Marcoses should be careful what they wish for
At the book launching of “Women Against Marcos: Stories of Filipino and Filipino American Women Who Fought A Dictator” held at the Philippine Consulate in San Francisco on April 1, a Balitang America reporter from The Filipino Channel (TFC) mentioned that his assignment for the following day was a Bongbong Marcos for vice president rally in Sacramento where the organizers were expecting more than a thousand supporters. This was discouraging news to the 70 souls who came to hear the author, Mila De Guzman, describe the inspiring stories of the brave Pinays who worked to defeat the Marcos dictatorship.
The book launch was a reunion of veterans of the anti-martial law movement in the United States. Cindy Domingo, one of the Pinays featured in the book, is the sister of Silme Domingo, a member of the Union of Democratic Filipinos (KDP), which organized the first Seattle protest against the Marcos dictatorship in 1973.
Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes
Silme Domingo and his fellow KDP activist, Gene Viernes, were active in their Local 37 union and repeatedly clashed with the head of the union, Tony Baruso, who was unabashedly pro-Marcos. On June 1, 1981, Domingo and Viernes were gunned down and killed at the Local 37 office of the International Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union (ILWU) by Pompeyo Guloy and Jimmy Ramil who were arrested, charged and convicted of their murders.
On January 12, 1990, a Los Angeles civil jury found Marcos and his supporters responsible for ordering the murders of Domingo and Viernes. As reported in the New York Times, the two supporters, Tony Baruso from Seattle and Dr. Leonilo Malabed from San Francisco, were ordered to pay $8M to the survivors of Domingo and Viernes. The estate of Ferdinand Marcos and Imelda Marcos were also found liable for running an intelligence network that spied on anti-Marcos activists in the US. They were ordered to pay $15 million to the families of Domingo and Viernes. Imelda Marcos later offered $2M to settle the case, which was accepted by the court.
But news of the Marcos-directed murders of Domingo and Viernes has not been generally known in the Filipino American community.
Neither is the case of Trajano v. Marcos, a landmark 1992 federal appellate decision (978 F.2d 493) that resulted from the 1986 civil suit filed by Agapita Trajano, a resident of Hawaii, who sued Marcos and his daughter, Imee Marcos-Manotoc, in 1986 for the abduction, torture and murder of her son, Archimedes Trajano.
This are the facts of the case as described in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal decision: “In August of 1977, Ferdinand Marcos was President of the Philippines, Marcos-Manotoc was the National Chairman of the Kabataang Baranggay, and Fabian Ver was in charge of military intelligence. Archimedes Trajano was a student at the Mapua Institute of Technology. On the 31st of August, Trajano went to an open forum discussion at which Marcos-Manotoc was speaking. When Trajano asked a question about her appointment as director of an organization, he was kidnapped, interrogated, and tortured to death by military intelligence personnel who were acting under Ver’s direction, pursuant to martial law declared by Marcos, and under the authority of Ver, Marcos, and Marcos-Manotoc. He was tortured and murdered for his political beliefs and activities. Marcos-Manotoc controlled the police and military intelligence personnel who tortured and murdered Trajano, knew they were taking him to be tortured, and caused Trajano’s death.”
After a lengthy appeal process, on October 21, 1992, the Ninth Circuit denied the appeal of Imee Marcos-Manotoc, who claimed “sovereign immunity,”, and affirmed the judgment against her awarding Agapita Trajano $1.25M for mental anguish and $2.5-M in punitive damages.
Archimedes Trajano was just one of the 3,257 Filipinos who were tortured and killed during the martial law regime according to an official UN report. This figure does not include the thousands of Muslim civilians who were slaughtered in the anti-Muslim military campaigns waged by Marcos in Mindanao. During the 14 years of martial rule, the UN agency reports that there were at least 35,000 documented instances of torture among the 70,000 Filipinos who were incarcerated by Marcos, among whom were Sen. Benigno Aquino, Jr., Sen. Jose Diokno and Sen. Soc Rodrigo.
Human Rights Victims Claims
Last year, about 46,985 martial law victims filed claims for reparation and recognition before the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board (HRVCB), which was created by law to distribute the P10 billion pesos that was transferred to the government from a Swiss account holding a portion of the ill-gotten wealth of the late president Ferdinand Marcos.
