How Aquino is repeating the excesses of Marcos


When we regained our freedom, there was a popular song that said that we will never allow the aberration that was Martial Law to happen again. And starting in 2001, however, my predecessor, instead of learning the lessons of Martial Law, seemingly adopted Mr. Marcos’ handbook on how to abuse the democratic process.
— President Benigno Aquino 3rd speaking at Harvard University, Sept. 21

Maybe it’s too much to ask of a politician. Still, our Filipino and Christian culture hold certain tenets sacrosanct, even in the often ruthless and unprincipled world of politics.

Don’t hit a man when he’s down, is one unwritten, but strongly felt rule. Nothing like beating up on an ailing enemy to get Filipinos siding with the latter. Another principle is to make sure one is clean before calling the kettle black. Or else people quickly retort: Look who’s talking. Of course, there’s the most basic tenet of all: Speak the truth.

You’d think a leader whose father was publicly vilified while under detention; whose mother largely avoided excoriating the excesses of her husband’s oppressor; and who recently quoted the Gospel of St. John about the truth setting one free, would be the last to castigate a grandmother jailed and sick for purportedly abusing democracy when three fingers of his accusing hand are rightly pointed back at himself.

Yet President Benigno Aquino 3rd did just that in his address at one of the world’s great institutions revered for discovering and propagating truth and knowledge, Harvard University: he hit a woman while she’s down, accusing her of abuses, when, in truth, it is he who has failed to learn from our authoritarian past and committed the same sins against democracy done by dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Just recall what Marcos did, then truthfully consider what Aquino has done.

Marcos sought to rule beyond the limit of two presidential terms by declaring martial law, purportedly to institute sweeping national reforms, then promulgating a new Constitution crafted by delegates bribed by the Palace, and dubiously ratified not by popular vote, but by an assembly of handpicked barangay leaders—all this transpiring under the M-14s of martial law troops.

Today, we have a president who has openly talked of changing the charter promulgated by his mother, so he could rule beyond his single term, and with less oversight from the Judiciary. The very provisions he wants to scrap are the ones instituted to prevent a return to abusive, undemocratic one-man rule. Talk about not learning the lessons of martial law!

To amend the charter Aquino can mobilize a Congress seduced by pork barrel and hostaged by incriminating pork papers, and a computerized election canvassing system which has proven effective in delivering voting ratios favoring the government. The Precinct Count Optical Scan system beats hands down the Marcos-era schemes which robbed the opposition of votes in Batasan polls, and declared the strongman winner against Corazon Aquino in the 1986 snap elections, igniting people power.

Usurping power and coddling cronies

Under martial law, Marcos not only wielded law-making powers, but also set up a rubber-stamp Batasan to pass the statutes he wanted. Today, Aquino’s pork-barreled clout over Congress is beyond doubt. Even with that, he and his budget secretary decided to usurp the legislature’s power of the purse by recasting the General Appropriations Acts of three consecutive years.

The dictatorship that Filipinos brought down and replaced with a democracy under Aquino’s mother, was also notorious for channeling state funds to allies and cronies, and tolerating the corruption of close Marcos associates.

The current Aquino administration has more than doubled pork barrel spending to more than P80 billion till the Supreme Court halted it last year, and diverted even more billions to Congress allies under the unconstitutional Disbursement Acceleration Program. And Malacañang has leapt to the defense of close Aquino associates—the infamous Kaklase, Kakampi, Kabarilan clique—embroiled in anomalies.

Media control was another hallmark of Marcos rule: crony-owned newspapers and broadcast networks sang the regime’s praises and ignored its anomalies and abuses.

Today, the same tack of headlining administration gains and downplaying failings marks the so-called yellow journalism of the mainstream media. The pro-Aquino papers and broadcasters have also lent themselves to media campaigns against political rivals.

Detaining and demonizing opponents

Speaking of Palace adversaries, both Marcos and Aquino jailed and demonized opponents. Aquino’s father Ninoy was among countless leaders arrested under martial law. Though a civilian, the dissident senator was tried, convicted and sentence to death by a military court.

Aquino’s predecessor Gloria Arroyo was barred from seeking medical treatment abroad, even when the Department of Justice’s travel ban on her and her husband was lifted by the Supreme Court. Then, no-bail charges were rushed by a joint DOJ-Commission on Elections probe, which offered immunity from prosecution to an accused Maguindanao Massacre perpetrator for his affidavit accusing Arroyo of electoral sabotage.

