The Marcoses want Philippine history revised to portray the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. as a hero and a good leader, and to escape accountability for the Marcos family’s atrocities and economic plunder during Martial Law. The recent proposal of Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. for the revision of history books is aligned with the scheme for the complete return of his family to power. This historical revisionism should not be allowed to aggravate current learning that distracts from promoting historical and social awareness among the youth.
In pushing to revise history, the Marcoses are evidently basking in the successive court victories they have been securing under the current administration. They have been enjoying freedom and have even been installed in government, as if their crimes against the Filipino people have been forgotten. These follow the Duterte government-sanctioned hero’s burial for the late dictator.
Yet there have been court decisions damning the Marcoses. Thousands of human rights violations victims during Martial Law have won in the class suit filed in the US Federal court in Hawaii in 1995 seeking indemnification. They received compensation, albeit insufficient for all the suffering, from the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses. Imelda Marcos has also been found guilty by a Sandiganbayan court of seven counts of graft on November 9, 2018.
The Filipinos also remain burdened by the neoliberal policies which the Marcos regime started to implement. Case in point, many students and parents today continue to suffer from the commercialization of education as a result of the Education Act of 1982. Filipinos continue to suffer a government burdened by debt, while the Marcos family and their cronies enjoy the fruits of ill-gotten wealth including from dictatorship debt. Since the Marcos regime began implementing neoliberal economics, the agriculture and industrial sectors of Philippine society have headed downhill.
To say that schools have been teaching children lies with the discussion of Martial Law mocks the collective experience of civil, political, economic and social rights violations against the Filipino people during the dark days of the Marcos dictatorship. All the materials that narrate this part of history contribute to forming students’ consciousness and resolve to value democracy and to disallow all attempts to undermine it. There are forums and discussions, several books and writings, as well as multimedia materials featuring the accounts of Martial Law survivors. There are also Filipino historians, economists, academics and those from other fields, discussing Marcos’ atrocities and economic plunder. Schools may also visit the Bantayog ng mga Bayani in Quezon City, a “memorial center honoring those individuals who lived and died in defiance of the repressive regime that ruled over the Philippines from 1972 to 1986.”
As teachers and members of the Educators’ Forum for Development (EFD), we push that rather than revise history, the education sector must continue to include Martial Law in the curriculum and provide students with corresponding historically accurate books and other educational materials. We stand by the proven accounts of thousands of human rights victims during martial rule, and oppose any attempt to muddle the truth. Revising the truth about Martial Law and teaching the untruth in schools, as proposed by Bongbong Marcos, will diminish the Filipino people’s historical and continuing movement and struggle against tyranny and fascism, and present to the youth a distorted image of leaders and an ill concept of governance.
The teaching of history is integral to the study of the Filipino identity. A student equipped with the lessons of the past would more likely use a critical lens in understanding the present and discerning what must be avoided in the future. A critical student has a correct sense of history which includes both the glorious and the abhorrent. A critical student knows that being a government official is not an entitlement for abuse but a responsibility to serve the best interests of the people.
Historical revisionism has no place in any school. Let us continue to teach the truth about Martial Law. The need to do so never wavers. A government upholding neoliberal policies unopposed will spawn authoritarian rulers or dictators bent on pursuing and furthering an economic path favoring the few rich and powerful.