Marcoses almost back in the Palace, 30 years after EDSA

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Thirty years after the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution ousted Ferdinand Marcos from the Philippine presidency, his family is almost back in the Palace.

His son and namesake, Ferdinand Bongbong Marcos, is now a senator and a top contender for the country's vice-presidency in the 2016 elections, a position that would put him a heartbeat away from reclaiming the seat his father held with an iron fist for 20 years.

This, even if cases for the various abuses committed under the Marcos regime remain pending, including the collection of alleged ill-gotten wealth.

It appears that memories of the Marcoses' lavish lifestyle, from former First Lady Imelda Marcos' penchant for thousands of shoes, to clothes, to jewelry, to lavish parties in the palace, to edifices and festivals, to jet-setting shopping trips around the world by her family as the Philippines continued to grapple with widespread poverty, are beginning to be a distant memory for an increasing number of Filipinos.

Bonifacio Ilagan, a member of the Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses to Malacanang (CARMMA), and a survivor of the atrocities of the Marcos years, said: "Ang pagkakaalam ko may 58 million na registered voters. Sa 58 million na ito, at least 20 million ang bata, millenials, pinanganak noong late 80s onwards, ibig sabihin wala na silang kongkreto at personal na karanasan at kung anuman ang alam nila ay saling-bibig na lang o kinwento or nabasa mo na. Alam mo na habang lumalayo ka sa source humihina ng humihina ang tunog o ripples at ganun sa aking palagay ang nangyari."

Ilagan said there was a failure in terms of how the younger generation understands the events of the Martial Law.

"May failure para ang kabataan ay makagagap sa mga aral ng kasaysayan lalo na noong Martial Law, pero sa bahagi naming mga biktima ng Batas Militar kami ay hindi tumigil as soon as we were released we organized among ourselves at pinagpatuloy namin ang pakikibaka, 'di lang sa vestiges ng Martial Law kundi para sa tunay na kalayaan at pagbabago, kaya nga kami ngayon kami naggugumiit sa katarungan katotohanan," he added.

He also called on everyone to work together to tell the truth.

"Ang ating dapat gawin ay magtulong tulong sapagkat bagamat maiksi na ang panahon palagay ko ay sapat pa ito upang magkaroonng tinatawag na truth explosion," Ilagan said.

University of the Philippines (UP) political science professor Ranjit Rye agrees with Ilagan, adding that this can also be an effect of historical revisionism.

"Siguro number one diyan is marami sa ating mga bagong botante, close to half, were born after Martial Law so nakalimutan na 'yung Martial Law. Nakalimutan na 'yung rason bakit nag-EDSA, 'yung crime and plunder na nangyari na. Of course, andiyan din siyempre 'yung active elements of the old order na revisonism na nagcreep in na sa mga istorya natin yung pag iiba ng istorya sa kaysaysayan," he said.

He added that those who were born during the Martial Law days may also have failed to share the events of their time.

"Pangatlo yung isyu ng henerasyon namin na nabuhay ng Martial Law, born and raised and suffered under Martial Law, may pagkukulang sa proseso ng pagsabi ng historya. Kailangan kasi, we have to constantly try to remember. There should be an active memory of that period and should be configured to the new generation, itong bagong generation ng Twitter, Facebook. Millenials, we call them," Rye said.

Ill-gotten wealth

The Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) said about 100 cases were filed against the Marcoses, their cronies and associates. Thirteen are recovery cases, 25 are behest loan cases, 18 are criminal cases and 55 are civil cases. None of these have resulted in penalties for the Marcoses.

For Ilagan, it is also because while several civil cases filed against the Marcoses have prospered, the criminal cases have failed to put anyone from the family behind bars.

"Ang isang bagay pa na malaking kabiguan ng gobyerno ay ang paghaharap sa mga Marcos upang aminin nila at ibalik ang ninakaw na yaman. Eh kung susundin natin ang sinabi ng PCGG, at least $10 billion ang ninakaw. At sa loob ng maraming taon ay halos $4 billion lang ang narecover nasaan ang iba pa?" he said.

Based on the Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) filed by Bongbong and Imelda Marcos, they are among the richest solons in the country now.

Bongbong, in his 2014 SALN, is worth P200.59 million. He has P42.5 million worth of real estate properties in Laguna and Taguig City, about P93 million in personal properties which include condo units in Mandaluyong and Makati, jewelry worth P15 million, paintings worth P19 million, shares of stocks worth P23 million, as well as lots of vehicles.

