Digging up for truth, justice and reconciliation



If there is one digging up that I would not consider anathema to decency, and in fact would serve a higher purpose, it would be to dig up not the grave of Marcos, but to dig up the totality of the stories of torture, rape, murder, assassinations and human rights violations that occurred from 1965, when Marcos was elected to power, until the time that his ghosts still linger in the memory of those who want to make him accountable.

And the digging up should spare no one.

It is about time that we should install a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission. There are just too many people who want to use the unresolved past as a constant albatross that weigh our political community down.

For a long time, the convenient narrative was that the responsibility for the horrors of Martial Law was all to be borne by Marcos alone. It was a narrative that has been propagated by the post-Martial Law elites, and was reinforced by post-Marcos intellectuals, from historians to journalists who moonlighted as historians. Lost in the demonization of Marcos was the compelling task, an objective one, and an academic one as well, of teasing out from the tales of horrors a detailed retelling of every incident of abuse to find out who are the ones specifically responsible. What was conveniently deployed was the grand narrative of command responsibility, which in fact means nothing both in law and in scholarship.

The principle of command responsibility does not have enough probative value in ascertaining the participants in the chain of command to determine the actors to whom retributive justice must be imposed.

Likewise, the principle is a sophomoric cop-out that can only legitimize lazy historiography that can but only lead to incomplete and insufficient retelling of history.

There are just too many untold stories in our past, all hidden conveniently by tales that attribute everything to Marcos.

It is this convenient narrative of a demonized Marcos being solely responsible for the terror that lasted from 1965 until 1986, and even beyond, that has led us to a state where even his burial could not resolve lingering questions, and assuage the pain and horror that remain for those who suffered.

People continue to be deceived by the lie that Marcos is the totality of Martial Law, and Martial Law is one monolithic period in our history. The reason why this lie continued to be propagated, and transmitted, is that it became politically beneficial to the elites. The political fortunes of the post-Marcos oligarchy rested on the unproblematic acceptance of this flawed, simplistic and incomplete narrative.

It is this view that should bear the blame for why there was no detailed accounting of those who conspired with Marcos, served at his behest, or if not, even acted beyond and outside his authority, to inflict terror on the citizens, as well as in the plunder.

And the miserable outcome of this appropriation of history to become a mere political asset of the elites is the root why until now the slogans remain the same, mysteries remain unsolved and questions remain unanswered.

And these questions are not even just about narratives on the overtly public episodes such as who really was behind the bombing of Plaza Miranda [OpEd Editor’s note: Which the Communists have owned], whether there was indeed a Jabidah Massacre [OpEd Editor’s note: Which has been proved to have never happened], what is the connection between Ninoy and the Communist Party, and who ordered his assassination.

More importantly, and what should be given extra attention are the private narratives of rape, torture and murder of student activists, labor and peasant leaders, and other victims, told from the perspectives of those who survived, with the objective of finally identifying the chain of command for the horror. Who did it? Who ordered it? Up to what level did the given authorization come from? Did it emanate from Malacañang?

It is only through this that we will be able to give a face to the horror beyond the convenient poster of evil that Marcos was painted to be.

Also not to be spared are the acts committed by the revolutionaries, inflicted on their enemies, and even on their own kind, for such narratives are also texts of horror that emerged in the tumultuous era that Marcos presided over, and if beyond it, that for which it had residual effects.

Many of the crimes would have probably prescribed by this time. But justice is not just about retribution. It also exists when we are able to name the agents of horror, give them their faces, so that we can exact restitutive justice not necessarily in material terms, but even just in the children of tormentors apologizing to the children of the tormented.

It has always been said by anti-Marcos activists that there is no reconciliation if there is no justice.

It must also be said that true justice will not be served if we keep on believing that terror has only one face and one name.



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  1. It seems many have forgotten the recent past of Philippine history. The period 1965-1986 (Marcos) and post 1986 seems too early to write for historians to present an acceptable account of our country’s history. I can forgive the youth since there is no good reference to learn about our recent past but for those who were adults in the 70s and 80s should at least recall the important milestones in our history.