When the court finally saw through that dubious witness and granted Mrs. Arroyo bail due to weak evidence after nine months of detention, the Ombudsman concocted another no-bail charge of plunder despite her own preliminary investigation finding no ground for it.

To Marcos’s credit, he allowed his detained adversary Ninoy to go to Harvard for heart surgery, even if the opposition leader was already condemned to death by the military court. Under President Aquino, however, Arroyo is prevented from seeking corrective surgery abroad needed to address a potentially life-threatening misaligned implant in her neck spine. It has caused her to choke on food twice, including a recent scary episode around the time Aquino was attacking her at Harvard.

The hardest lesson to learn

Perhaps the most important cautionary tale from the Marcos regime, at least for leaders with autocratic tendencies, is his unshakeable belief till the very end that he was invincible. During a press conference just days before his fall, the dictator ordered a curfew only to have it disregarded by all of Metro Manila, much like a recent presidential remark, purportedly a joke, asking administration supporters to wear yellow ribbons.

One of Marcos’ last TV speeches was cut off the air when the government channel fell to rebel soldiers, then resumed broadcast with dissident hosts. Yet he managed a final oath-taking and address from the Palace balcony before American aircraft spirited him and his family and closest cronies away to Subic and Honolulu.

This is the hardest lesson for autocrats to learn: how the end, when it comes, would be swift and unexpected. Despite what has happened to so many others before him, every tyrant thinks he will be different. Until God shows him that only His kingdom has no end.


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  1. Terence Joseph Marcelo on

    The writer of the article and some of the other commenters are suggesting that Marcos let Ninoy get heart surgery overseas because he was kind and showed sympathy or something. They are forgetting that Marcos wanted him to leave and never come back and when he did come back, he had him assassinated. The reason why many people didn’t want GMA to leave was because she could’ve ask for political asylum. Many hospitals even said that they are capable of doing the surgery that GMA needed. There was no reason for her to go overseas.

    • If you had three unsuccessful operations in the most advanced Philippine hospital with the leading Filipino surgeons in the field attending, would you undergo a fourth one in the country to correct the failures of the previous three?

  2. Kahit ang diktador na si Marcos ay may puso para payagan si Ninoy na magpagamot sa US, pero ang president natin ngayon ay may pusong batoooo, puro bengansa ang nasa isip, ano ang kasalanan ni GMA, isinama sa CARP ang Hacienda Luisita kaya niya ginantihan, ibang magtanim ng galit si Pnoy pati mga senador na nangurakot daw na kasama naman ang mga alyado niya ay ipinakulong sa tulong ng kanyang mga aso sa congress at sa senado, pati si Corona ay hindi pinaligtas ng kanyang paghihiganti , saan kaya pupulutin ang Pilipinas sa ganitong mapaghiganting ugali ng ating presidente. Darating din ang karma niya, kahit na magsumikap siya makaupo uli para hindi siya makulong sa kanyang mga kasalanan.

  3. marcelino melchor on

    dont be too much worried malapit ng dumating ang hinihintay natin si aquino clan and his cohorts n tuwid na daan malapit ng matapos and sinasabing mabuti mas masahol pa pala kay marcos it shows also that govet of marcos isbetter than pinoy govt. hintay lang tayo tatakbo muli sila

  4. Look at the quality of our senators now like Caytano and Trillanes , they would rather investigate the building parking of Makati when no one in metro manila will be affected. While the deteriorating conditions of Mrt3 and the transfer of lrt and mrt common station from SM north to Trinoma which will affect almost a million commuters is not important because it will not effect their chances in 2016. These are the qualities of our elected officials who fooled us in last election.

  5. mikhail hieronymus on

    Enough had been written about the misdeeds of Pnoy, and they are all true as we are all witnesses to it. The 64 thousand question is this; How long are we going to endure the insults Pnoy is perpetuating on us, his people, his bosses? What do we have to do? Is there any solution short of an Edsa type movement?

  6. leandel canilatea on

    Bulag na dahil sa mutang dilaw at lasing na lasing sa kapangyarihan itong administrasyon . hindi na tinatablan ng batikos o kahit payo man lang ang mga namumuno sa pangunguna ni PeNoy, makapal pa sa balat ng bwayang si Lolong ang mga mukha nila.