Imelda is the third richest congresswoman at P917 million, coming in after boxing champion turned Saranggani Rep. Manny Pacquiao (P1.68 billion) and House Speaker Sonny Belmonte (P921.5 million). Imelda has real properties worth P920 million and personal properties worth P12.8 million.

The House of Representatives did not release details of the SALN on their website, releasing only summaries of SALNs of lawmakers.

Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, who is running for senator, is the eighth richest congressman in 2014, with a net worth of more than P474 million.

PCGG is far from recovering everything the Marcos family allegedly plundered from state coffers.

Its chairman, Richard Amurao, told DZMM Tuesday that they can't even look into SALNs now.

"Yang mga yan kasi we've requested SALNs pero hindi kami rin nabibigyan ng kopya ng mga SALN nila. Nagrequest na kami ng mga SALN nila para mapagaralan iyan pero hanggang ngayon wala pa kaming mga official copies ng mga SALN nila. Hindi ko po masagot iyan kung bakit po kayo nabigyan ng kopya at kami hindi nabibigyan ng kopya ng SALN nila. 'Yun nga ang irony niyan, kabalinutaan ng lahat ng nangyayari na kami mismo nahihrapan rin sa pagkalap ng ganiyang dokumento."

He also noted that the Marcoses themselves are now beneficiaries of the democracy they once curtailed.

"Kabalintunaan ng lahat ng mga nangyayari na dahil sa demokrasya nagkaroon ng pagkakataon po yung mga nakinabang during the Marcos year na kumabaga maprotektahan o mabigyan ng espasyo dahil po doon. That's the irony of everything with the advent of democracy. Ngayon pwede sila makinabang doon," Amurao said.

PCGG records show— it has recovered P170.4 billion or about $4 billion in cash since 1986, the year when the commission was created. That is less than half of Marcos' ill-gotten wealth, estimated at $10 billion.

The PCGG, in a statement, said that this is caused by the slow justice system, delaying tactics employed by the defendants and the overworked government lawyers.

"The slow grind of the justice system coupled with the dilatory tactics employed by the defendants on the one hand and our overworked government lawyers on the other, have delayed the resolution of PCGG's recovery cases," the statement said.

A big portion of the recovered loot came from Marcos' swiss accounts, coco levy assets, substantial shares from corporate giants PLDT, Meralco, and San Miguel Corporation, paintings of renowned artists, real estate and jewelry collections.

Last year alone, the PCGG remitted to the Bureau of Treasury cash amounting to P14 billion, identified P93 billion worth of coco levy assets, and sold three properties in San Juan, Pasig and Quezon City.

These are only three of 19 privatized properties including those in New York, Hawaii and Beverly Hills, California. Fifteen other real estate properties are up for privatization.

A recent report from auction houses Sotheby's and Christie's, meanwhile, valued the Marcos jewelry collection at P1 billion.

Nineteen civil cases involving shares of stocks worth a total of 32 billion pesos are still pending before the Sandiganbayan.

In a statement, Amurao said: "In the Sandiganbayan decision in the case of Arelma, promulgated on April 2, 2009, forfeiting in favor of the Republic Arelma funds, now valued at around $42 million, Senator Marcos and his mother hastily filed two separate petitions before the Supreme Court."

Amurao disputed claims made by the dictator's son, Senator Bongbong, that he is keeping his hands off cases filed by the government against his family.

Amurao cited the lawmaker's alleged efforts to block the forfeiture of the $42 million Arelma funds decided in favor of the government.

Former PCGG chairman Andres Bautista added: "Pieces of evidence are disappearing, whether real or testimonial, those who will prove the ill-gotten wealth, those who will testify, some of them are dead."

Records show the government has invested P2.9 billion from 1986 to 2015. And for spending that, it has recovered P170 billion.

The PCGG would not commit to a timeline to recover everything.That is because they say, some assets, like the paintings of renowned artists, are still untraceable.

Ilagan is afraid these unrecovered assets are going to be used by the Marcoses in his campaign for the vice presidency.

"Ibig sabihin, itong iba pa na 'di narerecover ang ginagamit ngayon ng mga Marcos upang gawin ang kanilang engradeneng pakana," he said.

Role of civil society, media

Rye said accountability should continue regardless of Marcos' fate in the election.

"I feel that given the context that were in and the legal system were in there's still hope these cases will continue but it has to be actively supported by civil society. Whether Senator Marcos becomes vice president, this cases should continue and civil society has a key role in working for that as well as media."