    We are not short of “investigations” and “commissions” to ferret out truths and aid legislators enact or modify our laws. The Agrava Commission was tasked to find out truth about Ninoy Aquino Assasination; The PCGG was tasked to recover Marcos’ ill-gotten wealth; the HRC is tasked to investigate labor, political and all other extra-judicial atrocities in past or present administrations. There was even a Truth Commission in 2010 to investigate corruption during Pres. Arroyo’s term. And who will forget all those congressional investigations that were held live on TV for everyone to enjoy and watch?? But to suggest forming a Truth Commission at this time to investigate the atrocities and corruption during the Marcos’ administration is totally absurd! Because it will never prosper.

    There will be many versions of the events that transpired between 1972-2012 (40 years) depending on whose point of view you ask. Some of the main actors during this period have written their autobiographies and are good sources of first accounts. What our country sorely lacks is an honest historian who is neither colored yellow or blue or green or maroon and make an honest account (not opinion) of the events that transpired transpired in our nation during the recent past.

  2. And One scion of a Former Marcos Secretary bashes Marcos while playing blind to Her Family’s history. Why didn’t you say so when your Father voted against the opening of the second envelope back in 2001?

  3. Maribel Calanda on

    I blame Cory and his Yellow minions for everything that occurred in the last 30 years. She demonized Marcos without giving him a trial. The pain she inflicted on Marcos’ family right after they fell from power is more inhumane. She filed 900 cases against them which outlived her. She filed a case against Ferdinand Marcos and Imelda Marcos in New York which was eventually lost. At least Ninoy Aquino was given the chance to stand trial in the country. Marcos never had the chance to defend himself because he was barred from returning home. Marcos is a hero to me because without the Filipino soldiers during WWII, the Philippines may just be a colony of Japan or other foreign nation again. The Americans returned only after 3 years to give military help. Imelda Marcos is right, they did not steal, they were the ones stolen. Imelda is so afraid of Cory each time by looking at her as if she saw a devil personified. I wish that history in the end will appreciate the things that Ferdinand Marcos had done for his country as a soldier and as a president too. It is better for us to move on and to forgive rather than be stuck with hatred and resentment. Vengeance is God’s not man.

  4. Wolfgang Struck on

    Very impressive the line of thought. More people should read it. If there is a truth, this comes close to the truth. A Makati court has denied the existence of any criminal cases filed against Marcos by the human rights SELDA money seekers going for a $2B promise offered by a known Hawaiian CIA judge. Until now no money. The money is in Singapore, in the PNB escrow account. Filipino people were made to believe by PGMA that the escrow was paid to her. Wrong. Lucio gave her P40B in exchange for his tobacco excise tax. Double cheating on the Filipino people who do not know. What did she do? Buy the 2004 election. “Hello Garci, you can go ahead. Lucio gave me P40B”.


  5. jaime dela Cruz on

    A nice and most enlightening piece Mr. Contreras. But the Truth Commission you suggest will never come about because the truth/untruth about Marcos is best unrevealed much like who killed or orderws the killing of Ninoy Aquino. These secrets are very profitable to the people who perpetuated the lies and will move heaven and earth to keep them. Alas, Philippines will never grow unless the people themselves disprove the lies.

  6. It (truth commision & reconcilliation) should have been done during the time of cory aquino or the time of her son Pnoy, that would have put any of them at the pillar of great statemanship with a class. Pero sayang tulad nga nang sinabi mo eh ginawa nila itong isang pundasyon para sa kanilang makasariling objectivo. you’re also right, as long as truth is being suppressed, no way for the Pilipinos as a people and a nation to move on, as the Holy book says “For the truth shall set you free” …. bottom line the philippines will fall into the hands of CPP-NDF-NPA. And i won’t be surprised that when i go home to my dearest Philippines, sa airport pa lang ay mga pulahan ang sasalubong sa akin.

