MANILA- Scholars from the University of the Philippines on Tuesday debunked some of the myths about Ferdinand Marcos' martial law period as the country commemorated the 49th anniversary of its declaration.
According to Professor Maria Serena Diokno, former chairperson of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), the Marcos family and their allies have been engaged in negative historical revisionism, which she defines as the "distortion of history".
"I-didistort ang history para magamit niya 'yun as a reason to ma-legitimize ang kasalukuyan niyang ginagawa," she said in a webinar.
(It's distorting history so it can be used as a reason to legitimize actions.)
"Or may 'di kanais-nais na reputation itong isang tao so idi-distort niya ang nakaraan para gumanda ang tingin ng tao sa kanya," Diokno added.
(Or if the person has a negative image, he will distort history so he will have a positive image.)
An example is the attempt to paint the late dictator as a "hero" when President Rodrigo Duterte, his allies and even the Supreme Court allowed his burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in 2016.
This was the time when Diokno resigned from her post at the NHCP.
"The burial suggests that Marcos is a hero…Marami siyang fake claims tungkol sa kanyang mga medals and war record. Ini-ignore din ng burial 'yung diktaturya, plundering, paglabag sa karapatang pantao," she said.
(The burial suggests that Marcos is a hero...There are a lot of fake claims about his medals and war record. The burial also ignores the dictatorship, plundering, human rights violations.)
Another example is the contradicting statements of former Marcos defense secretary Juan Ponce Enrile about his ambush in 1972 which paved way for the martial law declaration.
"Nung 1972 September 22...Lumabas ito sa diary ni Mr. Marcos. He wrote his diary..Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile was ambushed in Wak-Wak at about 8 p.m. tonight.. this makes the martial law declaration a necessity," Diokno said.
This was retracted in 1986, when it was claimed that the ambush was staged to justify the declaration of martial law. This was again retracted in 2012.
"2012, naglabas ng kanyang memoir, ni-retract nya ang retraction. Totoo daw ang ambush. You can see allies of perpetrators can change and distort facts and what happened depending on what suits them in a historical period," Diokno added.
Duterte also attempted to paint the Marcoses clean, saying the family had no ill-gotten wealth, ignoring the Supreme Court ruling ordering the Marcoses to forfeit their "ill-gotten wealth" to the state.
For another historian, the late dictator used baseless arguments to support martial law just to stay in power.
"Ginamit ni Marcos ang mga kilos protesta laban sa kanya bilang batayan sa pagdeklara ang batas militar," said UP Department of History chairperson Neil Martial Santillan.
(Marcos used the protests against him as basis for the declaration of martial law.)
And contrary to claims that the country experienced the "golden age" of the economy during the Marcos regime, lives of Filipinos became worse due to serious corruption, debt and nepotism at that time.
"Dalawa sa tatlong Pilipino ang nakaranas ng kahirapan (Two out of three Filipinos experienced poverty)," said UP Diliman School of Economics Teaching Fellow Jan Carlo Punongbayan.
"Nakita natin ang pinakamalalang krisis pang-ekonomiya after World War 2, at ninakawan tayo ng ating current and future incomes. Mas mataas sana ang ating kinikita ngayon kung 'di nangyari ang krisis," he added.
(We saw the worst economic crisis after World War 2 and we were robbed of our current and future incomes. We could have earned more now if the crisis didn't happen.)
Punongbayan said corruption made the economic crisis worse.
To negate negative historical revisionism, Punongbayan suggested educators must teach history in platforms appealing to the youth.
"Kailangan natin maging present kung saan nag-uusap ang mga kabataan at tao. Kailangan nating magpush back kasi magiging kaliwa’t kanan na naman ang mga bogus claims and achivements," he said.
(We have to be present where the youth and other people discuss. We have to push back because there will be bogus claims and achievements left and right.)
Santillan suggested educators and groups have to be more aggressive in making right the wrongful information that are currently and readily available online since the results of the next election is "at stake".