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University of the Philippines unveils new subject on the Marcos dictatorship to counter historical revisionism

The subject was offered 33 years after the downfall of Marcos

By Karlo Mongaya

A new General Education (GE) subject that will tackle the dark years of military rule in the Philippines during the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship will be taught at the Diliman campus of the University of the Philippines (UP), the country’s premier state university.

Philippines Studies 21 (PS 21) tackles the historical experience of repression and resistance under Martial Law as a way of countering attempts by political allies of the late dictator Marcos, including the incumbent Rodrigo Duterte government, to whitewash the crimes, corruption, and rights abuses under the martial law regime.

The new subject will focus on the language, culture, and literature from the Martial Law era. The course title PS 21 was taken from the date of the declaration of Martial Law on September 21, 1972. Then President Ferdinand Marcos imposed dictatorial rule for 14 years until his overthrow by a popular uprising at EDSA in 1986.

The new subject has stirred controversy as the Marcoses complained that it may be “one-sided” against their family while the armed forces raised the alarm that it would be used as a recruitment tool for “communist rebels”.

Instituting PS 21

PS 21 has been in the works since 2014 when it was first proposed by Philippine Studies professors at the UP Department of Filipino and Philippine Literature (DFPP).

But efforts to institutionalize the subject gained renewed impetus late in 2018 when the issue of UP President Danilo Concepcion dancing with Senator Imee Marcos, the eldest daughter of the dead dictator, at a function in the university was reported by the media.

The UP Diliman University Council issued a statement calling for stronger efforts to educate the public on the horrors brought about by the Marcos dictatorship, including the creation of additional subjects in the university.

After passing several steps in the rigorous academic process for approving subjects, PS 21 finally made it through the UP Diliman University Council last September 2019. The proposed syllabus of PS 21 has been uploaded online.

Asked by media about the subject, Senator Imee Marcos appealed that her family’s side of the story be included in the course. The PS 21 proponents assured her that the late dictator’s speeches and writings legitimizing military rule are indeed part of the subject.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, who served as counsel for the Marcoses in their cases on their ill-gotten wealth, said the subject is a good idea: “Every student should know and learn any subject that concerns governance.”

Contentious history

The Martial Law era remains a contentious topic in the Philippines today. On the one hand, many Filipinos continue to seek justice for those whose rights were violated — the tens of thousands who were imprisoned, tortured, killed, disappeared — by the Marcos regime.

Marcos’ debt-driven development programs and massive corruption favoring his family and cronies have been cited even by mainstream economists for the many ills facing Philippine society today.

On the other hand, human rights activists said that the failure of post-Marcos administrations to convict the dictator’s family and his cronies has allowed the Marcoses to return to power. The dictator’s son and namesake Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. almost won the vice-presidency in the 2016 elections. His sister Imee Marcos currently occupies a seat in the senate.

President Duterte, who has openly expressed admiration for Marcos, and his officials have been blunt in calling on the public to “move on” from the horrors of dictatorial rule while his officials tout those years as the “Golden Age” of Philippine history.

A propaganda video released by the state-managed Philippine News Agency (PNA) against activist organizations as part of the government’s counter-insurgency campaign, for example, praises the Marcos era as the highest point of the country’s economy.

Duterte moreover allowed the burial of the body of the dictator at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes’ Cemetery) on November 18, 2016 sparking indignation and nationwide protests.

Students listen as proponents explain the rationale and contents of the PS 21 subject during its launching held in UP last September 18, 2019. Photo by author

Target of red-tagging

Ironically, the subject that tackles abuses of the dictatorship is itself now subjected to Marcos era-style repression. PS 21 is yet to be taught but the new subject is already in the cross-hairs of the Duterte government and its armed forces.

The UP Rises Against Tyranny and Dictatorship (UPRISE) network recently condemned the Philippine military for falsely red-tagging the new subject as a recruitment tool for “communist rebels” in a lecture at the Isabela State University Cauayan campus.

