Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin (left) gives President Aquino a tour of the People Power Experiential Museum in Camp Aguinaldo on Feb. 25.  (Photo by Joseph Vidal)

MANILA — Forced to flee the country 30 years ago by a popular uprising, the Marcoses are poised to regain power unless the people — especially the youth — shun attempts by the late dictator’s family and supporters to revise history, President Aquino warned last Thursday.

The President raised the warning in a speech at last Thursday’s commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the EDSA people power revolution that ousted Ferdinand Marcos and catapulted Corazon Aquino to the presidency.

Marcos’ only son and namesake is running for vice president.

The dictator’s widow Imelda is an Ilocos Norte congresswoman, while daughter Imee is provincial governor.

Aquino said supporters of the Marcoses were trying to rewrite history by glossing over the abuses and repression during martial law.

“Is this not happening now? Those who want to revise our history have reached some success, in that they have been able to fool a number of the youth,” the President said.

“You can even see the style of the loyalists in traditional and social media: they continue to dictate a narrative, in order to manipulate the opinions of the people,” he added.

“I believe that it is not our fate to repeat the grim parts of our past; our fate is the sum of the decisions we make in the present,” Aquino pointed out.

“I believe in the greatness of our people. I believe that, even if we are known for our patience, it has its limits — and if those limits are reached, then no one will be able to stop the wave of solidarity that will follow.”

Recent developments, he said, remind him of a famous line in a movie: “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”

He said it was appalling that some groups were trying to make it appear that the martial law era was a “golden age” for the country.

“To all those who maintain that Mr. Marcos should not be blamed for the things that took place under his regime, I can only say: Is it not true that, if you assume all power in yourself, you should also assume all responsibility?” he said.

Without referring to the younger Marcos by name, Aquino said he couldn’t accept the senator’s pronouncement that he knew nothing to be sorry about during his father’s rule.

The President argued that if the senator was clueless about what his family had done, “how can we be confident that he will not repeat the same?”

“All I can say is, thank you, because you have at least been honest in showing us that you are ready to emulate your father,” Aquino said.

“Do not mistake me: this is not about the Aquinos versus the Marcoses; it is clear to me that this is about right versus wrong,” he added.


In some of his trips abroad, Aquino admitted having difficulty answering queries on whether the Marcoses were still in power.

“Every time I leave the country, I tend to get asked: ‘Is it true that the Marcoses are still in power?’ I have to admit, it is very difficult to explain. To this day, it is still painful to think that a Filipino had the gall to inflict such abuse on his countrymen, like what Mr. Marcos did,” the President said.

Citing a report, Aquino said the 1986 Commission on Elections tabulators were fearful and worried that the Marcoses would return to power because they themselves had seen the blatant cheating to favor the dictator during that time.

He said the abuses could have continued had the people not mustered the courage to stand up.

“We were able to unite as one people, and by the grace of God, we toppled the dictatorship without resorting to a bloody civil revolution,” the President said.

He added that if the surveys were to be believed, the son of the dictator was gaining success in winning supporters and sympathizers.

This could also mean the people have forgotten “what we once said — enough is enough.”

The President also said it was not surprising that those who benefited during the dictatorship would continue to say that Filipinos did not get anywhere since EDSA.

“They want us to believe that we had a better life under Mr. Marcos — since, anyway, that was the promise forcibly sold by the dictator. But where did his 21 years of leadership take us? Did our country not turn into the ‘Sick Man of Asia?’ Indeed, they are trying to smother all that we have achieved on the straight and righteous path,” Aquino said.

The President said he could only shake his head in disappointment whenever he was told Marcos’ time was the golden age of the Philippines.

“Perhaps they were golden days for him, who — after completing two terms as president, which is equivalent to eight years — created a way to cling to power,” he maintained.

There had also been stories of businessmen not wanting their ventures to grow for fear of getting noticed by the dictator and forced to share earnings with him and his cronies, Aquino said.

‘Golden age’ of turmoil

And if it’s any golden age at all, the martial law era was a golden age of rising national debt, brain drain, Communist insurgency and violence in Mindanao, he added.

When Marcos began his time in office in 1965, Aquino said the national government owed P2.4 billion and by the end of 1985, national debt had grown to P192.2 billion.

“And because this money did not go where it was supposed to, the payment of this debt burdens us to this day,” he said.

The President said many Filipinos also left for the Middle East during martial law.

The martial law period, he said, also saw the growth of the New People’s Army from only 60 armed members to 25,000 because of the people’s disillusionment with the government.

“It was also the golden age for those who abused our Moro brothers and sisters. Land grabbing became a trend in Mindanao, and the Marcos regime, in stead of siding with those who were abused, seemed to approve of the actions of the abusers,” Aquino said.

While the regime could have worked for justice or passed a law to fix the situation, “the solution they pushed for involved the Philippine Constabulary and the Armed Forces,” the President said.

Aquino reminded the people of the achievements of his administration in forging peace with Muslim rebels through the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

He said the only thing missing is a Bangsamoro Basic Law.

“I feel a deep sense of disappointment, because the only law that can bring forth justice and peace is being blocked,” he said, pointing out that Marcos heads the Senate committee where the BBL got stalled.

He cited Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile’s long interpellation of the measure in the last session day.

“And is it not true that these two surnames were the ones who pushed for a military solution against the Moros during the dictatorship?” Aquino said.

“To our bosses: Many of us who suffered during martial law can understand the plight of our Moro brothers and sisters. My family likewise confronted the extreme abuses of those in power,” the President said.

Son’s anguish

On a personal note, the President said his father was put in solitary confinement for seven years and seven months at Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija for being a threat to the dictatorship.

“They took his reading glasses so that everything he saw would be blurry. They took his watch so that he could not measure the passage of time. They took his ring so that he could not have anything to remember his wife and his family by. They painted his cell white, so that he would forget that there was a world outside those walls,” Aquino said.

While his father was a civilian, he was tried in a military tribunal and it was Marcos who appointed the members of the prosecution and the defense, as well as the judge.

“The one lawyer who disagreed with what was happening was likewise removed. It was such incidents that popularized the term: ‘Lutong Macoy:’ situations cooked up precisely to suit the dictator’s tastes,” Aquino said.

The President said the dictator did not stop with his father, as the licenses of their drivers were revoked so that they could not work.

“Even our helpers who were not even employed by us anymore — like my nanny and her husband, who was our driver — were apprehended so that they could be forced to testify against my father. The last time my nanny was arrested, she was six months pregnant,” Aquino said.

The President said their gardener was also taken by the authorities and went home with only a few of his teeth remaining and his faced badly bruised.

“In almost every part of our nation, there are stories of those who were taken without warning, tortured and killed, or those who disappeared, whose bodies have not been found to this day,” Aquino said.

“Let me emphasize: All this happened. Is there anyone here who can accept the possibility that we will return to a time in which these things can happen to you, or to your loved ones? A government that was given power by the people, used this very same power to abuse the people,” the President said.