A history blinded by hate

22

ANTONIO P. CONTRERAS

IT is wrong to deny the existence of the innocent casualties of martial law.

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But it is equally wrong to treat as innocent victims those who by choice took up arms and embraced the communist ideology. They are rebels with a cause, and are in fact freedom fighters. To label them innocent victims is to insult the virtue and the power of their politics.

These were young students who saw hope in the leftist ideology, urban workers who were politicized by the exploitative working conditions that their capitalist masters inflicted on them, and rural peasants who were in search of liberation from bondage by their oppressive landlords. Their politics is one driven by a revolutionary struggle, and one that they deliberately chose.

However, theirs are only some of the many political narratives that populated the Marcos years.

There is also the narrative of the state, as an institution that has a right to protect itself from any threat, and in fact has the monopoly of the legitimate use of political violence, only restrained by its commitment to civilized rules of engagement. The burden was for the state to justify its use of violence in accordance with the law. Declaring martial law suspends some rights, but it does not give the state the freedom to kill without justification. Even in war there are rules.

Indeed, many people died during martial law.

But it is totally wrong to label all of these as genocide, or as unwarranted executions. It is irresponsible to ignore our duty to inquire into these deaths and arrange them into a kind of taxonomy that will do justice not only to the human participants who suffered, but more importantly to history itself.

It is important to know how many died in the political war, and how many innocent civilians ended as collateral casualties. How many died in the custody of state agents, and in what ways did they die? Were they tortured? Any arrest of a dissident involved in armed rebellion could not be considered as an automatic human rights violation.

There is a need to diligently account for every death, pain and suffering during martial law, if only to give us an accurate picture of how much of it was done in the context of legitimate political warfare between the state and the CPP-NPA-NDF, and how much of it was done in excess of such and were blatant forms of unwarranted political violence.

It is too simplistic to give a blanket label to all these deaths as unwarranted atrocities. The death of an unarmed civilian mistaken to be a communist sympathizer is different from the death of a communist guerrilla who died while engaging military forces. The death of a captured sympathizer who resisted arrest and was involved in a gunfight with his captors should be distinguished from someone who was tortured and executed by paramilitary or government forces while in custody.

The pain and suffering of students who chose to take up arms should not be dismissed as insignificant. But these should not be seen in the same way we see the pain and suffering of their families who were even harassed by agents of the state as a consequence of their choices.

The narratives of pain and suffering during the period of martial law are so complex that it is total historical irresponsibility to lump all of these as exhibits for the evil which was conveniently simplified as a Marcos monopoly.

The greatest sin that we can ever inflict on future generations is to allow a history blinded by hate to continue to be painted according to the lens of one group of people whose experiences of pain and suffering remain legitimate, but are in fact not the only narratives that need to be told. It is even fundamentally wrong to allow them to hijack history as if it is their franchise, more so if such is done to enable the political power of particular elites.

Professor Ambeth Ocampo, a noted historian, has virtually thrown a challenge to all of us, when he revealed the state of mind of Ninoy Aquino who, according to declassified US documents, insinuated some level of support for Marcos’ decision to declare martial law. Even more interesting, Ocampo also revealed how Ninoy even had the musings of a dictator himself, when he intimated that if he were President, he would execute all corrupt officials.

It is narratives like these that force us to treat historical revisionism not as a revolting endeavor, but in fact as the preferred mode for researching and writing history. It is in being ready to objectively inquire into Ninoy and Marcos, and martial law, that we will be fair to our history.

A history that is blinded by hate will prevent us from having a total grasp of the complex events in our past. Consequently, it will constrain the healing of our nation’s wounds and allow the self-interest of political elites to profit from it.

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22 Comments

  1. Francis Thords on

    History is meant to be biased. There is no such thing as purely objective history. That is the flaw highlighted by postmodern history to its modern counterpart. The author vanishes in the background and craftily hides the “I” in the third person, creating the impression of objectivity. If we come to think of it, the object of history is the past and the past no longer exists. Thus the correspondence theory of truth would not hold water nor the replicable method of science attain a laboratory truth. The value of history however is on the relevance and meaning of the questions the historian poses to the remnants of the past and how it helps the present public avoid the mistakes of the past. To claim absolute truth in history is a farce. To acknowledge the particuLar bias one author comes from makes the discipline noble.

  2. Let’s all re-write history the way it should be and not based on hate and hypocrisy for the interest of the few!!! History is for everybody, past, present, future and beyond!!!

  3. Unfortunately, the dumbing down via over-simplification of our Martial Law history is not accidental. The simpler the narrative, the easier it is to sell it to an unthinking citizenry. Marcos undoubtedly did some things, sure. But to put the proper nuances into his actions would only complicate the narrative and derail the yellow agenda.

  4. good luck, all the combatants, all the witnesses are either dead or inutile due to their old age.
    Cory Aquino and Fidel Ramos could have started and finished the job.

    the problem is that yung mga tropa ni Cory, ang inuna ay ang pag aagawan sa mga naiwan ni Marcos.
    yung Imelda Jewelry example, yung mga crony ni Marcos napalitan ng cronies ni Cory.

    • Marcos wanted to stay in his hometown. Nobody tried to charge Marcos for his alleged crimes, he was not tried for his alleged crimes, not even in absentia.
      the Americans took him to Guam, then held him and his family in Hawaii.