Target of red-tagging

Ironically, the subject that tackles abuses of the dictatorship is itself now subjected to Marcos era-style repression. PS 21 is yet to be taught but the new subject is already in the cross-hairs of the Duterte government and its armed forces.

The UP Rises Against Tyranny and Dictatorship (UPRISE) network recently condemned the Philippine military for falsely red-tagging the new subject as a recruitment tool for “communist rebels” in a lecture at the Isabela State University Cauayan campus.

UPRISE said that red-tagging is in line with President Duterte’s Executive Order No. 70 mandating a “whole-of-nation” approach that synchronizes the activities of all civilian agencies as part of the military’s counter-insurgency efforts:

This presentation was made in line with Executive Order no. 70, fronted as a talk on ensuring student safety and security, but is in essence a massive smear campaign against nationalist and critical education espoused by schools and legal organizations.

Senator Bato dela Rosa, who as former police chief was the lead executor of Duterte’s “War on Drugs”, is leading a crusade to “save students” against “communist infiltration” in schools and universities.

His Senate Committee Report no.10 proposes school administrators clampdown on “radicalization” thru increased police and military presence in campuses, regular review of academic programs, monitoring of school events, up to the filing of charges against professors.

Students, faculty, and employees hold protests last August 20, 2019 at the historic Palma Hall of the University of the Philippines Diliman against the threat of military and police intrusions on campus. Photo by author.

Conscientization amidst repression

Last October 31, 56 activists in Bacolod City, Negros and 2 in Manila City were arrested in raids conducted by Duterte’s security forces on the offices of legal people’s organizations and homes of activists in Negros and the national capital.

This was followed by an early morning November 5 raid on the office of activist group Bayan in Tondo, Manila and threats of state reprisals on legal offices of human rights defenders and progressives.

The crackdown on legal activists who have been the most vocal critics of the Duterte administration has not stopped, with various humanitarian and religious groups included in the military’s list of “communist terrorist groups”.

As the current administration intensifies the constriction of democratic spaces in the country, the new PS 21 subject hopes to be a platform for the “conscientization” of a new generation of Filipino youth on the importance of human rights, social justice and the continuing struggle for genuine freedom and democracy.

Concerned faculty in other UP campuses outside Diliman are endeavoring to institute the same subject in their respective regions. The proponents hope that the same efforts will be pushed in other schools and universities in the country. #

Disclosure: The author teaches Philippine Studies at the UP Diliman Department of Filipino and Philippine Literature.

(This article was first published by Global Voices, an international and multilingual community of bloggers, journalists, translators, academics, and human rights activists. It is republished by Kodao as part of a content sharing agreement.)

Land rights activists confront Irene Marcos-Araneta

Land rights activists Angelo Suarez and Donna Miranda chanced upon Irene Marcos-Araneta at a Sunday market in Quezon City last September 15 and confronted the late dictator’s daughter.

Suarez and Miranda said it is ironic that Marcos-Araneta is buying vegetables when the Araneta family is grabbing land from vegetable farmers in San Juan del Monte City, Bulacan.

The couple also pointed out that the Marcos family has yet to apologize to the victims of the late dictator Ferdinand’s martial law, including Suarez’s father, a journalist. (Video by Raymund Villanueva/Kodao)

Activists commemorate 33rd EDSA anniversary ‘amid new tyranny’

Various groups commemorated the 33rd anniversary of EDSA People Power 1 in a protest action last February 23.

The “Tayo ang EDSA, Tayo ang Pag-asa” rally was attended by progressive groups, opposition leaders and religious sectors who unanimously remarked that a new tyranny has descended on the Filipino people once more.

BAYAN said that the rotten social system remained 33 years after EDSA that the country is still confronted with gross human rights violations.

BAYAN warned that the people will not allow and will resist a repeat of the Marcos dictatorship under the signboard of “Duterte”. (Video by: Maricon Montajes and Carlo Francisco)

EDSA at diktadurya

“Tayo ang EDSA! Tayo ang pag-asa, ang totoo at ang pinakamakapangyarihang pwersa laban sa diktatura!“–Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. during a commemoration of the first People Power Uprising at EDSA last Saturday, 23 January.

