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September 27, 2012

The Inquirer in its editorial asks  ponderously “ How should we teach young Filipinos about Martial Law?”   It answers itself with its  own title, well, Let Truth Be The Guide.  Yes, indeed, let truth be our guide.  But for all its paeans to truth,  down the stretch, you sense the drift: there is the Truth which is ours  and there are the ‘historical distortions’ which are being peddled as truth by the revisionists and the loyalists.   Our truth vs their lies.

When is truth the Truth?  Is it only when it coincides in perfect fit with your version of it and never when it presents another side that seems to contradict it?

To be sure, the anti-Marcos forces of which the Inquirer counts itself as a proud member, had, since 1986, seized control, being victors of the war, over what constitutes ‘true’ history, after the Martial Law dictator was ousted from power.  As the adage go, history is written by the victors,  indeed, their version of it  had been the dominant narrative since anyone could remember:  Martial Law was indisputably bad! and Marcos was unquestionably evil!  And everything else that go with it, including the proverbial sink.

Yet today you smell panic:

…26 years after the fall of the dictatorship and 40 years after the declaration of martial law, not only is the notorious Marcos family ensconced in power but an alternative history of the Marcos years also holds sway over a significant portion of the population (mostly in the north, where Ferdinand Marcos is seen as a hero or at least a misunderstood statesman).

Let us see: the all-compelling force of Truth, plus  a 26-year head start, with the overwhelming advantage that go with being the victors, all in your favor, what else do you need?

Afraid of the supposed lies advanced by unthinking idiots— in the time of information technology?

If at all, the true challenge is not from any loyalist horde from the Ilocos or a platoon of paid PR pros.  The real challenge seem more to emanate from the young.   The young who by the spirit  of their youth  are quick on the draw to question any foisted dogma or  would take unkindly at being dictated upon— this is good, this is bad, this is the truth not that,  believe this, do not believe that.  The youth after all represents the rebel, the dissenter, the mutineer who scorns established forms and authority, who hates being spoon-fed.  You tell them this, they do the opposite.  You tell another and it goes out the other ear.   They sense gaps and unanswered questions, the more they turn unbelieving.  Out of curiosity, sometimes out of spite, they fall for the novelty of the unpopular.

(Did the anti-Marcos elements forget how it was when young?)

And there lies the problem.  There are gaps and they are wide.  There are unanswered questions and they remain without answers?    For example, while their elders insist that Marcos was a brutal dictator who is responsible for human rights violations and must compensate the victims, the young would naturally have a little difficulty reconciling that and the venom reserved for Marcos with the silence for the same sins that happened after him.  For another, he is called a plunderer yet after all the hunting and sleuthing, all they come to know is that Marcos has wealth indeed— of unexplained origin.  The young naturally want  to hear a narrative— that if  indeed Marcos plundered the treasury to amass his billions— of how in hell did he do it,  out of the same curiosity they seek the science of  things.

The young want more details that make the story complete.  Absent that, they regard you in doubt and would seek to fill in the gaps themselves.

History is a work in progress.  The preservationists seemingly prefer the old narrative if they could help it.  Yet there are always new details and new facts hid before that reveal themselves along the way in time.  As well as new perspective that offer a different view point.  They come together to fill the gaps and make more sense of the entire story.  Why those who loudly proclaim themselves champions of truth would be averse to this dynamism betrays true intent.  They have even invented a word: revisionism.  But the root word of it is ‘revise’.   You revise because you see parts of the narrative that were left out before for one reason or another and they fit.    You revise because there are gaps in the story that now you can fill up with new information.  You revise to integrate a new detail for a clearer understanding.   You revise to distort, the more the old picture appear jumbled and senseless,  like in a jigsaw puzzle, when a wrong piece is forced to fit on the part where it does not belong.

President Aquino’s recent directive to the National Historical Commission of the Philippines to form a committee to compile the experiences and stories of those who suffered under martial law is a laudable move, if one that also begs the question: Why only now?

Why only now, indeed?  Still, let everyone with a story to tell, condemning and approving, come forward and tell his story.  Open old documents.  Declassify secrets.  Let it all in and let the succeeding generation of historians distill from the melange of data and information and make sense of it all.  You do not cherry pick those you like because they fit your version.  That is not truth-seeking.  That is by itself another form of distortion.

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