"I would think they would continue, there's a whole movement still large of people from our generation who want justice who feel that the crimes committed, the plunder committed during that period has not been resolved and in fact, claims are still being made at the level of courts," Rye added.

For Ilagan and the rest of CARMMA, which was formally launched at the UP Bahay ng Alumni Monday, the Marcoses plan to retake power to redeem themselves.

"Ngayon dahil nga sa kandidatura ni Ferdinand Marcos Jr., nagbuo kami ng isang kampaniya upang pigilan ang kanilang engrandeng plano na bumalik sa MalacaƱang. Ito ay hindi simpleng kandidatura para sa posisyong pambansa, ito ay matagal na nilang pinakana mula noong sila ay makabalik sa bansa. Ilang ulit na silang kumandidato, si Imelda nga ay natalo noong kumandidato bilang presidente at si Bongbong Marcos ay natalo sa unang pagkakataon noong siya ay tumakbo bilang Senador. Pero ngayon nga, sabi ang presidency is just a heartbeat away, should Ferdinand Marcos Jr. win the vice presidency."

"Kaya plano namin ay pigilin ang pakanang ito na siya ay bumalik sa pwesto. Sapagkat ang ibig sabihin, ire-redeem ng pagkapanalo ni Bongbong Marcos ang karangalang Marcos, ang legacy ng Marcos dictatorship na isinuka na ng sambayan noong 1986," Ilagan said.

Ilagan noted, Bongbong Marcos is very much a beneficiary of the allegedly plundered riches.

"Ipagpalagay natin na wala siyang kinalaman. Ano ba si Bongbong Marcos ngayon, siya ang executor ng Marcos estate. Lahat ng kayamanan ng mga Marcos, siya susing tao upang makapagwithdraw. Sa katunayan, napatunayan ng investigative journalist that Ferdinand Marcos tried to withdraw at least $200 million sa isang bangko sa Switzerland. Ano ang ibig sabihin, si Marcos ang tagapagmana ng ninakaw na yaman ng conjugal dicatorship at hanggang ngayon he continues to coverup, he continues to whitewash ang lahat lahat ng krimen ng Martial Law."

Ilagan added that despite Bongbong's claims, he was part of the regime. He was appointed as Special Assistant to the President at the age of 23, and was the chairman of Philippine Communications Satellite Corporation (Philcomsat) at the age of 26.

"Kung natataandaan natin may isang very graphic picture noong si Marcos ay nanunumpa matapos niyang dayain ang 1986 Snap Elections. Nanumpa siya bilang presidente at si Bongbong katabi niya na nakafatigue uniform sapagkat siya ay isang reserve officer ng AFP," Ilagan said.

"Madaling sabi, 'yung mismong larawan na iyon ay nagpapatunay that Bongbong Marcos upheld electoral fraud and he was willing to defend the dictatorship kung kailangan gumamit ng armas. Mali ang sinasabi ng mga Marcoses at ng kanilang mga bulag na tagasunod na walang kinalaman si Marcos sa mga krimen ng batas militar," he added.

However, there is no denying that those who succeeded Marcos after Edsa 1986 are to blame for these, because they failed to make democracy work, leaving room for nostalgia and historical revisionism.

"Mahalagang pangyayari ang EDSA 1986 sa ating kasayaysayan sapagkat matapos ang mahaba at madugong pakikibaka ay napatalsik natin ang isang diktador, at iyan ay hindi natin dapat maliitin. Subalit dapat natin tignan ang EDSA 1986 lagpas sa puntong iyon ang nangyari ang naibalik na demokrasya ay ang elitistang demokrasya na nagbigay pagkakataon para sa vested interests para sa mga poltical dyansties para sa mga traditional politicans na bumalik sa pwesto. Hindi ko na kailangan bumanggit ng mga pangalan sapagkat nandiyan naman sila namamayagpag miyembro ng Kongreso, miyembro ng gabinete, miyembro ng, alam mo, ng malalaking korporasyon at kabilang sa mga nakabalik na ito ay ang pamilya ni Ferdinand Marcos," Ilagan said.

"Anong ibig sabihin? Maraming kabiguan ang ating mga institusyon. Nabigo ang ating gubyerno, ang ating institusyon na kamtin ang hustisya para sa mga biktima ng Batas Militar at ilatag ang mga sapat na safeguard para ang mga nangyari noong panahon ni Marcos ay 'di na mangyari," he added.