Children vs convicted criminals

Several members of the Philippine House of Representatives want the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility lowered from 15 to nine years old while powerful personalities such as former First Lady Imelda Marcos convicted of graft remain free. (Cartoon by Mark Suva)

Youth activists hold ‘National Day of Remembrance’ to honor Martial Law victims

The League of Filipino Students (LFS), one of the country’s most storied youth groups, on its 41st anniversary honored the victims and martyrs of the Martial Law in a forum at the University of the Philippines Tuesday, September 11.

Present at the forum were Nanette Castillo of RISE UP, Prof. Sarah Raymundo of No Erasures No Revisions, LFS alumnus Nathanael Santiago and Datu Tungig Mansumuy-at of Salugpongan Mindanao who compared their struggles during Marcos’ martial law to current President Rodrigo Duterte’s own tyranny.

Also present were Bonifacio Ilagan, Danilo dela Fuente and Carmencitta Caragdag who were martial law survivors.

Danilo dela Fuente, a martial law survivor and vice chairperson of SELDA (Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto) said that, “The 41st anniversary of the LFS is a manifestation that what we fought for as members of the Kabataang Makabayan during the martial law, after 41 years have passed, still continues through the LFS.”

“Our history and struggles during the martial law should not be forgotten. All the experiences and practices we had will serve as lesson on how the youth today must face the Duterte dictatorship,” dela Fuente added.

According to Kara Taggaoa, LFS national spokesperson, “The organization was established during the Marcos regime when students’ right to organize was repressed. Now that we are again facing another dictator in Malacanang, LFS’s commitment is to continue to fight for people and students democratic rights.”

Current LFS members held a protest activity and welcomed leaders of indigenous peoples group in front of the university’s Palma Hall after the forum to start a series of activities called “9 Days of Remembering and Rage: Remembering Martial Law, Rage Against Tyranny” that will culminate on the anniversary of Marcos’ declaration of martial rule on September 21. (Report and photos by Maricon Montajes)

Groups hit Marcos-Duterte alliance on dictator’s 101st birth anniversary

The Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses to Malacañang (CARMMA) and groups belonging to the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) denounced what they call an alliance between the family of the late dictator and President Rodrigo Duterte in a picket protest at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Taguig City on the 101st birth anniversary of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Tuesday, September 11.

The protesters said Duterte sponsored the wholesale accomodation of the ousted tyrant’s family by allowing him burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani and enabling them to be firmly entrenched back into power.

BAYAN also slammed Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos’ statement that those against their family should “move on and accept the reality.”

“How can we  forget the atrocities under Martial Law and the ill gotten wealth amassed by the late dictator and his family? The Marcos regime was a curse to the Filipino people and the dictatorship  that devasted the people are now treated by President Duterte as heroes,” BAYAN said in a statement.

They also warned Duterte against attempts to revise the history and impose his own Marcos-inspired brand of dictatorship.

“Almost one third of the country is under Martial rule and Duterte has already surpassed Marcos in terms of extra-judicial killings,” the protesters said.

CARMMA and BAYAN called on the Filipino people to join the United People’s Action Rally in Luneta on September 21 to thwart “threats of another dictatorship.” (Video and report by Joseph Cuevas)

The ignorance that kills

By Luis V. Teodoro

Within months of his coming to power in 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte’s profanities, tirades, threats, outrageous remarks about women, human rights, heads of foreign states, and what he was actually doing, had called the attention of international media — in Japan, the United States and Europe — to what was happening in the Philippines.

