Talking about martial law facts not enough in fight vs. historical revisionism: historian

Benise Balaoing, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 21 2021 05:55 PM

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MANILA – Talking about the facts on what happened during the 1972-1981 martial law imposition may not be enough in the fight against historical revisionism, a Filipino historian said as human rights advocates and other groups strive to fight misinformation on the Marcos era online.

“Maybe it’s a call for us that, for those who are human rights advocates, it’s not enough to tell people the right things, or the correct things or the facts," De La Salle University Professor Xiao Chua said Tuesday.

"It is also important that we weave a narrative that would fit, or touch the hearts of people. Kasi ang mga Pilipino, puso ang kailangan eh.” 

“So we should weave a narrative of democracy and human rights that gears towards kaginhawaan and pakikipag-kapwa-tao. Because we cannot tell people to defend democracy and human rights just for the sake of it. That’s what we should do now,” he said.

Chua said Filipinos can go online to look for primary sources, such as testimonies of human rights victims, to get facts on what happened during martial law.

“There are videos online of the testimonies of these victims,” he said.

Chua added, however, that “I think more than telling you what to read, I think we should train ourselves how to look at the evidence.”

He said misinformation on the martial law era may be widespread because there was censorship of the media that time. This is probably why some people do not remember atrocities committed during that time, he said.

“Remember that commemorations that involve the Marcoses before an election, or a year before the elections are always the ones where it’s heightened, shall we say, the heat of the debates, and there’s a lot of shall we say, quarrel on Facebook that’s happening.”

“And we do not know, because there are some studies that say that this is also helped by, what we call these, organized (public relations) firms But remember that we also have a problem here because there are ordinary people who actually think that martial law was good because they did not remember the atrocities so much, because there was censorship of the media,” he explained on ANC’s “Rundown.”

“And that’s why what was happening was, their other memory of martial law is now at odds with the victims and those who studied history were able to see the documentation, the documentation of the plunder, all the testimonies of the victims, of the human rights violations, and all of that.” 

Chua said the Marcoses may be banking on this to "win the hearts of the people."

“And so, because there are political, you know, there wouldn’t have been a problem if there is not so much political dynasty in the country. Because 50 years ago, this would have been history now."

"This would just have been, you know, just recorded, being studied. But because it’s political, then you know it has to be more emotional again, and you have to play up the, you know, because they have to win the hearts of people.”

“The Marcoses have to win the hearts of people... And because they can’t escape their father, although they wanted to really stand on their own achievements, they cannot escape the legacy of their father, and that’s why they have to cleanse the memory of their father, which is sad because they should have just acknowledged that there were bad things that happened in his administration,” he said.

The late dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ son and namesake, Bongbong, said he is eyeing a national post in the 2022 elections.

His sister Imee is a sitting senator. 

Bongbong previously called for a revision of Philippine textbooks, saying it was his family that was a "victim" of historical revisionism and that accusations against them have supposedly been unproven. 

The Marcos family and their supporters have been criticized for painting a rosy picture of the strongman rule, even as killings, human rights abuses and plunder during that time have been proven in courts. 

In her message on the 49th anniversary of the declaration of martial law, Vice President Leni Robredo called on Filipinos to fight attempts to whitewash the atrocities committed during the period.

“"Kapag nanahimik tayo— kapag hindi natin pinadaloy ang naratibo sa sari-sarili nating mga espasyo, pera at kapangyarihan ang magdidikta ng kasaysayan," she said

(If we stay silent--if we don't tell our stories, money and power will dictate history.)

--ANC, 21 September 2021