dollars from state coffers for the Marcos family’s personal benefit, and wholesale slaughter of democratic institutions.

“My father doesn’t need me to vindicate him,” the son said during his first major interview after amassing more that 13 million votes and securing his seat in the Senate.

To Marcos junior, his father was superior to those who succeeded him. “He was much a better president than they have been,” the 53-year old putative heir to his father’s throne said.

With mother Imelda, 80, winning a seat in Congress, and sister Imee, the governorship of Ilocos Norte province, their family’s stronghold, the Marcos clan is surely at its strongest politically since being overthrown.

To Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the sight of the presidency is within reach. After serving for nine years as Ilocos Norte governor and three years as member of Congress, the son is clearly marching towards his own path to greatness on the national stage.

A Marcos cult is even born in the dictator’s home district of Ilocos Norte where hundreds of devoted followers gather each month to pay homage to the former president. They have their own chapel in a mountain retreat where they meet in identical white flowing robes every month. The second coming of another Marcos to recapture the presidency looks imminent to them.

And check this out. There’s even a Ferdinand E. Marcos on Facebook.

No comments: