One big reason why we still have to suffer this debate over Marcos’ burial in the Libingan ng mga Bayani is that the two institutions tasked by society to enlighten a nation — media and the academe — have totally abdicated their duties to do so.
As a result, we probably have more established facts concerning the 1898 Philippine Revolution than the 1972-1986 Martial Law era, which everybody — whether pro-or anti-Marcos — agrees has been a watershed in our nation’s history. What we have are partisan narratives, with the dominant one being that of the Aquino clan’s Yellow yarns.
An article in the Philippine Daily Inquirer yesterday, which has been both a rabidly anti-Marcos and pro-Aquino newspaper, is a clear illustration of this problem.
The paper yesterday had a one-page, 2,500-word article entitled “What happened to the Marcos millions?” It was bylined Helen N. Mendoza, whom the newspaper described as a “PhD, a retired University of the Philippines professor who studied in the United States, Norway, Germany and England.” Initially, I was pleasantly surprised that an academic was finally doing research on the Marcos era, and the piece even had an impressive table on exactly what “Marcos billions” consisted of.
Upon closer reading, though, the entire piece verged on plagiarism, as everything on it was lifted from a 4,000-word story by Nick Davies in the May 7, 2016 edition of the London-based The Guardian.
The only input Mendoza had in “her” 2,200-word Inquirer article was the opening paragraph, in which she explained that she adopted the title of Davies’ article for her piece. “Here are some of his findings,” she said, and went on with cutting-and-pasting Davies’ words.
Everything in her piece was from Davies, and there weren’t even quotation marks at all in the entire piece to denote borrowed quotes lifted directly from The Guardian. There was no attempt at all on Mendoza’s part to comment on The Guardian piece, or to verify the British author’s assertions.
In many parts of her article the author was even too lazy to rephrase Davies’ words. One example, a description of Malacañang after Marcos fled:
The Guardian’s Davies: There, they could see the signs of hasty flight: food still warm on the dining table, empty boxes, papers scattered on the floor, shredding machines stuffed with more paper.
Inquirer’s Mendoza: There were signs of hasty departure: food still warm on the table, empty boxes and papers scattered about, shredding machine stuffed with paper.
Mendoza’s near-plagiarism encapsulates what has been terribly wrong in the media’s narrative of the Marcos era. Most of these accounts — especially the books on Martial Law — were written mostly by American authors, who were clearly following the US State Department’s propaganda line, formulated really as a campaign spiel to portray Marcos as the Devil Incarnate in the 1986 snap elections in order to counter the strongman’s pitch that Cory was just a housewife and would be disastrous for the country. Not a few were written by paperback writers wanting to cash in on the sudden American interest in the Philippines after Marcos’ fall, and Imelda’s “thousands of shoes.” Local media simply imbibed, even copied, such biased narratives, with hardly a critical, analytical stance.
One example of this was American historian Alfred McCoy’s repeated claims that the human rights abuses during the Marcos regime were worse than those in the infamous Latin American dictatorships, since, as he wrote, “Marcos’ tally of 3,257 killed exceeds those under the Brazilian and Chilean dictatorships.” That number, 3,257, has become the most often used figure to allege the ruthlessness of the Marcos rule. Even a columnist in this paper, a PhD, wrote a piece on that figure, entitled “3,257: Fact-checking the Marcos killings, 1975-1985,” and dramatically concluded: “3,257 is a number that chills the blood.”
I checked the figures myself and found McCoy to have cited highly suspect figures as these were churned out by what had been a front of the Communist Party. McCoy also double-counted figures, by adding those reported by another — more biased — source. But worse actually is Kessler coming up with his figures, in order to show that human rights violations during the Aquino era was really “at least as bad as it had been under Marcos.”
Editors of all broadsheets were also journalists who lost their jobs and high social prestige when Marcos closed down the press in 1972 — and naturally would hate the dictator. That quote from the famous philosopher of history, E.H. Carr, is applicable in the case of Philippine journalists: “Study the historian before you begin to study the fact.”
Journalists, however, may be forgiven, as they have deadlines, they don’t have the luxury of time to do research, and they don’t have a choice but to quote people who make claims, even if these are biased partisans.
The people who should be lynched are our academicians whose professions could have given us a solid, objective assessment of Marcos and his Martial Law era. A case in point is the Ateneo de Manila University, which has been at the propaganda vanguard of condemning that era as the Dark Ages, that the strongman’s son Bongbong shouldn’t be allowed to become the vice president and his father’s corpse shouldn’t be buried at the Libingan.
Nothing after three decades
But has its department of history done any research so that they could claim their virulent stand against Marcos was based on a scholarly study?
Nothing. Zero. In the three decades since Marcos fell, the Ateneo has not produced a single piece of scholarship that would contribute to our balanced assessment of the Martial Law era, which its president during those years, Fr. Joe Cruz, enthusiastically supported. Yet, they have been sending the message that since they are academics, they have studied objectively the Marcos era. (Ironically, the only book that has come out of the academe, from the University of the Philippines , on the Martial Law era has been economist Gerardo Sicat’s paean for the strongman’s economic czar, Cesar Virata.)
The research of its 34-member faculty consists of such things as “manga comics during the Japanese occupation,” “Jesuit linguistic battles from 1898-1932, “Spirit beliefs among 18th century Aeta and Ilongots,” “American schoolbooks in Philippine classrooms,” “Kempetai in the Philippines,” and “Engkuwentro: Kayaw contra digmaang-galrea, 1565-1571” (whatever that is).
Do these historians think that it is below them to do research on the Plaza Miranda bombing, the fiction of the Jabidah massacre, the coconut industry’s role in the Muslim rebellion, the Communist Party of the Philippines’ support from China, or the role of the global debt crisis on Marcos’ fall?
What Aguinaldo ate for breakfast, how much Mabini loved carabao milk, what Rizal’s physical dimensions were — the kind of historical research the Ateneo seems to prefer — certainly make for fascinating read over morning coffee. These are, however, irrelevant to our understanding of our nation, These are as useful in understanding, say, the past Aquino 3rd administration, by finding out what his cigarette brand or favorite X-box game were. This kind of “history” writing is the equivalent of columns in a newspapers’ entertainment section.
Carr had pointed out in his “What is History,” a textbook I read in my history class at the Ateneo: “The function of the historian is neither to love the past nor to emancipate himself from the past, but to master and understand it as the key to the understanding of the present.”
Not only our historians at the Ateneo, but those at UP and La Salle should re-read Carr. The dearth of our historical understanding of the post-war years, especially of the Marcos era, explains a lot of why we are lost in the community of nations unable to find our national soul. Indeed, the sickness of our nation runs through every institution in the country.
Our academic community’s failure explains why many can’t see how preposterous it is to refuse the burial in the armed forces’ national cemetery of the remains of somebody who served as President, an Army major, and a Bataan Death March victim — facts of history even anti-Marcos scholars do not question.
Aquino’s bitch given military honors
How short our memories are! The following news account encapsulates how ridiculous the brouhaha over Marcos burial at the Libingan is.