SAN DIEGO, California: We are a country unable to put closure to some troubling past that could have been dealt with if only our leaders would confront these events and pursue them to their logical end. Moving on is never looked at kindly because for some, it is a cop-out from what others label as a sense of collective hurt. Thus, we have borne the issues of the Marcoses and theAquinos for the past 30 years. And we bear it as if these are the only two families important to our country. When both have failed us in varying periods in our history.
Consequently, closures are not easy and moving on is hard. We find every detail to attack or latch on to, to enhance our being pro- or anti-Marcos and pro- or anti-Aquino, never about being a Filipino, outside the hues of a Marcos and an Aquino. The narratives are sickening, not because we want to forget, but because it has been used for one family to rise politically or to be condemned to the pits.
Let us start with corruption and doing good for the country. Aquino I removed the Marcoses and supposedly all its vestiges only to reconnect with them as the Aquino I administration progressed. We wanted a just society and a government that would do good by us, and embraced Aquino I administration like our savior only to come out with the “same, same” surviving the Aquino I years. Aquino I never wanted to get to the bottom of who killed Ninoy and determine and collect the Marcos wealth, and that led to the great schisms in Philippine history. Without determining who killed Ninoy, we continue to embrace and romanticize the Aquino family and the tragi-comedy we experienced with two Aquinos coming to office 23 years apart.
Then we elected someone who was part of EDSA 1 (continuity), and thought we would be better off under Ramos. But Ramos after trying to break the hold of the oligopolies in business, created his own set of oligopolies, and then the Asian crisis hit us. In both administrations, attempts have been made to settle with the Marcoses, and that includes the return of the so-called Marcos wealth. Nothing happened because of the greed of cabals. By 1998, Estrada won on a supposed platform for ordinary Filipinos (change). In three years, he was out because the oligarchs couldn’t stand his politics. He was accused of pocketing hundreds of millions of pesos of illegal jueteng earnings. His work ethic was deemed to be the worst because of the midnight cabinet, among other things. Those were emotional times and Estrada, who was quite close to the Marcoses, had to leave amidst the celebration of the oligarchs supporting the Aquino family.
When Arroyo came into the picture, focus was given to the economy. And as the Arroyo administration completed the unexpired term of Estrada, the case was again made for continuity. Arroyo totally distanced herMalacanangsojourn from the ways of Estrada. But in the process of pursuing a sure win which allowed the transactional nature of our politics, Arroyo became captive to all political forces in the aftermath of 2004. She granted Aquino II the position of Deputy Speaker only for him to later reject Arroyo and join the opposition to her presidency. Under the Arroyo administration, Aquino II became senator in 2007 while Ferdinand Marcos Jr. became senator at the end of Arroyo’s term in 2010. Aquino II cut his term in 2010 to run for president. In the six years of the Aquino II presidency, Marcos Jr. was a senator. Both national figures, both being compared and watched by millions of Filipinos. Both reminding the Filipinos of what could have been.
After six years as president, Aquino II left the institution with so many pending problems, foremost of which is the fight against illegal drugs. Still he chose not to close the chapter on the death of his father but distanced himself from the rising Marcoses. The solid North was consolidated mid-term of Aquino II, and the Yolanda aftermath saw what the statement, “you have to understand, we have an Aquino as president” meant. History has a way of letting the sons of opponents tangle with the MILF, with Aquino II signing the framework and comprehensive peace agreements only for the Bangsamoro measure to meet opposition in the Marcos Jr.-led Senate committee on local governments.
And so, as another Aquino sailed into the sunset, another Marcos rises. Thirty years after, when we should have settled what we needed to settle, we quarrel about Marcos being a hero. We talk about killings, corruption and illegal wealth, dictatorship and martial rule under Marcos, against killings (highest number of media killings, as well as Mamasapano), corruption (DAP/PDAF, including Yolanda), illegal wealth (from illegal drugs), non-passage of FOI under Aquino II. The only difference lies in the number of years both were in power and how they used power.
Clearly, there are issues where we cannot agree as Filipinos. One side says the Marcoses are bad and the Aquinos are swell. Another says, there is no difference between the two because after 30 years, we are still where we started, thanks to both families. And another says the Aquinos have done us better. So be it, and let’s agree to disagree, but let us not romanticize on create another people power because we are so mad about Marcos being buried at the Libingan ng mgaBayani. When protesters used the court of last resort, let the decision be respected. Let there be no spins and propaganda. No reconsideration was filed before the Supreme Court. No relief was asked after the Supreme Court ruled. That the burial was done in a “sneaky” manner was probably how certain individuals wanted it to be, out of the public eye. Making the event more public would be like pouring vinegar on an open wound. So why make an issue of the sneaky burial? Would you rather have the pomp and pageantry of a hero’s burial?
The burial took place for a former president, not a hero. Of course, a father would always be a hero to his children, we can’t do anything about that. And so, as Apo to his fellow Ilocanos. That the burial of a Marcos could be made a cause for the fall of Duterte and the demise of the Philippine economy is the height of irresponsibility. Truly, you test fate. You want the country to fall because Marcos was buried? 100 million to suffer because a thousand says so?
Is PRRD to blame for the burial? But Congress has not done much. Ramos entered into an agreement and when a condition was not fulfilled, he never pursued compliance. Arroyo tried but she had her own issues. Now that even the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the burial, Congress belatedly filed measures to rename the Libingan. probably an afterthought, or just trying to correct the errors of non-action? So, we put all blame on PRRD?
We are not definitely sweeping the sins of omission or commission of a Marcos or an Aquino. We need to be reminded on both, but we need to settle key issues fast: Who killed Ninoy? Was it Marcos? An apology has been made twice by the Marcos siblings, probably not in the words we wanted to hear but it has been made. Since the burial is over, can we now have an accounting of the ill-gotten wealth and return the same to the coffers of the Philippines?
In the end, the narrative of the Philippines should never be the narrative of two families: Marcos and Aquino or Aquino and Marcos. They did not make Filipinos into who they are today. They owe Filipinos a lot for supporting them and believing in them but the sooner we make it real to both that they are not the sum total of us, the better for the Philippines to move on.