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.