I thank Alvin Dizon for straying into this blog and for posting a comment to my reaction to the recent Pulse Asia survey where respondents considered Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her administration as the most corrupt. The result of that survey got the nod of Alvin and other critics of the present dispensation.
Alvin is younger than me so I reckon he was not unlucky enough to live through the “dark days” of Martial Law and the entire reign of Ferdinand Marcos from 1965 until he was ousted by People Power I in 1986. But while I was still a child when Martial Law was declared on Sept. 21, 1972, my teenage years ran smack into the waning years of that regime. That explains the difference in Alvin’s perception and mine.
Alvin claimed that corruption seeps through every level of the Arroyo administration and that this government is even a worse violator of human rights than Marcos. He then went on to compare the number of alleged victims of extra-judicial killings under the Arroyo government with that under the Marcos regime. I say that comparison, though, is rather simplistic.
Frankly, no government in the history of this country can compare with the rapacious bent and human rights abuse than that of Ferdinand Marcos. And I am saying that without batting an eyelash. The tragedy is when present generations gloss over the excesses of the Marcos years because of their hatred of President Arroyo. That skewered view of history will weaken efforts to protect democracy from future tyrants (military junta?) that may succeed in ousting Arroyo or other democratically elected governments.
The common belief is that corruption under Marcos was centralized, but the truth is the plunder of government coffers in that period seeped to the lower levels, only that the biggest loot was reserved for the dictator. The white paper “Some are Smarter Than Orders” chronicled how Marcos cronies amassed wealth for themselves. The Newsbreak website pegged Marcos’ loot at $10 billion (surely, the Guinness Book of World Records did not list Ferdinand as the world’s biggest thief for nothing). And that’s just Marcos.
Marcos was able to do that because he ruled with an iron hand. He not only closed Congress and media outlets in 1972, he jailed thousands upon thousands, including big names in the political opposition, media people and activists. Throughout the Martial Law years, arrests were made without respect for judicial processes and people’s rights. Torture of prisoners was institutionalized. The word “salvaging” was coined for the number of extra-judicial killings perpetrated by the regime.
That’s why I say comparing numbers is simplistic. Human rights violations under Marcos was not just about extra-judicial killings but the whole package—arrests, torture, destruction of the criminal justice system. Amnesty International reported many of the atrocities: pregnant women made to sit on a block of ice, water cure, etc. forms of torture. We who lived through the nightmare can never forget.
Alvin and other critics of the current administration can thank their lucky stars Arroyo is not Marcos, because if she were, they could not have marched on the streets and mocked the government without suffering a harsh response. That’s why I bristle at the claim that Marcos was less corrupt and more benign than succeeding administrations that took over Malacañang. That is misleading and muddles the struggle against tyranny.
—Candido O. Wenceslao, December 15, 2007