It was Edmund Burke, a renowned Irish philosopher and statesman, of the sixteenth century, who once pronounced; "Those who don't know history are destined to repeat it". As a quote it is probably one of the most bastardized quotes ever. Many have taken it and re-applied it to their own personal agendas. Still 300 odd years on, it rings as true today as it ever did back then.
What prompts this focus on history and its importance to us today? In the past week I have seen one television interview (with Imee Marcos) and read three separate commentaries on social media that are attempting, in my humble opinion, to rewrite history. We are being told that the years from 1965 to 1986 under the Presidency of Ferdinand Marcos were great years for the Philippines. Further, that in those 21 years, great achievements were made in this country in education, social change and in technology and infrastructure. We are now being told that the excesses of the Marcos regime and his family were nowhere near as bad as they have been portrayed.
The fact that Imelda Marcos, a co-participant and some would say the driving force behind the throne of Ferdinand Marcos, can still sit in the 'People's House' the Congress of the Philippines and represent the Second District of Illocos Norte...coincidentally not her home district, but that of her late husband, and a seat previously held by her son Bong-Bong Marcos, is in my mind scandalous. Sadly that is the nature of politics in The Philippines. That she is the second richest congressperson behind, of course, Manny Pacquiao should be an even greater reason for horror and disgust. Did that wealth not come off the backs, the blood, the sweat and the tears of millions of poor Filipinos? Clearly Filipinos are the most forgiving of people...a trait that will always make them vulnerable to scalawags and rascals.
I would ask people to remember that MANY of these supposed great infrastructure projects of the Marcos era were not promulgated with the needs of the Filipino people in mind. They were created for one reason and one reason alone...to enrich the already wealthy supporters and allies of the regime. There is a reason, for example, why so many cement factories made billions during the Marcos era. They were owned by supporters and allies of Mr Marcos and they received Government contracts in much the same way as children receive lolly's at a lolly scramble.
I can accept that if it is the will of the people to continue to elect known thieves, liars and celebrities as their politicians, then so be it (see my previous blog). That is the nature of democracy. What I cannot do, however, is sit idly by whilst the Marcos Clan, their cronies and their political allies attempt to rewrite history.
Now, many economists would indeed argue that the best political mechanism to lift a developing nation out of poverty, is a benevolent dictatorship. The economists argue that a benevolent dictatorship allows decisions on resource allocations to be made quickly and efficiently. This is true...BUT HERE'S THE CRUNCH! No dictatorship, benevolent or otherwise has ever stayed benevolent for long. In 1887 Lord Acton, in a letter to Bishop Creighton stated: "power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men."
Most, if not all dictators started off with good intentions. After all, Mussolini made the trains run on time...even Hitler created many great things for Germany. He got employment back to the people, with his great industrial war machine. But all people who crave power and the wealth that goes with great power will inevitably fall to the human nature of greed. There is little doubt in my mind that one Ferdinand Marcos, his family and his cronies succumbed to that belief that only they could be right...only they knew what was right for the people.
My point of this blog is simple...do not allow a recitation of the achievements of Ferdinand Marcos, his lovely wife and his cronies to cloud the memory of what those 14 years of martial law and ruthless dictatorship did to this nation.
I don't for a second suggest that The Philippine democracy is anywhere near perfect. It is still beset by self-serving cronyism that puts wealth and power far above service. We only have to look at the current PDAF scam debacle to realize that as a democracy we still have a very long way to go. What I do suggest is that what we have today is far, far, superior to any dictatorship. At least we can hold those who have cheated us, accountable. For that we need a strong Leader (we have one), a strong Justice Secretary (we have one), a strong Ombudsman (we have one) and a strong leader of our Court System (we have one). The fact that three of those four leaders are woman, just adds to my certainty that in this issue justice will eventually be served on these greedy, corrupt people.
We must not forget, or allow others to sanitize, the past. It was what it was.
Learn from it and vow to never allow it to be repeated!