Exclusive by Raïssa Robles
I went to Manila Polo Club where the Rotary Club of Manila now meets, precisely to ask Senator Marcos some questions. I prefaced my questions to him by reminding him that he had long been saying – “let history the judge” of his father’s rule.
I told him that a month ago (on April 4) I personally hand-delivered a copy of my book, Marcos Martial Law: Never Again to him at his Senate office.
I added that it was a short history of torture and atrocities under the New Society of his father. And I asked him for his reaction to my book.
Marcos, Jr. acknowledged getting my book. But he said he hadn’t had the time to read it because he had been “too busy”.
Senators on the campaign trail are always “busy”. He could have assigned someone in his staff to read it for him but he didn’t.
My guess is, he has no intention of reading my book, which capsulizes hundreds of torture and abuse cases during his father’s dictatorship.
His vice-presidential rival, Congresswoman Leni Robredo, earlier told me that she had been reading my book as soon as she had gotten a copy. (I gave a copy to all the vice-presidential candidates. I was late in giving one to Robredo since her office was all the way in Katipunan Avenue.) She had time to read it despite a hectic campaign schedule that now sees her running neck-to- neck with Bongbong Marcos.
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Marcos, Jr. claimed he was misquoted by Agence France Presse (AFP) which had quoted him as saying there were “widespread human rights abuses” during his dad’s dictatorship. He said this after I had reminded him that a year ago, he told me during a FOCAP (Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines) forum that there were only “isolated incidents” of abuses.
He claimed he never told AFP that abuses were widespread during Martial Law. What he said was that abuses were widespread in “any” administration.
“Any” administration includes that of his father. Which means AFP was correct in saying that Marcos, Jr. had just admitted for the first time that abuses were “widespread” during Martial Law.
This is a marked departure from what he told me a year ago that incidents of abuses were “isolated”.
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I told Marcos Jr. that three extra-judicial killings were recorded in Ilocos Norte while he was the Ilocos Norte governor there and as the Governor and head of the Peace and order Council, he would know of those killings. Marcos. Jr. did not contest what I said.
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After I had sat down, Tony Lopez (my former colleague in Asiaweek magazine) stood up and said that the introduction of Bongbong had failed to mention one thing: “Of all Philippine Presidents, Marcos has been the best…The best in politics and governance remains to be M-A-R-C-O-S. ”
The audience of Rotarians enthusiastically applauded.
Present were Bongbong’s uncle, Babe Romualdez, retired Colonel Aniano Desierto who became the Ombudsman during Fidel Ramos’ administration but who was a member of JAGO (Judge Advocate Generals Office) that operated the military commissions during Martial Law. Seated at my table was Estelito Mendoza, the Solicitor General during the Marcos dictatorship.
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Another man stood up and asked Marcos, Jr. what he thought of the human rights record of the Aquino administration. Marcos Jr. replied, “I leave those assessments to the academics who will study the facts and I’m talking only about the facts, not the revisionist facts, but the facts that actually happened.”
He must not have been talking about my book, because he said he had not read it. But I’d be curious to know what he thinks of it once he’s read it.
Especially that part in the Appendix which shows how his mother and father intended to apportion their Swiss bank loot among the three children, leaving the Filipino people out of the equation.
Perhaps I would have to wait for a long time to learn what he thinks of my book. Perhaps forever. That’s OK. Marcos, Jr. was not my intended audience. The Filipino people, particularly the youth, are.
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He also asserted that Filipinos were not interested in the human rights record of his father’s regime. They were only interested in the present and the future and what he – the son of Marcos – could do for them.
Perhaps this is why Marcos, Jr. has been losing ground to Leni Robredo, who has been hammering away at the gross abuses of his father’s misrule.
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Why is it so important to know that torture and atrocities were a centerpiece policy of the Marcos dictatorship?
Because as Tony Lopez said today, Marcos was the best in politics and governance.
And the best had the worst human rights record among all Philippine presidents. The best was the only Philippine president who established a record number of detention camps for political prisoners. And the best is now being held up for emulation by future leaders. So you can expect that someone in the future, or maybe even today, someone who idolizes Marcos will try to copy and even top his human rights abuse record.