Ferdinand Marcos’ immersion to heroism – a democratic issue?

Is not the plea of democracy a salutation of cooperative difference? Otherwise, ‘resistance’ is only the bad appellation to prescribe another form of division. What is beyond the ‘Marcos, a hero?’ perplexity is a tug of war proliferation vis-à-vis the tripartite tapestry of history weaving truth, justice, and freedom.

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Last Tuesday, Supreme Court rules in favor of the Marcos’ petition to lay the late president’s rest in the “Libingan ng mga Bayani” (National Pantheon for Heroes) – a much awaited decision to put an end (or exacerbate) the tight bickering dividing the nation. The SC judges’ 9-5 vote is the magic number, the only digits that would matter legally or would be trivial in the upcoming post-ruling protests. Victims under the Martial Law regime profess a massive disavowal, in which no amount of liberality can ease off. Their experience had to narrate what is lacking of the judicial verdict, i.e. the freedom they fought for that gave rise to the historical landmark of Philippine democracy. Pro-Marcos petitioners, mostly comprising of the Ilocos regions, advocate healing, the romantic assertion of ‘moving on’, and the social imperative of valuing called ‘appreciation’. Even the current president honors the noble projects the late FM instigated. It remains an undeniable verity that the Marcos political genius, taking enough cues from Machiavelli’s The Prince and who knows what else in his books for the love of country, elevated the nation to a long head start compared to its Asian neighbors. But it is precisely Bongbong Marcos’ appeal of ‘healing’ that uncovers the rug dusts signifying the horrors confined within its connotation.

What makes the landscape flamboyant is the parade of (dis)colors: the loss of the victims and their lineage encourages its supporters to wear black, set profile pictures to black and paint everything as dark as they mourn the entrance of a non-hero to a sacrosanct place where champions of nationalism rest, while the other side of the spectrum brightens up with yellow – the glory aurora of the Aquinos from Cory, Ninoy, to Noy. All of these to highlight the enduring bricolage that retroactively questions the very nature of democracy. This means that to verify gradually the point is to engage in the correct historical reading to resolve the issue: Is Ferdinand Marcos a hero in the halls of justice? Is it a matter of national interest resembling every Filipino’s deepest freedom? Is this even a worthy resistance in the first place?

In Nietzsche’s Untimely Meditations, there are three ways to enunciate history. One is monumental, by which the great events are bracketed and thereby singled out to emphasize achievements in conquests. In monumental history therefore, one is correct to bullet Marcos’ triumphs in his presidency and subsequent dictatorship in 1972; his credit for national economic stability and his opposition against secessionist insurgents lurking together with the specter of communism in his time. Cory had to exemplify the other side; for she was the new face after the revolution. The yellow flag hinges on the historic EDSA revolution to amass the prolegomena of the nation’s renascence story following the Martial law.  The second method is known as antiquarian, in which accumulation in a manner closer to someone with OCD for idiosyncratic hoarding is the domineering activity. Here, remembering overtakes the stage above forgetting. Anecdotes, among others, and even the pettiest minutiae provide enough sagacity. And what better emphasis would there be if not the clandestine carnages committed by both sides? The Martial law was not just a legal suppression, a means towards an end, but a scene of brutality. How many stories of soldiers, innocent civilians, and rebels – how many of them, missing in sum to fight for their own cause, regardless of ideological blindness – are recollected in the most gruesome way one can imagine (or resist to), enough to be summarized as hostile and ample in atrocities? It is also in antiquarian historicity that one can find an utter debunking of generic presumptions; the same acknowledgment of self-misjudgment when one secretly sees a presumed bad person being charitable or doing what the norms render as deviance but only to help somebody else’s direst errands. Chronicles beheld by Ronald Roy, a colleague of both FM and Ninoy, give a balanced view. The attempted regicide (that is to kill a powerful kleptocrat) case of Eddie Figueras is one to patronize Marcos when released after a year of detention; therein he describes him in verbatim as a ‘truly great president’. While this may not be a court hearing, that and the clemency given to communist Jose Maria Sison and student militant Gerry Barrican are defensive cases to incur doubt in the posthumous trial of a dictator. But in no way does this remove the burden of proof much less to revert the question to Ninoy being the hero. Ninoy tapped Roy for an assassination and used force to daunt people into joining his revolt. But his monumental death gained him the sympathy adequate to conceal the antiquarian details. The third round decides.