  7. Albert Martines on

    IS THIS IN THE HISTORY BOOKS ??? In August, 2006 local residents and former NPA rebels led government authorities to “The Garden” on an isolated ridge in barrio Kaulisihan, Inopacan town, Leyte province, where the skeletal remains of hundreds of victims of internal Communist Party purges from 1985 were dug up with the help of K-9 units and forensics experts. Former company commander of the NPA’s Southern Leyte front committee, Zacarias Piedad, and platoon leader Leonardo Tanaid, testified before the media last September in Manila, that he personally saw the signed orders of CPP Chairman Jose Maria Sison, Central Committee member Satur Ocampo, and NDF spokesman Luis Jalandoni to rid the organization of government spies and infiltrators, who were then brought before an NPA kangaroo court then summarily knifed and hacked to death, then buried in “The Garden”. It is one of the many “killing fields” that not even the CPP-NPA has been able to deny it created as a result of paranoia that the they had been penetrated by government agents and then engaged in bloody pogroms against suspected comrades, reportedly resulting in thousands killed and few if any spies found. In this report from Bulatlat, which often serves as the media outlet and apologist of the CPP-NPA, present-day Bayan Muna party list representative Satur Ocampo joins with a certain “Committee Defend” of the CPP Central Committee in Utrecht, the Netherlands in damage control over the discoveries in Leyte by claiming the mass grave is a fake. But now that Ocampo, Sison, Jalandoni and 50 other CPP NPA NDF leaders have been charged with rebellion and warrants of arrest for mass murder have been issued against them by a Regional Trial Court in Hilongos, Leyte, But even the Interpol may soon be after them. Other officials of the communist movement’s aboveground front organizations may also be charged in connection with an ongoing investigation into extrajudicial killings by the CPP NPA in Bongabong, Nueva Ecija. Manila Standard columnist Emil Jurado reviews the “unreported atrocities” of the communist movement that has received scant attention from other mass media.(Philippine Commentary dtd 12 March 2007)

  8. You get promoted man!! With loads of verbal diarrhea, you have dazed us all!!

    You will become the chief history manager when Bongbong takes over as President soon!

  9. On human rights violations, for instance, the anti-Marcos forces casually omit the fact that Marcos had actually created a human rights body to look into issues of human rights violations. They want to make it look like he did nothing about it. They also are hiding the fact that many were accordingly charged and punished for violations and abuses but guess who gave them general amnesty. Cory Aquino!

  10. They had 30 years to do this but they didn’t because they know that a Truth Commission will be the enemy of their lies that are so big yet so fragile that they must be propped up by constant repetition. These hypocrites are the true disciples of the German fascist Goebbels.

  11. Wow! It would be the day to finally put things behind, so we move on as a nation after some sort of TRUTH COMMISSION. Congratulations for a rare objectivity on the total subject of martial law. Thank you!

  12. Nothing will ever be written about the Marcos years because the true facts are unknown. All of the blame is placed on Marcos. That was how he was overthrown by the US and the media. Later we had FVR elected as President even though he is the prime suspect in the civil rights violations during the Marcos years. I agree the truth is not known and it will never be revealed.

  13. What is required is restorative justice. We need to bring people back together. To acknowledge the wrongs & bring the conditions which permitted them to light. It would be a good exercise as we haven’t confronted our history directly — mainly reacting to the way western historians have presented it & fudging. Today is a good time to take a real hard look at ourselves & our history.

    We need even to admit our own culpability for allowing the excesses of martial law. Why were we disengaged? Were we even here? Did we ourselves contribute to capital flight? We need to tell our stories because that is the way martial law will not be repeated.

  14. The problem with those who voted for Duterte and wanted “change” is that they preferred to remain the silent majority and leave all the dirty works to the incumbent administrations, we must remember that almost 90% of those who recently joined Duterte are from the evil yellow regime and about 2% from their allied called the “communists” plus the catholic church, a very powerful alliance that possesses trillion of dollars and a great amount of support from the EDSA oligarchs. They can overthrow the present dispensation easily if the silent majority will not participate in defending the changes we want and we’ll just watch at the comfort of our homes while they take over the government next year, again.

  15. Excellent article. Please maintain your unbiased posting. Way much different from most run of the mill crap posts proliferating in Facebook.

  16. Totally like your idea of truth justice reconciliation commission. Too many narratives today when truth should be told from thoroughly researched and exhaustively scrutinized study
    without fear nor favor. Enjoyed your thought provoking column