MANILA — The Ateneo Martial Law Museum invited Toni Gonzaga on Thursday to interview victims of the dictatorial rule of former President Ferdinand Marcos, after the actress interviewed the late strongman's son, Bongbong Marcos on her YouTube channel.
In an open letter to Gonzaga, the digital museum from Ateneo de Manila University’s School of Social Sciences also offered to help connect the actress with survivors of Martial Law.
“May we invite you to instead talk to the victims and surviving families of the Martial Law regime? The Ateneo Martial Law Museum stands ready to facilitate your encounter with the victims of Martial Law and with the truth,” the group wrote.
“In fact, we think that hearing their stories and struggles will be much more inspirational for your audience than talking to anyone from the Marcos family. These are the stories that celebrities and influencers should strive to popularize and disseminate as they are exemplary models of how we can strive to create a better country for everyone.
“In the first place, the only reason why we are able to pursue our creative pursuits in a free society today was because of their sacrifices. We owe a lot to those who sacrificed their lives in order to fight for our freedom and democracy,” it told Gonzaga.
According to data from Task Force Detainees of the Philippines, at least 9,000 human rights violations were monitored during the Marcos regime.
During the Martial Law era alone, at least 5,040 individuals were arrested or detained, 1,217 were victims of “salvage” or summary executions, 892 were massacred, and 352 disappeared, among other atrocities.
The Philippine Commission on Good Government, meanwhile, has estimated that the Marcos family’s ill-gotten wealth is between US$5 billion to US$10 billion, excluding those of their relatives and their cronies.
In its open letter to Gonzaga, the Martial Law Museum criticized the TV host for allowing her celebrity to be used as propaganda for the Marcoses, who remain active in politics.
The group said: “Inviting the son of a murderous and corrupt dictator of our country to your show benefits no one and pushes back the struggle to gain justice from the atrocities committed by the Marcos regime and against historical revisionism running rampant amongst our people. Your show has contributed to the Marcos family’s attempts to whitewash their human rights violations and its proven historical record. Marcos is a lying clout chaser, desperate to change public opinion about historical facts as he has neither history nor truth to his side.
“No amount of propaganda spewed by the Marcos family and their supporters can erase the factual and proven disastrous effects of the Marcos regime on our country. Your show presented Bongbong Marcos as an amiable and approachable figure. This is also an outright attempt at whitewashing. Mr. Marcos is not and will never be ‘ordinary’ or ‘one with the people’. The Marcos family and their allies continue to benefit from the billions of Pesos stolen from public coffers during his father’s dictatorship and they continue to escape accountability for their actions. He continues to push a message and a political agenda that erodes efforts to exact justice from the atrocities committed during that period. He has no interest in the betterment of our society. His only interest lies in returning to the halls of power in order to whitewash his family’s disastrous legacy and to perpetuate themselves in power.”
The museum, in its letter, also mentioned Gonzaga’s home network of 17 years, ABS-CBN, in light of its current shutdown being the result of the same “lies peddled” the Marcoses and current administration. ABS-CBN was also once forced shut during the Marcos dictatorship, and only returned to air after his ouster in 1986.
“Celebrities should use their platforms, influence, and privilege in order to aid the progress of the common good. Helping build a more just society means that we hold the corrupt and the murderous to account and deprive them of the means and platforms that normalizes and whitewashes these figures and behaviors. The propagandistic lies peddled by Marcos on your show, and the lies peddled by those who had orchestrated the current shutdown of your own home network ABS-CBN, are fruits from the same tree. These falsehoods are designed to mislead and divide our people so that corruption and lust for power remain rampant and unchecked throughout our country,” the group wrote.
ABS-CBN News requested a comment from Gonzaga’s camp on her interview with Marcos on Wednesday night, but has yet to receive a response.