Friday, May 20, 2016

A dark era in the Philippines has been forgotten

THE May 9 elections in the Philippines put that country into the international spotlight once again ... but, not in a good way.

Much of the attention was given to the victory of Davao City Mayor Ricardo Duterte, who is the new president of the Philippines. He campaigned as a strongman who promised to kill five criminals a week. He's often described as the Trump of the Philippines for the outlandish statements he makes.
RELATED: Comedian John Oliver on Ricardo Duterte
The other headline grabber was the candidacy of Senator Bongbong Marcos, the son of Ferdinand Marcos, the late dictator. He was running for the country's Vice Presidency. In the Philippines, the president and vice president run separately and often are of the opposing political parties.

Congresswoman Leni Robredo will likely beat Bongbong although it hasn't been made official as of this writing. (Marcos is challenging the results because of alleged anomalies in the vote count.)

However, the fact that a Marcos - even if it is Marcos Jr. -  could make a strong run to political prominence brought attention to the lack of knowledge about the horrors of the dictatorship, which ended 30 years ago. Apparently, the country's school system isn't teaching anything about that dark era.

It was the first time that Filipino/Americans, who hold dual citizenships, were allowed to vote in the presidential election. The weekend of the elections, Filipinos flocked to consulates, community centers or supermarkets to cast their ballot. It would be interesting to know how long those Fil/Am voters had been in the U.S. but preliminary findings showed that Fil/Ams voted similarly as their counterparts in the Philippines.

A social experiment was conducted by CARMMA, the Campaign Against the Return of Marcoses to Malacanang (the Philippines' White House), to demonstrate the black hole in the country's schools which are failing to teach the truth about the despotic rule of the Marcoses. The experiment begins with an interviewer asking Millennials what they knew about the martial law years.

That’s when the young voters start to rationalize its implementation in various ways, remembering all the lessons they learned in school. They talked about there being law and order and one participant compared the dictator to a strict loving parent. And these were college students, supposedly the best educated young people in the country.

And then when the interviewers revealed that they were victims of the Marcos dictatorship and described their experiences which included torture and rape, the young people got teary eyed and embarrassed at their ignorance. They confessed, they were not taught any of the horrors in school.

As advocates of ethnic studies and the teaching of the true history of the United States - the bad, as well as the good - we can sympathize with the Philippines' young people.Those who control history, control the future. 

A petition was launched in by CARMMA that will be given to the Philippines Department of Education asking that this dark era of the Philippines be taught in their schools. That knowledge is critical so that voters can see through the posturing, phony promises and outrageous claims of the politicians who seek to be their leaders.

The wounds from the Marcos years are still too raw. It is too soon to forget what happens when so-called strong men rule the county and power goes to their head. Remember the words of caution from philosopher Jorge Santayana: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." With the resurgence of the Marcos family and the apparent election victory of Ricardo Duterte, it looks as though that's what is happening in the Philippines.