  7. Bonifacio Claudio on

    Marcos’ dictatorship was benevolent. How do you reform a society in the firm oppressive grip of the oligarch where the rich are swimming in opulence while the great majority poor are drowning in dire wanton deprivation? How else but by the emergence of a ‘strong man’ like Marcos who wanted to establish a New Society for a better Philippines where everybody, in all walks of life, works & contributes to the advancement of Inang Bayan in all honesty, solidarity & fairness, “sa isip, sa salita, at sa gawa”? Can you say that to the Pnoy ‘dictatorship’ where the most & foremost objective is for the benefit of the oligarch where he belongs & stands pat. Martial Law was declared to save democracy & its gov’t from the onslaught of violent communist insurgence; while that of Pnoy’s trampled & undermined the very pillars of democracy. How then, mr saludo, sir, can you honest-to-goodness compare the two who are poles apart in their objectives, not to mention the ‘direction’ of their respective mental capacities? Are you not like Pnoy who is anti-‘people’ in that you tend to nail to the cross the very man who tried everything in his powers to appease the gnawing hunger of the “kumain-dili” like me where under his regime the poor of the poorest could eat three times a day? You speak of the rottenness of the Pnoy adminstration while condemning the very man who tried very hard in all courageousness & integrity to rid the gov’t of such rottenness for the sake & FOR THE LOVE OF INANG BAYAN? Your perverted views of comparison distorting history is disgusting in that you slight the plight of the “kumain-dili”. For 28 years we, the kumain-dili, have been looking for Marcos but we don’t see him anymore NOR THE LIKES OF HIM. Instead arose corrupt & graft-tainted leaders among lawmakers, presidents, military, EDUCATORS (brainwashing the youth to venerate false heroes), the Church & other sects… Inang Bayan has been turned…

    • Marcos established the benchmark for corruption in government and one man rule to benefit himself, family and friends. We should also remember thousand of families affected by Martial Law’s eradication of dissent.

  8. Kung ikukumpara sa nagawang kasalanan ni Marcos,walang sinabi ito kay Aquino ang nagpapanggap na taggapagligtas daw ng inaapi!!hayop ang kasinungalingan!!
    Si Marcos pinalaya at pinaggamot sa ibang bansa kasama ang pamilya at libre magbalik pasok sa bansa!!masama daw si marcos!!
    Pero tignan mo itong si Aquino. kahit hindi pa napapatunayan si
    Arroyo, ipinakulong na at tenotortior na!!
    Sino ang masdemonyo!!
    Panahon na para linisin ang ginawang kasinungaling ng mga Aquino at mga lintang yellow na patuloy na sumipsip sip sa dugo at yaman ng bansa!!

  9. eventually, people will run out of adjectives to describe pnoy. the saddest part of it though is the fact that no adjectives in the world of politics will describe him as a good man. his “tuwid na daan” project is nowhere close to being straight. from his own cabinet members to his cronies, to his Kakampi, Kaklase, and Kabarilan, all seemed immune from lawsuits. worse, they seemed immune of being castigated by pnoy no matter how crooked the path is that they walk in. and why should they be? the head honcho himself walks a far crooked path than they do. if pnoy were a student of history, chills would run the lenght of his spine if he was to relive the way marcos ran this country during his presidency. but since he is not, it is totally obvious that he is leaning or shall i say, bent, in repeating history. how could this man, an educated man, though an average student at best, not learn from his parents? is it because he never had a father figure to speak of? but even then, i am willing to bet that his mother, cory, wasted no time instilling in her kids, good values. yet, why is pnoy so vindictive? arrogant? more on talk, however hollow, than deed? he prides himself of going after the corrupt, yet is a damn coward not wanting or too scared to find out who perpetuated his father’s murder. he likes to clean other people’s houses ( his opponents ) and yet he cannot clean his own ( his administration ). and when he is told by others about the dirt in his own house, ( the supreme court ), he turns disrespectful and is almost willing to wage war just to prove them wrong. it is incumbent of the filipino people not to give pnoy a second chance or else, it’s going to be another 6 long years. worse, he might be like marcos. reincarnated.

    • marcos hated the old oligarchs.. but these oligarchs he replaced with his own cronies in business and politics to exploit our national treasure and patrimony.. on the pretext of doing great things for the nation, he borrowed tons of money from foreigners but stashed most of these for him, his family and his cronies’ in hidden foreign bank accounts most of which we have not recovered to this day.. thanks to franklin drilon, angara, raul roco, topnotch lawyers who helped the marcos family establish shell offshore corporations as conduits in siphoning these borrowed funds through the ministry of human settlements which was then headed by imeldific… a, marcos and the family of imelda became the biggest thieves, before they were overtaken by gma and mike arroyo, erap (a very big Marcos loyalist), and now, back to the old oligarchs, headed by the Abnoy, Danding Cojuanco and his ilk….malas talaga ang pilipinas…