UP History profs reject Marcos' 'myth-making, deception'


MANILA - Professors from the Department of History of the University of the Philippines (UP) called on Filipinos to be critical in evaluating the past, and to avoid falling for the trap of a "mythical golden past."

In a statement released Wednesday, the UP Department of History reacted to what it called a "deceptive nostalgia for a past that never really existed," referring to the belief that the regime of former president Ferdinand Marcos brought peace and prosperity to the country.

"Great danger now lurks behind a deceptive nostalgia for a past that never really existed--that the Marcos years were a period of peace and prosperity. This is patently Marcos myth and deception. Under martial law, the country was plunged into a climate of repression and plunder and then into a social crisis that exploded in the 1980s."

According to the professors, this "myth-making" is nothing new, as Marcos employed the same tactic to justify Martial Law.

"Marcos raised the Red scare to justify martial rule, but the communist movement then was still in its infancy; it was in fact under martial law that the communist and Moro rebellions grew in leaps and bounds. Marcos claimed to break up an old oligarchy, but martial law instead created a new type under his control, a crony oligarchy," the statement said.

They also pointed out that Marcos used several tactics to deceive Filipinos at that time, including the use of slogans like "New Society" and "City of Man," as well as the Marcoses' portrayal of themselves as Malakas and Maganda.

"To prop up authoritarian control, the Marcos propaganda machine contrived deceptive images of Philippine society as in the slogans “New Society” and “City of Man,” which sought to paint a picture of a “compassionate society”; but Imelda Marcos actually put up whitewashed fences to hide urban blight and squalor from foreign tourists. The Marcoses also portrayed themselves in the likenesses of the legendary personae of Malakas at Maganda in the Filipino origin myth, which made them appear as fount of life in murals and photographic visuals. But the dictatorship actually engendered some of the darkest and direst years of Philippine history."

The statement, likewise, debunked economic prosperity during the Marcos regime, explaining how poverty incidence and debt grew during this period.

"Economic crises characterized the Marcos years, as economists have consistently revealed, the most telling indicator was the extent of poverty. Poverty incidence grew from 41% in the 1960s to 59% in the 1980s. Vaunted growth was far from inclusive and driven by debt, which further weighed down on the nation. From 1970 to 1983, foreign debt increased twelve times and reached $20 billion (Dr. Manuel Montes, 1984). It grew at an average rate of 25% from 1970 to 1981. Much went to unproductive expenses like the Bataan Nuclear Plant, which was unsound and wasteful."

For the History professors, what Filipinos should seek are truth and justice, as well as to ensure that these events are not forgotten.

"Today the Filipino people continue to seek peace and prosperity as the social structures that gave rise to inequities, debt-dependence, poverty, corruption, human rights violations, rebellion, and criminality have remained after the EDSA revolt. What we ought to do is to expand the spaces for people empowerment and inclusive socio-economic development, uphold selfless public service, seek truth and justice in all corridors of government, render our obligations to Inang Bayan, and make sure that the tyranny of the past will never be written out of history," they said in the statement.

They also warned against falling into the "trap of seeking a better society from a mythical “golden” past."

"The sad thing indeed that could happen is to fall for the trap of seeking a better society from a mythical “golden” past. In that past, Marcos myth-making served to hide the power grab and greed of a Malakas at Maganda. Today Marcos deception seeks to evade accountability," it added. 

Professors from the Ateneo de Manila University (AdMU) have earlier accused vice presidential candidate Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. of "historical revisionism," something that the younger Marcos dismissed as mere "character assassination."

Marcos is currently at the top of several preelection surveys, sharing the spot with Senator Francis Escudero.