The ultimate judgment Nietzsche utilizes is called critical history, which makes use of both monumental and antiquarian reading. This works precisely in sorting out all the antiquarian-gathered data along with monumental memories, and analytically peruses them until one creates a pundit out of oneself without supplying perfidious and mischievous capsule histories. To give it a lighter term apart from its eclectic formulation, critical historicity resembles the pastoral act coined as ‘immersion’. Deconstructively, putting oneself within the confines of a stubborn binary to seek truth, extract justice, and expose freedom is emersion acted in the process of immersion. It is to engage in a cathexis of reality which requires the fortitude to face the hard lesson of episteme and to wishfully forget the initial resentment of knowing it in the first place.

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Ruminating on immersion once in a while is, for me, a life-changing experience. There are things I should not know but because my itchy curiosity cares to immerse enough, I have awaken the critical side that radicalizes things: cynical reason, cageyness, and ironically after having known, skepsis. In short, immersion as a means in arriving critical historicity is knowing what is underneath the proverbial iceberg, or accessing the deep dark web. Similarly, in enshrining FM to the burial grounds for patriots, what is more to see, what does this further mean? Immersing into the revelatory side of temporal affairs – the life of FM, the horrendous crimes to humanity during Martial law, the ambiguity of strict legal stress on the SC decision, the continuing struggle towards appalling results – these are things that necessitate resistance, whatever its worth may be. Whether one is adamant to digest the whole of Republic Act 289 which accentuates the rationale of the national pantheon for “presidents of the Philippines, national heroes, and patriots of the country”, underlining on either being a president or a hero, in which case, the former is the surer entry without any legal complication. The human rights violations attributed – the same blame pointed to the highest authority to fill the gap – to FM and the plunder cases fail to serve him the heroic position. A patriot is also not one for arguing, since the National Historical Commission already disputed his being a veteran of the war. Marcos was both the president and, when reelected, the dictator; the former seems to be “worthy of emulation”, while the latter blurs the description altogether. At this point in time, the 4-decade restlessness of Marcos converts his name into the revenant-type of a hero, but only to die again as a leader and stripped off of his champion regalia.

Things are heading towards an enigmatic trajectory. And the riddle of democracy projects a disturbing promise of reality in troubling times. The SC ruling is a field day enjoyable for the pro-Marcos (and needless to say, for the Dutertard as well) – for in thinking that heroism is a matter of locus, legality, and superstitious belief, they have defined the asymmetrical set for democracy. If there is an apercu to device the fitful instances that democracy depicts, it is not that it is only an illusion that will serve as the utopian desire in things. Nor is it one that is contingent on historicity alone, which is to say, in the heroes it has borne and the resistances it scuffles. Beyond Foucault, who thinks that in resistance there is freedom, why not treat this Marcos discourse instead as a resistance in matters of democracy – for they are not the same? The name of democracy is always going to be an acceptance of its confusing riddles, forcing hope against hope to whatever noblesse oblige it entails. (One of which is the ironic electoral results of the Philippines and America.) But lest I become obliged to concede, let us go towards the end – let us treat Marcos as the Hero of Our Time – and see how this goes in the words of Mikhail Lermontov:

“Some were dreadfully insulted, and quite seriously, to have held up as a model such an immoral character as A Hero of Our Time; others shrewdly noticed that the author had portrayed himself and his acquaintances. … A Hero of Our Time, gentlemen, is in fact a portrait, but not of an individual; it is the aggregate of the vices of our whole generation in their fullest expression.”

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