By ATTY. MEL STA. MARIA
On August 21, we commemorated Senator Ninoy Aquino’s assassination. Imee Marcos was reported to have said “the millennials have moved on, and I think people at my age should also move on as well.” And vice-presidential candidate-loser Bongbong Marcos defended her, saying: “There are so many problems na hinaharap ng taong bayan, na hinaharap ng Pilipinas. Bakit natin pinag-aaksayahan pa ‘to? Tapos na ito eh.”
And then Imee Marcos later reportedly said: “I said on many, many occasions that for those who were inadvertently pained, certainly, we apologize.” She continued : “But what I heard is that there are calls for an apology tantamount to an admission, which we would never do.”
They still do not get it.
The Marcos regime was one of the darkest periods in Philippine history. It was not about the late Senator Ninoy Aquino against the dictator Marcos, but rather about a nation plundered and mangled by that regime. No less than the three great branches of the Philippine government have unequivocally recognized this.
On the executive branch’s part, the late President Corazon Aquino issued Executive Order No. 1 creating the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG). Its main mission was “the recovery of all ill-gotten wealth accumulated by former President Ferdinand E. Marcos, his immediate family, relatives, subordinates and close associates, whether located in the Philippines or abroad, including the takeover or sequestration of all business enterprises and entities owned or controlled by them, during his administration, directly or through nominees, by taking undue advantage of their public office and/or using their powers, authority, influence, connections, or relationship.”
At least P170 billion of ill-gotten wealth (assets, monies, and properties) have been recovered. And the PCGG is still trying to recover millions, if not billions, more.
For the Supreme Court’s part, declared in its 1989 Marcos et al vs. Manglapus case (GR No. 88211 September 15, 1989):
“We cannot also lose sight of the fact that the country is only now beginning to recover from the hardships brought about by the plunder of the economy attributed to the Marcoses and their close associates and relatives, many of whom are still here in the Philippines in a position to destabilize the country, while the government has barely scratched the surface, so to speak, in its efforts to recover the enormous wealth stashed away by the Marcoses in foreign jurisdictions. Then, we cannot ignore the continually increasing burden imposed on the economy by the excessive foreign borrowing during the Marcos regime, which stifles and stagnates development and is one of the root causes of widespread poverty and all its attendant ills. The resulting precarious state of our economy is of common knowledge and is easily within the ambit of judicial notice.”
Finally, Congress by enacting Republic Act 10368 (Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013) acknowledged the horrors of the Marcos administration. It provided:
” … it is hereby declared the policy of the State to recognize the heroism and sacrifices of all Filipinos who were victims of summary execution, torture, enforced or involuntary disappearance, and other gross human rights violations committed during the regime of former President Ferdinand E. Marcos covering the period from September 21, 1972, to February 25, 1986, and restore the victims’ honor and dignity. The State hereby acknowledges its moral and legal obligation to recognize and/or provide reparation to said victims and/or their families for the deaths, injuries, sufferings, deprivations, and damages they suffered under the Marcos regime.”
Truly, while an “apology tantamount to an admission” will be a remarkable development, it does not matter if one is not forthcoming. For all intents and purposes, history has already made its judgment. And that judgment has been affirmed by no less than the executive, legislative, and judicial departments of the government — an unprecedented recognition of the atrocities — not merely “inadvertently ” inflicted — and plunder of the Marcos era.
And the only way for the people to “move on” is to remember the evils of that Marcos rule, continue learning from them and make sure that the plundering and the mangling suffered by the nation under that despicable regime will not be repeated. This becomes especially important today when revisionists are returning and some high government officials exhibit Marcos-like autocratic tendencies.
Contrary to the Bongbong Marcos’ “tapos na to eh” suggestion, the crusade for justice will not be over until the last stolen centavo is recovered and the last victim vindicated.