• Partisan scholars, complicit intellectuals

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    ANTONIO P. CONTRERAS

    IN one academic conference, a well-respected senior member of our profession incredulously asked whatever happened to me. He was of course referring to my pro-Duterte stance.

    Another friend, who is an academic herself, privately messaged me expressing her frustration that I am lending intellectual capital to the horror and the murder that the President has engendered and which supporters legitimize and propagate. She warned me that my standing as a scholar is being diminished by this stance, and that I could become a pariah among our peers.

    Still another friend relayed to me a message from mutual friends from academe coming from different universities to tell me to moderate my criticisms of Leni Robredo and her yellow cohorts in social media since I was becoming too sharp for their comfort.

    Supporters of President Duterte like me are a rarity in academia. And while majority of the Filipino public may support the President, we are in fact a threatened minority in the academic world.

    I can feel the scorn, the attacks behind my back, the anger, sometimes of hurt as if I have betrayed them. In the three instances I have cited above, the narrative is clear. I am being taken to task for supporting this President, which for many in the academic community would interpret as an act of betrayal, of abandoning the virtue of scholarly objectivity. I, and the very few scholars like me, are being taken to task for our alleged unabashed partisanship, and our complicity with what they label as a murderous presidency.

    We are being called names. It is not only our scholarship that is being questioned, but even our morals. We are accused of being enablers of extra-judicial killing. I was called a threat to my students, someone who has blighted the exalted image of the university that employs me.

    In my case, the crime is even more serious. I am also being labeled as a Marcos loyalist, a historical revisionist, as one who would like the people to forget the atrocities and the plunder committed by Marcos, his family and his cronies during his entire rule, including the martial law period. This, simply because I voted for Bongbong Marcos because in my assessment he was the most qualified; because I exposed the fraud that stole the vice presidency from him; and because I supported the rule of law on the issue of the Marcos burial. I am being accused of being a partisan revisionist, and complicit with the forgetting of the atrocities, just because I espouse a more objective assessment of the Marcos presidency, and believe that our role as researchers and educators is to search for the truth and to equip our students with tools to look at both sides of the story.

    However, it is ironic that I, and people like me, are being labeled and crucified for our alleged partisanship and complicity by a big segment of this country’s intellectual class that perfected the art of partisanship and complicity during the post-Marcos era.

    It is given that the intellectual class is an essential element of any resistance. The anti-Marcos struggle was nurtured and fed by the intellectual ruminations of noted leaders in academe. The university became the nesting ground for dissent.

    The academia was a partisan ground during the Marcos era and consequently during the post-Marcos years. The intellectual project during the Marcos years was to subvert the Marcosian narrative, even as during the post-EDSA era it was focused on exorcising the Filipino worldview of remnants of that narrative.

    However, even as the intellectual class was busy depopulating the texts and symbolic representations of any celebratory treatment of the Marcos period, the political class was busy re-establishing the pre-Marcosian elite structures with all its predatory attributes. This resulted in a massive failure on the part of the intelligentsia to keep up with its role of being the watershed for political criticism. The intellectual class was just too preoccupied with ensuring that younger generations would forever hate the Marcoses, even to the point of compromising its vaunted academic standards of objectivity. Historians and other social scientists who on other occasions would preach objectivity to their students, failed to practice this when they selectively focused on the evils of the Marcos era, and not on the evils of his adversaries before, during and after EDSA.

    This partisan form of scholarship eventually rendered many intellectuals complicit with the propagation of a culture of hate, and the celebration of one-sided mythologies that surrounded EDSA and the personalities associated with it. The fixation by many in the intellectual class with this “hate Marcos, celebrate EDSA” narrative has turned many of its less ideologically inclined members into enablers of the yellow brand of politics. For their part, the splintering of the left has led the “rejectionists” to eventually turn yellow, with Akbayan forging an alliance with the Liberal Party, even as the “reaffirmists” have taken a more consistent pattern of being more critical.

    In all of these, many in academia were never the objective purveyors of political scholarship that they want us to believe. And except for the “reaffirmist” scholars who maintained their critical stance, and particularly during the term of Cory Aquino and her son Noynoy, many in the intellectual class wore yellow as their political color, some more openly than others.

    And from this cohort you can find many of the people who now accuse academics like me of being partisan and complicit, simply because we do not join them in their dualistic and simplistic representation of Marcos as pure evil. We also refuse to be badgered into painting President Duterte in a canvas where, even with just over a year of being President, they can already theorize and image him as an enabler of that worn-out Marcosian template which until now they cannot get over.

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