As early as his first 100 days in office, and as the number of extrajudicial killings of suspected drug users and pushers including women and children from the poorest communities escalated, they called him “serial killer,” “the punisher,” and a human rights violator indictable before the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity. In his second year in power they called him a “populist dictator” and a tyrant (“strongman”) in the same company as Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Edrogan and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

In almost every case, however, the journalists who were mostly reporting on the human rights crisis in the Philippines reminded readers that Mr. Duterte was “democratically-elected.” Some also pointed out that the 16 million votes he amassed in a field of five candidates for president (Manuel Roxas II, Miriam Defensor Santiago, Grace Poe, Jejomar Binay and Duterte), although less than 40 percent of the total votes cast, was practically a landslide.

Both why he won, despite his admitted links to the Davao Death Squad and his threat to kill 100,000 during the anti-illegal drug campaign he vowed to launch once in power, and his continuing popularity despite the police bloodbath he encouraged, were among the questions they tried to answer.

Among the answers they proffered, based on their interviews with Filipino sources and their own analysis, was that the voters were weary of the corruption and inefficiency of past administrations, and that the tough-talking Duterte appealed to the millions of Filipino poor who have long wanted change, particularly an end to the criminality that haunts both city and countryside, and who saw no other way to achieve it except by killing criminals without recourse to legal niceties.

To this day, 70 percent of adult Filipinos think that the “war” on drugs is Mr. Duterte’s crowning achievement despite its horrific cost in lives and its enshrinement of the use of State violence as the first and at times the only “solution” to the country’s problems. Although it has always been every regime’s weapon of choice against critics, protesters, human rights defenders, political and social activists, environmentalists, indigenous peoples defending their right to their ancestral domain, and anyone else committed to the democratization of Philippine governance and society, killing as State policy has never been as openly endorsed by any president and as widely supported by his partisans than today.

Both its adoption as State policy and the support for it are premised on the assumption that crime, the drug problem included, can be eliminated by simply doing away with suspected wrong doers. That those killed in anti-drug police operations were denied their right to due process and a fair trial has been dismissed so often and so loudly on the argument that they’re necessary it has endowed lawless violence with a cloak of legitimacy. The policy ignores the social and economic roots of criminal behavior, the persistence of the culture of impunity which too often penalizes the innocent and absolves the guilty, and in many cases, the demonstration effect of the wealthy and well-connected’s literally getting away with murder that encourages gangsterism and criminality.

Together with the promotion of killing as State policy, however, is mass indifference to, and even support for, the return of dictatorship, which Mr. Duterte himself has proposed as the quick-fix solution to the country’s complex problems.

No one can blame the foreign press and other observers for being deeply surprised at the seemingly wide support for the dictatorship option. After all, did not Filipinos overthrow the Marcos terror regime only 32 years ago? Didn’t that regime imprison 100,000 men and women and kill over 3,000 of the Filipino people’s best and brightest sons and daughters? Didn’t it bloat the foreign debt from less than a billion US dollars to 30 billion? Didn’t it so empower the military it made civilian supremacy over the country’s security forces a joke?

Filipinos did oust Marcos in 1986 — and the Marcos dictatorship did all that, and worse. But many Filipinos today think that the period from 1973 to 1986 was some sort of golden age.

Their ignorance of that time proceeds from a number of causes, among them the failure of the administrations after that of Marcos’ to make sure that succeeding generations will understand what really happened. The creation of a truth commission in the manner of similar bodies in South Africa after apartheid, or in Chile after the collapse of the Pinochet dictatorship, was ever contemplated by the fragile, coup-threatened Corazon Aquino administration. The administrations that succeeded hers were focused on remaining in power, hardly cared about the threat of dictatorship, and were in fact more than willing to welcome the Marcoses back after Ferdinand Marcos’ death in 1989.

The Marcoses’ return to power — in fact the possibility today that Ferdinand Marcos Jr. could be actually be president — is as difficult for foreign observers to fathom as many Filipinos’ support for a despotic president. Both are quite simply based, not solely on lack of information, but also on false information.