The irony of the timing is not lost on Ilagan, that the Marcoses are almost back on top just as an Aquino is in charge.

"Yun na nga 'yun kabalintunaan, malaking kabalintunaan na sa panahon ng isang presidente Aquino magbabalik ang isang Marcos. Isinuka na ng taumbayan ang mga Marcos noong 1986, isinuka na nila subalit ngayon ang pagbabalik nila ay isang katunayan na ang 1986 may malaking kabiguan. Ang presidente natin halimbawa, dalawang Aquino ang naging presidente pero hindi nagkaroon ng pagkakataon na makilala at madala sa hustisya kung sino ang pumatay kay Sen. Ninoy Aquino. Nagpapatunay ito ng kawalan ng political will. Kasi ang ating pulitika ay politics of accomodation, kapag ikaw ay nandoon sa pwestong pinakamataas, do not rock the boat. You have to ally with vested interests para ikaw ay manatili sa pwestong 'yun no matter what principles na iyong pinanghahawakan."

"Yung 'never again,' effective siya up to a certain extent but the young generation did not experience Martial Law so we have to try to make our storytelling, our narratives about that period more relevant to this generation especially that they're asking, "what now, what do we do now?"," Rye also said.

"You know we restored democracy but a very flawed version of it . We're still trying to deal with, trying to provide solutions to long standing problems, poverty, inequality, and because of this flawed democracy incapacity to provide solutions to every day problems and a social system thats so open to authoritarianism and revisionism. We have these kinds of nostalgia towards Martial Law and you see this exemplified in the rise of Bongbong Marcos. We can't take it away from Mr. Marcos, Senator Marcos, he also did very well in Ilocos Norte, his family has regained a foothold in local politics. He has also done well as a senator. Those factors all provide a context why there's fear among the old generation that authoritarianism is being played with still today and of course this creeping revisionism as far as Martial Law is concerned," he added.

For Rye, had succeeding governments been successful in making democracy solve the country's problems there would have been no room for the resurgence.

"I think if government, if democracy was able to keep or realize the promises the promise of EDSA which is a just humane prosperous democratic society. If it was able to, over the years, resolve many of our social economic and poltiical problems, I think there will be less nostalgia about Martial Law today, there would be no fear that society or elements of society will be playing around with the idea of authoriarianism," he added.

De la Salle University Professor Richard Heydarian offered the same analysis.

"If you look at the demographics of Marcos supporters, it is an odd combination of elderly and millennials; the former have nostalgia for past, while the latter have no direct experience of it. Core of his support is the relatively larger greater "Solid North" which should be around 10-15 percent of all voters. I think the failure of post-EDSA leadership, from uneven development to traffic congestion and rampant crimes, have undermine trust in democratic institutions, inspiring growing appreciation for manifestations of strongman rule. And Bongbong has done a good job in surreptitiously glorifying his dad and presenting himself as a solution to post-EDSA governance failures. He also has a massive machinery and funds that undergird his increasingly robust campaign. His campaign and that of Duterte actually jive perfectly and both of them have been doing great millennials, who have half forgotten history and the Martial Law," he said.

Rye added that the second coming of the Marcoses during a second Aquino administration appear to be a confluence of events.

"I think it's a coincidence, but then again there's so many factor there's a confluence of factors that have led us to this point . One is the attempt of the Marcos clan to retell history, to revise history. Number two, there are active, the process, the leadership aspect as far as the clan is concerned they did very well as far as Ilocos Norte their comeback was purposive, well-planned," he explained.

Ilagan reminded the public, though, that the failure of the present is no basis for a return to the past.

"Nagkaroon ng peace and order sapagkat nawala ang malayang pamamahayag upang ianunsyo, upang ihayag ang katiwalian at mga krimen na nangyayari. During Martial Law, it was a controlled press. Kaya aakalain ng mga tao na walang nangyayaring kasamaan. Nagkaron ng peace and order sapagkat baril ang pinananakot ng militar sa mga mamamayan. Walang strike sapagkat bawal and so on and so forth."

"Tama ang sinabi mo na there is a failure sa pagsisikap na ang demokrasya maging epektibo at ito ay isang statement din sa patuloy na kabiguan ng kasalukuyang gubyerno at pamahalaan na ibigay sa bayan ang dapat na serbisyo, ang karapat dapat na bunga ng kanilang paghihirap. Pero hindi ibig sabihin na komo ang nangyayari ngayon ay napakasama ay mabuti ang nangyari noong batas militar."