In the afternoon of an August day in 1983, Philippine Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. arrived in Manila via passenger jet. The politician was welcomed back by troops from the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos Sr., who had been in exile in Boston. Then, at least four gunshots could be heard. The senator’s body lay motionless on the tarmac, and the terrified passengers peered out the windows to see it.
Filipinos had had enough of the rights violations, martial law, rampant corruption, and plunging economy under the Marcos dictatorship, which lasted for two decades. The public assassination of Aquino, however, was the final straw. After Marcos’s death in 1989, his widow, Corazon, led a popular uprising that succeeded in driving him and his family into exile in Hawaii.
Aquino was revered long after his death for the sacrifice he made. The airport where he was killed in 1987 was renamed in his honor. The date of his murder, August 21, 2004, was made into a federal holiday that same year. But the Marcos family is back in power, threatening Aquino’s legacy even after 39 years have passed since the senator’s death.
Contrast Marcos with the tendency to rewrite history.
In the May presidential elections, 64-year-old Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. triumphed with the help of a campaign that cynically whitewashed his father’s brutal legacy.
Please continue reading: Reasons Why the World Should Fear a Marcos Election Win
He openly lauds his father and avoids talking about the many problems that persist from the time of martial law. Even though several court rulings confirmed that some of the Marcos millions are ill-gotten, he has demanded that history textbooks be revised to tone down mention of his family’s unexplained wealth.
Experts say he will show his appetite for further historical revisionism by either celebrating or ignoring the upcoming Ninoy Aquino Day, one of several “hallmarks of the revolution.”
An expert on international affairs at the University of the Philippines, Richard Heydarian, has warned of the “toxic cocktail of massive disinformation and historical denialism” that can help put and keep in power authoritarians. A lawmaker has already suggested that the airport in Manila be renamed after the dictator rather than Aquino.
Maid in Malacaang, a lavish film about the Marcoses’ final three days in the presidential palace, has just opened in theaters across the Philippines. It portrays them as heroic and tragically misunderstood figures, acting nobly in the face of the mob at the gates and revealing the “untold” story. Senator Imee Marcos, the sister of Marcos Jr., has praised the movie as “a work of truth.”
Many Filipinos are anxious about the ever-changing political climate. Documents pertaining to the dictatorship are urgently being collected, digitized, and stored by archivists. The demand for anti-Marcos literature has also increased. In contrast, pro-Marcos forces continue to harass historians. Michael “Xiao” Chua, a history professor at De La Salle University in Manila, says, “There’s no way to actually defend ourselves here.” Their equipment is enormous.
Please continue reading: Marcos Jr. and the Catholic Church’s Unresolved Issues
Traditions connected to the revolution are uncertain for the future. Chua says that criticizing these rituals right now would be “distasteful.” Marcos Jr. has not gone on record about such commemorations and since taking power has made no substantial comments on the broader topics of human rights or justice, focusing instead on the Philippine economy.
But Heydarian is not surprised if Marcos Jr.’s methods are still developing after only one year in office. The dictator’s son will have ample opportunity to rewrite history during his six-year term.
A lot of eyes in the Philippines will be on him this coming Sunday.
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