It would take many more years for the people to judge the reign of Ferdinand Marcos in proper perspective. Last Monday’s commemoration of his 100th birth anniversary, though partially covered by media both in his province and in his final resting place at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, only brought to life once more the continuing debate on the worth of the man who ruled this country from Dec. 30, 1965 to Feb. 25, 1986.
His detractors, particularly those who suffered during the dreaded years of martial law, have nothing but spite for the man. It’s been 30 years since the man died, but the debate goes on.
One man who served under Marcos with utmost integrity and who is highly respected despite his participation in the martial law regime, Cesar E.A. Virata, who was both finance minister and prime minister, extolled his former principal as a “man of many achievements,” which is true.
Virata, who was at the Libingan last Monday, rued the lack of balance in the reportage about the accomplishments of Marcos.
“All those who were adversely affected by the discipline and enforcement of martial law are the ones that are usually in the newspapers. And they continue to take over what should be reported as the accomplishments,” said the former prime minister.
“The evil that men do lives long after them, the good is oft interred with their bones,” orated Marc Antony in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.
“So let it be with Caesar”, Antony lamented.
As it is with Marcos.
But history is writ for generations long after. Recall how Elpidio Quirino was reviled by the CIA propagandists who hated him for being Manuel Roxas’ “bad guy,” as foreign secretary, in reducing the number of American military bases in the Philippines.
When Roxas died of a heart attack, suddenly Quirino became president. And from Day One, he was vilified, for his “aristocratic” manners, his “aloofness,” even if the cerebral president was doing his best to rehabilitate a country from the ashes of the Second World War, a war where our country was just a “pawn,” victimized by the power plays of two imperialists.
Quirino died a broken man, after losing his re-election bid in 1953 to a man he promoted to become his defense secretary, and who was credited by CIA propagandists as the man who “single-handedly” broke the back of the Huk rebellion, to the unfair exclusion of the chief policy-maker who appointed Ramon Magsaysay and directed his moves.
This is not to denigrate the memory of Ramon Magsaysay who was a man of many achievements as well, but simply to point out how “instant” history can be so unjust. Quirino, three generations after his death, is now better remembered. His place in history will in the near future be permanently restored as one of the best nation-builders we have had.
Virata enumerated Marcos’ accomplishments, among them something everybody knows, which is his having constructed needed infrastructure “unequalled by succeeding administrations.” His programs in health, education and agriculture are yet fondly remembered by those who now compare these with the benighted state our children and grandchildren now have to endure because of inaction or wrong policies of succeeding administrations, particularly on the issue of population management which Marcos started.
Virata particularly cited how Marcos refused to send Filipino troops to fight in the Vietnam War, and how he was able to shorten the lease on Clark and Subic to 25 years, a lease which expired when an independent Senate refused to extend it despite the appeal of Corazon Aquino.
The parallelisms between Marcos of Ilocos Norte and Quirino of Ilocos Sur are many.
But one difference stands out. Quirino died a lonely man in his modest house in Novaliches, and his children and grandchildren do not wallow in wealth, despite inheritance from Quirino’s wife who was killed by the retreating Japanese during the Liberation of Manila. Alice Syquia belonged to Vigan’s aristocracy, who married the brilliant lawyer from neighboring Caoayan, who was just the son of a jail warden.
Yet Quirino’s detractors painted him as “corrupt,” given to an extravagant lifestyle, such as having a “golden” orinola (bedpan) and a 5,000-peso bed (at that time a fantastic sum). These have turned out to be false, the machinations of evil propagandists.
Marcos died a lonely and frustrated man in Makiki Heights upon Honolulu, to which he was shanghaied by the Americans after the Edsa Revolt of 1986. Yet to this day, questions abound about how much he and his family are really worth, and how much of it are sashayed abroad, or here. Or for that matter, how much of the fabled wealth are legitimate, and how much are not.
Which is why closure on the Marcos wealth is needed.
President Duterte himself re-opened the debate on the issue. He knows and appreciates the true worth of Marcos as president and commander-in-chief. The “excesses” are to be balanced with intent, with vision, with “saving the Republic”.
And that is for history to judge.
To quote from the epic Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam: “The Moving Finger writes; and having writ, moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit shall lure it back to cancel half a Line; nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.”
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