So how did the namesake son of the man who was named by Guinness World Records as the “biggest thief in history” and who fled the Philippines in disgrace in 1986 get to draw 14 million votes for vice president in the May 2016 vice presidential elections?
According to Dr. Crispin Maslog, head of the Journalism Department of Silliman University, this may be due to “martial law amnesia,” which he does not blame on today’s millennials.
“We the older folks are to blame. We did not teach them history properly – and I mean by we, mainly the Philippine government and the mass media who suffered the most under the Martial Law regime of Ferdinand Marcos. Now that the surviving members of the Marcos family are active in politics again and pushing a revisionist version of Martial Law history, we are worried, to say the least,” Dr. Maslog wrote.
Cronyism Under Martial Law
Dr. Maslog disputes the lie that the Philippine economy had its golden age during martial law. He informs his students that in fact, “the Philippine economy took a nosedive during the 14 years of Martial Law because of cronyism and economic plunder. Cronyism was an economic system where every major economic activity was controlled by the First Family, their relatives, or cronies…Cronyism meant giving loans to friends that had little or no collateral, whose corporations were undercapitalized. Marcos, family and his cronies used the national coffers, the resources of private banks, and even international loans from multinational banks for their business. Aid money from the US and Japan were placed at the disposal of Marcos’ money-making network. Until today we are still paying for these loans squandered by the Marcos regime.”
Raissa Robles, the author of “Marcos Martial Law: Never Again,” answers the question of how the Marcoses rose from being thrown out of the country by People Power in 1986 to now being “parked at the very doorstep of Malacañang, with the dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ only son and namesake being groomed to retake the Palace?”
Because “the Marcoses never really left home.”(https://opinion.inquirer.net/78931/the-marcoses-never-really-left-home).
“The 1986 People Power Revolution did chop down the Marcos political tree. But its intricate roots that spread far and wide across the state bureaucracy and Philippine society remained intact. All the Marcoses had to do was nurture the roots and wait for the tree to grow back,” she wrote.
Imee Marcos candidly explained her family’s secret to success: “Many professionals were appointed by my father. So you have this immense bedrock of Marcos appointees who keep moving up.”
Maintaining the Dark Legacy
As Robles further explained, “like secret stay-behind units, this vast army of professionals scattered in all sectors of society have defended the Marcoses and helped erase the dark legacy of their regime.”
After Marcos was deposed in 1986, Robles explained, the government of President Corazon Aquino “had to rely heavily on the bureaucracy that Marcos had built up to institutionalize his tyranny. Enough key civil servants remained closet Marcos loyalists or were sympathetic or deeply grateful to the Marcos couple for acts of favor,” Robles wrote.
This was also this extra element. Cory Aquino was a devout Catholic who wanted to be “the opposite of Marcos.” Where Marcos jailed and executed his opponents, Cory invited Imelda Marcos, a mother like her, to return home which she did on November 4, 1991, “with no restriction to the pomp and pageantry which accompanied it,” Robles observed.
“Imelda’s return probably marks the start of the family’s slow but steady climb back to power.”
Bongbong Almost Won
That steady climb back to power was stalled when Bongbong Marcos narrowly lost the vice-presidency to a widow, Rep. Leni Robredo, ironically just as his father lost the snap elections of February 1986 to another widow, Cory Aquino. Bongbong’s loss may only be temporary as he has filed an electoral protest and billions of pesos of Marcos hidden wealth may yet change the Supreme Court outcome and put Bongbong one cardiac arrest away from holding the title his father held for 20 years.
But Bongbong and his family may have overplayed their hand. Rather than being content to have their father’s remains kept in a refrigerated, glass-topped coffin inside an air-conditioned crypt at the Marcos Mausoleum in his hometown of Batac, Ilocos Norte where he is revered like a god, the Marcos family has continuously pressed to have Marcos buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani (heroes’ cemetery).
The Marcos family’s wish may finally come true. On August 11, Pres. Rodrigo Duterte, whose father served as a Marcos cabinet secretary, finally acceded to the wish of the Marcos family and ordered the burial of Ferdinand Marcos in the Libingan, which had been set for September 18.
