A SOJOURNER’S VIEW: Thanks but no thanks

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DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/11 November) — In an ironic sort of way, I should feel a deep sense of gratitude to the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos now considered by no less than the members of the distinguished Supreme Court justices as one Filipino our people should consider truly a hero.  (Will they next approve a budget to build a monument of this discredited ruler right in front of the Court’s main building?)

Why?  Certainly not because I agree with the lies being peddled in parts of social media – paid for by the Marcoses’ stolen wealth – that his reign remains the golden period of Philippine contemporary history.  Not because I accept the preposterous claim of his family and loyalists that he never violated our people’s rights and caused the deaths of thousands of the country’s youth who offered their lives for their motherland.  And definitely – not because I enjoyed the 22 months that I was his political prisoner subjected to a state of living fit not even for animals about to be slaughtered. (And yet my harrowing experience pales considerably when put side by side by those who suffered far more than I did; especially those whose bodies were never found so that they could enjoy their last “human” right, namely a decent burial in the company of loved ones).

Yes, thank you but no thanks to you – you discredited ruler –  to whom the present youth continue to scream the same cry as their elders: “Marcos! Hitler! Tuta! Diktador!”  You did something to me and to my generation of young people who can proudly claim that with your martial rule, we were able to crystallize our important role in nation-building. Like many young people at various historical junctures of this Republic (the likes of Gregorio del Pilar and Hermano Pule during the Spanish regime, Macario Sakay and his campanions at the beginnings of the American regime as well as the Moro fighters and Lumad baganis throughout the US colonial rule and the young guerrillas who fought the Japanese Imperial forces during WWII), we can lay claim to the fact that we stood bravely to resist oppression and domination.

We are the generation whose lives your authoritarian rule almost totally destroyed. We were those who could never leisurely walk the streets at night and fully enjoy going out with friends to have a drink at a neighborhood friendly bar because your view of “discipline” was to turn the country into a police state.  We were hunted by the State’s ferocious “dogs” who when they caught up with us, mercilessly tore our bodies apart until we no longer could scream to momentarily push the pain away. Ours were the bodies you offered on the altar of power and ambition so that you can become rich beyond the dreams of your conjugal wife and then be acclaimed by the world as making this country” great again!”

Thanks but no thanks: we did rise up to the occasion.  Not all of us, of course as some of those of our generation – sadly many coming from the most elite of universities – looked the other way and claimed a place within your dictatorship to fatten their bank accounts believing that you will last forever in Malacañang. But there were enough of us – in the red areas of the countryside and the white areas of the urban centers – who resisted your rule. At first, we were just a rag-tag army of idealistic youth with arms in a kapit-bisig with peasants, laborers, urban poor and indigenous people. Like the mosquito press, we began to be an annoyance to you; until finally our forces reached a historic moment when we gave birth to a People power to oust you from your throne.  While labeled the EDSA moment, you know very well this struggle was nation-wide and was truly a popular one.

You should really be resting in peace by now, after being shamefully pushed out of your very own people and dying in a distant land without honor. But oh no, you should not be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. But somehow, after all these years you would not leave this country in peace. You continue to tear us apart as a nation all because you want to claim a glory you never deserve. Why impose a curse on us that has lasted for so long?

But here we are again, dealing with your “presence” among us even if you should have been relegated to the dustbin of history. This time your ghost haunts us and we find ourselves – once more – a divided people. What kind of an ancestor are you who would pass on to the next generations not an accumulated wisdom that would make this country freer, gentler, kinder but on the contrary would continue to stoke the fires of anger and hatred and keep us fragmented and unable to take giant steps towards genuine development?

And sadly, along with those who support your “crooked legacy” you continue to corrupt even those of us who in their youth resisted your regime. Sad to say, the justices who were the youth of the 1960s – have now protected that legacy and would want the entire nation to accept the validity of their verdict. And many of the millennials today – except the brave ones who would pursue the truth of history and have joined recent moments of rage against the Supreme court ruling – are drawn to this revisionist version of our contemporary history. 

But, thanks and no thanks, we are reminded of the ideals of our youth. And even if this recent event is a setback, we are not about to give up.  The struggle continues for we know that “el pueblo unido, hamas sera vencido” ( a people united can never be defeated). Once more we are only a rag-tag army resisting this new expression of a creeping authoritarianism of government. But there are weapons at our disposal. As with struggles in the past,  there are “weapons of the weak” that we can mobilize.  For those who believe in a God of justice and righteousness, the time has come to once more storm the heavens to keep us strong in our continuing struggles.

And this is the prayer I offer.

Prayer Leader: O God of justice and righteousness, hear our lamentations. How have we reached this period of our history that a discredited ruler – despite long dead and should be resting in peace – still casts his curse over the rest of his people whose lives he destroyed and whose rights he blatantly violated? How have our own people become so blind as not to see the truth of the impact of this discredited ruler’s use of power that created wars and rebellions, made militarization and human rights violations common occurrences, the upsurge of corruption, gave rise of a huge foreign debt, led to the destruction of the environment during his reign on the dictatorship’s throne? How have we reached this serious level of fragmentation among us as those who earlier shared a vision of a free, just and democratic society are surrendering the ideals of their youth only because they view the current dispensation as fulfilling their desires linked to narrow interests? And why dear God that despite years of struggles and resistance – and the gains we have achieved – we fall again into the abyss of discontent that seem to force us to start all over again? Hear our lamentation o God.

All: Hear the lamentations of our heart, dear God!

Prayer Leader: Dear God of justice and love. We remain a people of hope even as we seem to despair at times and even as we rage against what pulls us down. We fully believe that we cannot give up on our lifetime’s commitment to build a nation where through its hills and plains we can run free, secure our children’s future, protect our people’s lives and rights, celebrate our cultures and faith traditions, and defend our environment from further destruction. Help us to sustain our struggles despite temporary setbacks. Allow the memories of our ancestors who fought for justice and freedom influence the mindsets of our citizens especially the future of our motherland. Assist us in purging our society with the forces that create obstacles towards our full unity and solidarity with one another. That in the short- and long-term, we may never experience again the evil of an authoritarian regime that will once more inflict a martial rule when we experience desperate days and dark nights. That one day we are able to truly honor all true heroes and not the fake ones discarded by the dustbin of history. That peace will finally reign in our land. We pray for this petition, dear God.

All: Hear our prayer, O God!

[Redemptorist Brother Karl Gaspar is Academic Dean of the Redemptorists’ St. Alphonsus Theological and Mission Institute (SATMI) in Davao City and a professor of Anthropology at the Ateneo de Davao University. Gaspar is author of several books, including “Desperately Seeking God’s Saving Action: Yolanda Survivors’ Hope Beyond Heartbreaking Lamentations” and two books on Davao history launched in December 2015. He writes two columns for MindaNews, one in English (A Sojourner’s Views) and the other in Binisaya (Panaw-Lantaw).]

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