A network of research and advocacy organizations released a statement on September 21 which compared the legacies of former Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos and current president Rodrigo Duterte. The Asia Pacific Research Network (APRN) described both presidents as “tyrants” and accused Duterte of “rehabilitating the Marcoses back into power.”
September 21 is the anniversary of the declaration of martial law by Marcos in 1972, through Proclamation No. 1081. Marcos announced the imposition of martial two days later, on September 23, and claimed it was a necessary response to “the communist threat.” The proclamation was lifted in 1981 but Marcos retained virtually all of his dictatorial powers until his ouster in 1986.
Marcos’ 21-year rule was marked by widespread and violent rights abuses including an estimated 70,000 incarcerations, 35,000 documented tortures, 3257 known extra-judicial killings by state forces and 77 disappearances. Hundreds of people were abducted, and their bodies never found.
Following his ouster through widespread popular protests known as the People Power Revolution (also the EDSA Revolution) and fearful that Marcos’ presence would provoke the protests to develop into a revolutionary overthrow of capitalism, the US administration of Ronald Reagan flew him and 80 of his extended family and close associates to the US. When Marcos fled, he took with him (presumably on the same US Air Force planes which carried him and his family) a sizeable fortune that included 22 crates containing over $700 million cash, 300 crates of jewelry, $4 million worth of precious gems, $200,000 in gold bullion and deposit slips to foreign banks worth $124 million (all figures USD).
In 1991, President Corazon Aquino allowed the remaining members of the Marcos family to return to the Philippines to face charges relating to their financial plunder of the country. According to the APRN statement, the Marcoses never apologized and were not made accountable for their crimes: “Instead, they have callously asked the public to ‘move on’ from martial law and went as far as petitioning that facts about the dictatorship be removed from history books.”
The network says that the rehabilitation of the Marcos family, which includes the re-entry into political life by several members – has been facilitated by the current president. “Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who has been a notorious human rights violator himself, has repeatedly expressed support for the Marcos family, lending them further political capital.”
In 2016, Duterte had the dictator’s body re-buried in the country’s national “Heroes’ Cemetery” and a year later enacted a law creating a holiday to memorialize Marcos.
Acting APRN general-secretary Mary Medrano stated that Duterte has a “direct hand … in the rose-tinted depiction of the Marcoses. Despite massive literature and verifiable sources on the Marcos atrocities, Duterte has helped the dictator’s family to peddle a different version of history.”
This depiction includes published materials which deny the rights abuses under Marcos and describe his regime as “gold days” of the Philippines. The APRN seeks to dismantle this distorted view.
“The Philippines under Marcos is in fact far from golden. We have to remember that even truth-seeking and journalism [became] dangerous jobs under the late ousted dictator. It was Marcos who authorized the military takeover of major media outlets and the mass arrest of journalists, editors and media workers.
“On top of the horrifying rights abuses and attack on civil liberties are the immense losses for the Philippine economy under Marcos. According to APRN member Ibon Foundation, the Philippines was the 4th worst performing economy in Asia in the period of 1965-1986 … those that took the brunt of this economic crisis are the majority of the country’s population wherein by 1985 two-thirds to three-fourths of some 54 million Filipinos were poor. Worse, at least 27 million people or almost half (49%) of the population were living in extreme poverty.”
The network says it released its September 21 statement to remember the declaration of martial law and also to support the struggle against a new dictatorship, that of Duterte.
“The ruling Duterte regime swept the country with thousands of killings under the drug war campaign together with brutal crackdowns against critics, silencing of truth-seekers, gross negligence in the pandemic response and an administration marred with corruption allegations.
Akin to Marcos, Duterte has kept cronyism and patronage politics alive under his administration. The president showed further support for the Philippine health minister responsible for mishandling $3.34 billion worth of funds intended for COVID-19 response.
“Cut from the same cloth as that of the late dictator, Duterte has made a name for himself as a tyrant responsible for the deaths and suffering of millions of people … disinformation by the Marcoses or any regime only serves their political agenda and violates State obligations to transparency and accountability.”
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