But that false and misleading information has become deeply rooted in the minds of many Filipinos isn’t due only to the failure of the generation that lived through the dictatorship to impart its lessons to the next. It’s also because of the unwillingness of the dynasties in control of the Philippine State to break from that sordid past, they being one and the same in economic and political interests as the Marcoses and their cronies, many of whom are back in power in both the national and local governments. Mr. Duterte’s pro-Marcos idolatry and declared preference for martial law and dictatorship have also contributed to his partisans’ clueless support for the Marcoses and for the return of authoritarian rule.

Quite openly and often accompanied by threats of physical harm against those who disagree with them, however, the apostles of “strong government” justify murder as a State prerogative in combatting crime, in the process intensifying the country’s descent into chaos and even worse violence.

Because support for what amounts to fascist rule is based on ignorance — of history, human rights, and democratic ideals — what is clearly needed is a campaign to educate the vast majority on such issues as what happened during the Marcos dictatorship, its economic, social, political and cultural costs, and the imperative of resisting any attempt to restore a rehashed version of it. What this country needs in these times of lies, hate speech, unreason and the unprecedented use of State violence is an information revolution.

Now the unashamed advocate of that foul period in history, government is so obviously unwilling and incapable of doing it. On the media, the churches, the schools, human rights defenders and on non-governmental, sectoral and people’s organizations has therefore fallen the task of combatting the ignorance that kills, and replacing it with the understanding of issues and events that can stop the ongoing slaughter of the poor, regime critics and protesters, and halt the rise of another homegrown tyranny.

First published in BusinessWorld. Photo from PCOO.

Martial law victims start claiming compensation

Hundreds of Martial Law human rights violations victims trooped to the Commission on Human Rights in Quezon City Friday to start claiming their compensations.

Following the release of the initial list of 4,000 eligible claimants by the Human Rights Victims Claims Board earlier this month, cheques are now being distributed to survivors of Martial Law atrocities under the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship in the 1970s to the 1980s.

The Human Rights Victims Claims Board (HRVCB) approved 11,103 of about 75,730 claims filed with the board, its chair Lina Sarmiento announced.

Republic Act 10368 or the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013 ordered the payment of reparation to the thousands of victims from the 10 billion pesos Marcos funds given back to the Philippine government by Swiss banks.

The amounts being paid to claimants range from P176,000 for illegal arrest victims (1 point) to as much as P1.76 million for killed relatives (10 points). # (Raymund B. Villanueva / Photos by Mon Ramirez-Arkibong Bayan)

Marcos all over again, women journalists on Women’s Day say

History is repeating itself, Filipino women journalists said at a forum on the role of women in Philippine media at the University of the Philippines last Thursday, International Working Women’s Day.

Eminent women journalists likened the Rodrigo Duterte government to Ferdinand Marcos’s martial law for its many attacks against press freedom at the Women Talk Back: We are not All Vagina forum at the College of Mass Communication Auditorium.

“The media may seem free but many are afraid. There is a chilling effect,” broadcast journalist Ces Oreña-Drilon said.

The Duterte government has been condemned for its attacks against critical media outfits such as the Philippine Daily Inquirer, ABS-CBN, Rappler, Catholic Media Network, Kodao, among others.

Duterte himself has been criticized for his rants and threats against journalists and catcalling broadcaster Mariz Umali on live television.

Broadcaster Kara David for her part criticized Malacañan Palace’s statement that people should look beyond Duterte’s jokes and instead look at his pro-women record as Davao City mayor.

David said that while Davao City has pro-women programs, it still does not look good to see a leader who constantly makes derogatory jokes and sexist remarks.

“These impacts big against women,” she said, adding Duterte should be kicked out if he were a student.

Veteran journalists, Jo-Ann Maglipon, Ma. Ceres P. Doyo, Cheche Lazaro, Melinda de Jesus, Chuchay Fernandez, Malu Mangahas and National Union of Journalists of the Philippines acting chairperson Jo Clemente were resource persons at the forum.

Recalling her experiences under the Marcos dictatorship, Lazaro said history is repeating itself under the Duterte government. # (Report and photo by Maricon Montajes)