Marcos was mainly concerned with perpetuating his personal hold on power by favoring family members, friends, and other cronies. Thus, Marcos simply created new elites or “oligarchs” rather than abolish them — supposedly one of the main justifications for declaring martial law. Those who dared challenge the regime’s monopoly on power … were intimidated, imprisoned, kidnapped, tortured or summarily executed.— March 2 statement on the Marcos regime, signed by the presidents, faculty and staff of Ateneo universities in Manila, Naga, Cagayan de Oro, Zamboanga and Davao
The statement signed by the presidents of Jesuit-run universities in the country, and more than 500 of their faculty and staff rightly takes issue with Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. over what they called “the shameless refusal to acknowledge the crimes of the martial law regime.”
Three decades after the Marcos regime fell, it is imperative to counter any downplaying of its excesses and enormities. Especially with most Filipinos today being too young to remember or know what the martial law generation lived through.
So why didn’t this writer, an Ateneo de Manila University adjunct lecturer in journalism and government, sign the ADMU statement?
Not because there was anything seriously wrong about the content, but other reasons.
Consider why Senator Marcos refuses to acknowledge martial law ills and atrocities. For one thing, as a dutiful son, he has to defend his dead father. Have you ever heard of any Filipino proclaiming publicly the errors or evils of his forebears? Or Asians, for that matter, given the region’s deep-seated tradition of ancestor reverence.
If Marcos is supposed to say his father is a repressive, corrupt autocrat with blood on his hands, then should President Benigno Aquino declare to all and sundry that his late mother instituted pork barrel, let relatives enjoy pecuniary gains as Kamag-anak Inc., and burdened the economy with day-long brownouts due to bad energy planning?
Indeed, Filipinos would think it unseemly for any leader to excoriate his parents just to look good. And of all people, Catholic educators should know that the faithful are under divine edict to “Honor thy father and thy mother,” with no caveat like “unless they jailed opponents and favored relatives.”
Let all shut up or own up, not just Marcos
Okay, if Marcos Jr. can’t denounce the senior, why not just keep quiet?
You mean he’s supposed to just grin and bear it while election rivals use his father’s much-maligned rule against him? Fine. Then all candidates should be told to quietly bear valid criticisms.
Vice-President Jejomar Binay should just shut up or own up when opponents accuse him and his family of billions of pesos in Makati anomalies. Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte should say nothing when accused of liquidating criminals.
Former Secretary Mar Roxas should just nod in silence when critics point out that crime incidents jumped from 324,083 in 2010 to more than a million every year, mostly under his watch as Interior and Local Government czar.
Plus: The anomalous Metro Rail Transit maintenance contract had to be dubiously negotiated rather than transparently bid out, because he ignored repeated memos urging speedy action on maintenance services.
And Senator Grace Poe should just bite her tongue when opponents raise questions about having a national leader who would share conjugal confidences with the citizen of a foreign power with centuries of meddling in the Philippines. Or a president whose mammoth funding and nationwide campaign network comes mainly from a billionaire notorious for cronyism since the Marcos era.
Lastly, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago should just admit that her cancer has an ample chance of recurring within five years of its remission in 2014, instead of going on and on about the Constitution not barring anyone from the presidency for health reasons.
If the Ateneos issue a statement demanding such truthfulness from all candidates, with explicit mention of concerns and criticisms often denied by presidentiables, this writer would be the first to sign — even if seasoned political watchers and perhaps half the country snicker at the naiveté.
But not if one candidate is singled out. That undermines the universities’ paramount function as centers for the impartial study and dissemination of truthful knowledge.
Be wary of partisan campus cliques
Now, there is nothing wrong with individual professors holding partisan views. But when signatures are solicited for a statement never debated or investigated, as academic rigor requires (or asked for Senator Marcos’ comment, as objective media would have), one has to ask if other views have been stifled.
That may have happened to this writer in 2006. As the Cabinet Secretary then, this ADMU alumnus (High School, 1973; AtB Literature, 1977) wrote to several universities proposing to present the government’s side on the controversial 2004 presidential elections, as he had done for the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines plenary meeting that year.
Most institutions accepted this writer’s offer — but not his alma mater.
He showed his 45-minute presentation with verified election data to college students at the University of the Philippines in Manila and Los Baños, De La Salle University, Centro Escolar University, St. Paul’s College Quezon City, University of Santo Tomas (where then Senator Aquino also spoke), and even ADMU’s neighbor Miriam College (with Senator Francis Escudero).
Yet even after speaking with the university president then and the academics VP, both longtime friends of this writer, he was not allowed to talk with the ADMU community, unlike anti-administration figures. (The writer’s research may be found at: http://www.manilatimes.net/who-won-the-2004-presidential-elections-1/100253/ and http://www.manilatimes.net/who-won-the-2004-presidential-elections-2/100448/ )
For universities to fulfill their calling of propagating impartial expert truth, they should be open to all views, even those they rightly dispute. That’s why Jesuit-run Georgetown University recently allowed an address by the head of Planned Parenthood, which the Church condemns for supporting contraception and abortion.
In the same spirit of academic freedom and impartial search for knowledge, the Ateneos may wish to let Senator Marcos present his views on campus and even solicit signatures, as his critics did. Thus, the whole unbridled truth can come out.