The story of Democracy

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By Vanessa Kate F. Madrazo

Sunday Essays

Saturday, August 30, 2014

WE have to reassess the way we perceive our history. We look at Ferdinand Marcos as a culprit, an absolute evil, and the Aquinos as heroes.

Those perceptions are dangerous to how we approach the events of the past.

But this is not to deny Marcos’ offenses.

His dictatorial regime violated many human rights that are supposed to be afforded in a democracy.

Anyone who tried to challenge his authority were either imprisoned or killed extra-judicially. He closed down all newspaper agencies and put up ones that glorified his administration defeating the purpose of the press. He had broadcast agencies monitored by the military to make sure that they wouldn’t put him in a bad image.

There was no discourse, and barely any freedom.

He elevated corruption to a scale that has transcended generations. The Philippines' debt, in his regime, rose from $1 billion to over $25 billion. This has made the Philippines one of the most indebted countries in Asia. Until now, the country is still trying to pay for those debts. His “infrastructural projects” were nothing compared to the crippling debts and corruption. About $8 billion went to Marcos' pockets and his cronies.

These are facts and are part of our history and they are very, very regrettable.
But the way that media and education have portrayed this historical narrative has mostly if not always been done in a way that depicts Aquino as a hero and Marcos as a villain.

This has been defended to sustain the nationalism of the Filipino people, but this narrative bears a lot of consequences that are harmful to our perception of history because it harms its objective nature.

Many people believe Ninoy Aquino to be brave. He fought for freedom and justice. His political career was marked by achievements as a young politician, for instance, he was the country's youngest vice-governor at 27 and the youngest senator in Philippine history at 34. He is famous for frequently challenging the dictatorship (along with other leaders).

His assassination is one of the triggers for what was going to be a historic revolution.

Corazon Aquino was undoubtedly the most prominent figure during the People Power Revolution. A popular initiative of petition through signatures had persuaded her to take her husband’s place in a pursuit to presidency. Today, many credit her (along with her husband) to be the hero of democracy.

But if you look at history at an objective perspective, there’s not enough proof for us to conclude that the Aquinos were the actual heroes of democracy.

The revolution began and was sparked by a lot of factors, for instance, with a plot of a coup against Marcos’ regime which involved Gen. Fidel Ramos and even Juan Ponce Enrile.

Cardinal Archbishop of Manila Jaime Sin, through his broadcast message in Radio Veritas, has encouraged the rebel leaders to push through with a revolution and to go to the section of EDSA between Camp Crame and Aguinaldo to give mass support, and resources like food and other supplies.

The People Power Revolution is a result of unrest and desperation for freedom. Aquino was never a definitive leader of it. She was part of the revolution but she didn’t exactly “lead” them. She was merely a symbolic figure who was part of the protest.

The harm in the hero-villain narrative is we overshadow the equally important roles that other people have played in the fight for democracy and over-crediting a few prominent people.

This entire perception of the story begs us to ask, what constitutes a hero? Is it enough for us to attach the spirit of the revolution to one name?

It’s too simplistic to just regard it as a celebration of Aquino’s triumph over the evil Marcos regime.

The EDSA revolution is one of the most important experiences of the Filipino people. We need to understand what really happened which especially goes for the generation who never went through it.

Furthermore, that specific depiction of hero-villain has a bearing on modern politics, in how we perceive both Aquino’s and Marco’s family especially in relation to politics (e.g. Noynoy Aquino and Bongbong Marcos).

Remember that they are political actors and we need to carefully assess their credentials in relation to public service.

Considering the pride that the Filipino people have about the democratic fight and the hatred shared against Marcos, it’s pretty convenient to judge them politicians based on their fathers’ history.

People in general are vulnerable to the narratives that education and media feed.

History should be taught and celebrated carefully if we ever want to preserve its truthfulness and to give justice to the people who were part of it, but furthermore, because how we perceive the past affects how we look at the present.

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