      ( Marcos said bring me home and I’ll answer all the charges against me )
      nobody dared

  5. Tumpak.

    Sadly, the narrative of those who choose join the left and paint themselves “innocent victims” seem to win the argument. The side of the government and its responsibility to defend the state has been completely disregarded. Any mention of the side of government is readily labeled as revisionism.

  6. Whatever “accomplishments” the Martial Law era had will always be dwarfed by the rampant human rights violations, detention of the critics of the government, extrajudicial killings, and extreme abuse of authority. Saying that Martial Law did more good than harm is outright historical revisionism.

  7. Enrile is open to discussion about the Marcos era and martial law. FVR is in denial. The yellow cult is painting the picture of Ninoy being a hero and Cory being a saint. I used to be a leftist during my college years in the 80s. I was brainwashed by my UP-bred professors who were communists. The LFS had infiltrated my college. The sisters made our curriculum left-leaning by forcing us to take courses in theology of liberation and a lot of social sciences. We joined mass rallies. I believed that Marcos bombed Plaza Miranda which is now proven as false. I believed that there was no communist threat before martial law until I read the geopolitical stories about communism in SEA like Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia of which three became communist states in the 70s. When Rolanda Olalia was brutally murdered, my anti-communist friend at that time said he deserved it and yet this same friend vilified Marcos and joined the hate cries of the CPP-NPA and former activists last year. She should thank FM for stopping communism by declaring martial law which led to the capture of Joma Sison and his close followers. Yes, there were atrocities during that era (which are also happening right now) but the atrocities were not always the AFP and the police. NPA and Muslim rebels committed a lot of atrocities and now we are in peace negotiations with them. To be honest, I don’t see any future in the Philippines because the reality of life is the economy is controlled by the chosen few. As long as there is no shared responsibility by all Filipino citizens, our economy won’t benefit the nation as a whole and a welfare mentality will set in as more poor become entitled and the rich know how to divided and conquer.

  8. how about justice for the victims of cpp-npa-ndf?

    see how they hijacked “justice” at nakalimutan nila na hindi lang ang mga lumaban sa gobyerno ang naagrabyado

    • Correct, I was about to point that out myself. Where I come from (an island infested by npa’s in the 70’s), not only the npa’s and the civilians were the victims, but the young soldiers as well. Soldiers were easy targets because they were easily identifiable in their fatigue uniforms, a big disadvantage resulting in a huge number of casualties.

    • What if Marcos did not declare Martial Law ? Will our country be a communist state? The way I look at the events that happened, all players, Marcos Aquino and the rest have ulterior motives. We were surrounded by corrupt politicians and bad groups like the NPA and other Muslim groups. Corruption is the name of the game. Big time corrupt people. Talking about history and justice, do Filipinos care? Majority of the Filipinos are poor and uneducated even as we speak.

  9. diego salvador on

    how i wish the professor could head the national historical commision to set history in proper perspective and not by some bias daughter or relative of supposed victim of ML.

  10. Zobel Villamor on

    Hi Sir, we have to take into account every aspect of the martial law, all the good and the bad sides of it, so that we can have a clear view of our history. The victims and their family had mended the wounds. Some have healed and some have not. On our side we are always trying everything to attain peace and unity. We already gave our forgiveness. We are just crying out for JUSTICE because it hasn’t been served yet. And justice is not synonymous with hate. We can’t forget its atrocities, let’s take the billions of dollars that were stolen from the Philippines, the Marcos’ keeps on denying that even the courts from Swiss and US had proven otherwise, and that’s just a half of it. We are always being ask to understand and to take our part on the healing and we’re always into it, but we just don’t know what part the other side are taking. Please tell us what they’re doing or sacrificing to achieve the healing.

  11. Thank you for your article day. .. I have been thinking about this for awhile…… why the “victims” rhetoric has been given so much emphasis ….. what about the State?

  12. Greetings Dr. Contreras,

    In search of real revisionist historians.

    I am glad you have acknowledged the existence of atrocities during Martial Law — many senseless deaths triggered by opposing voices against the Marcos administration. There is value to your suggestion for a detailed study to find out and distinguish between those that are state sponsored and legitimate encounters. For we will do ourselves and future generations justice if we do so.In the case of the Martial Law era — it is overdue, skewed to one side and therefore must be rectified. Otherwise we commit the same mistakes all over.

    Revisionism, in its pure form, is not bad — for as long as it is founded on facts. Such is the science of history– correct it — when data presents itself. Except, revisionist studies must come from 3rd party (disconnected with any side), objective, historical scholars.

    It is not scholarly if it is done by “partial judges” — those who are paid solely to write and present one side of the picture. These writers must, in the interest of fairness — inhibit themselves. Their views are tainted with bias and will certainly dilute the truth.

    Simply, revisionism must be neutral— otherwise, we will not learn anything new and valuable. Only stale, old and political propaganda.

    Complicating current revisionist moves to rewrite the Martial Law era are; a) self denial — of those closely identified with era b) the rigidity of those clinging the “current version” c) the desire, of both sides, to get or keep power — at all cost — even (incorrectly) “revising” history (or keeping it “as is”) for their political purposes.

    As students of history and believers of truth, we must be vigilant — against these 3 self preserving actions. They pollute reality.

    Paging real revisionist historians — unless there are none.