That single act of hubris may yet prove to be the undoing of the carefully crafted return of the Marcos dynasty to power.
The Floodgates of Protest Opened
Overnight, the floodgates of protests against the Marcos burial opened. Despite heavy rains, over 2,000 people gathered at the Luneta Park on August 14 under a giant banner “Marcos is not a hero.” In attendance were Marcos-era victims of torture and imprisonment as well as relatives of victims of extrajudicial killings.
The following day, many of these victims trooped to the Supreme Court to ask the Court to stop the planned burial of Marcos. They cited a military regulation (AFP G 161-373) which states that ”those who have been dishonorably discharged from service, or personnel convicted of an offense involving moral turpitude, do not qualify for interment.”
The National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) issued finding on August 11 Marcos lied about receiving three military medals and was never recognized as the leader of his supposed guerrilla unit, Ang Mga Maharlika that Marcos lied about receiving three military medals and was never recognized as the leader of his supposed guerrilla unit, Ang Mga Maharlika.
“A doubtful record also does not serve as a sound, unassailable basis of historical recognition of any sort, let alone burial in a site intended as its name suggests for heroes,” the NHCP reported in its study. According to the NHCP, Marcos’ military record is “fraught with myths, factual inconsistencies and lies.
The petitioners also argued that the law creating the heroes’ cemetery was “to perpetuate the memory of all Presidents of the Philippines, national heroes and patriots for the inspiration and emulation of this generation and of generations still unborn.” What is there to emulate from a plunderer?
‘The interment of the remains of Marcos at the LNMB with the honors that supposedly befit only Filipino Heroes with overall unblemished integrity and dignity is contrary to the Constitution,” they said.
They also point out that the Marcos family agreed in 1993, before they were allowed to return to the Philippines, to bury the former leader in Ilocos Norte and not in the Libingan ng mga Bayani. ”To abandon the agreement, reboot the entire process, exhume his remains and allow his burial at LNMB is to relive the terror and horrors of his victims who have, until now, not been given justice. While his victims will be forgotten, Marcos will be remembered as a president given a hero’s burial in violation of the law and even their contractual commitment with the Philippine government,” the petitioners said.
Marcos Victims Can Never Rest
”This will not achieve the purpose of closure espoused or accepted by others. While Marcos rests in peace in LNMB, his victims who continue to cry out for justice, can never rest in peace…The tyrant, dictator, and puppet must stay where he is. Let us just let sleeping dogs lie,” they added.
On August 24, the Supreme Court issued a “status quo order” prohibiting the government from burying Marcos in the Libingan for 20 days with oral arguments set for August 31, which will be livestreamed on the Internet.
“It is not simply an issue of burying Marcos. It is an issue of whether we allow to bury the historical facts of the cruelties and atrocities committed by the Marcos regime against its own people. We won’t allow distortions of our history as a nation as we learned valuable lessons from the past to become a great nation of the future,” John Monterona of United Overseas Filipinos Worldwide.
Global Protest Set for Sept. 7
Meanwhile the Global Kontra Libing Coalition has called for global protest rallies to be held in front of Philippine Consulates all over the world on Wednesday, September 7 at 12 noon to protest the burial of Marcos in the libingan. Included as part of the protest will be symbolic coffins to represent the thousands of people who were killed during martial law. Inside the coffins will be stones marked with the names of the murdered victims.
“Each stone represents a life. Each stone tells a story. We can each place a stone,” is the request of the Bawat Bato conveners. #bawatbato.
If the Marcos family succeeds in their all-consuming ambition to bury Marcos in the heroes’ cemetery, the campaign to expose the truth about Marcos and martial law will not end. It is expected that thousands of the families of victims will pass by the grave of Marcos and leave a marked stone. One day, Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos-Manotoc will clear the stones away from her father’s grave and pick up one marked with the name “Archimedes Trajano.” Will she even recall the day long ago when a young man asked her a question at an open forum?
The Marcoses may yet get their wish. But they may later wish they never did.
(Send comments to [email protected] or mail them to the Law Offices of Rodel Rodis at 2429 Ocean Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94127 or all 415.334.7800).