Academicians say education must correct Marcos, martial law myths and disinformation

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 20) — Some scholars from the University of the Philippines said the spread of disinformation to bury the ugly truth about the dictator former President Ferdinand Marcos and the martial law era must be corrected through reforms in the education system.

In a webinar series to commemorate the declaration of martial law 49 years ago, UP Diliman Prof. Ramon Guillermo said this may be done by having a clear direction in the content of teaching materials, like textbooks.

Guillermo cited how it is being done in Germany where the crimes and wrongdoings of the Nazis are being discussed as early as the elementary level.

In 2013, a law was passed to compensate victims of martial law, in effect recognizing human rights abuses during the Marcos regime. Meanwhile, in 2018, the Sandiganbayan convicted former first lady Imelda Marcos, wife of the dictator, of graft but has yet to serve jail time since her case is under appeal.

"Ang mas importante at mas mabisang programang pang-edukasyon na maisusulong sana ay pagtuturo ng mga kasalanan ng pamilyang Marcos sa konteksto ng mas malawakang proyekto ng pagtuturo ng pagpapahalaga sa karapatang pantao, mga kalayaang demokratiko at pagtanggi sa anumang pasistang diktatura," Guillermo said.

[Translation: What's important and could be a much more effective educational program that could be pushed is to teach the sins of the Marcos family in the context of a much wider project of teaching the importance of human rights, democratic freedom and rejection of any form of fascist dictatorship.]

Disinformation efforts

UP President Danilo Concepcion scored the efforts to spread lies and disinformation about martial law in different social media platforms.

Concepcion said the academe must not condone these acts.

"Mas naging mabilis ang daluyan ng impormasyon sa panahon ng social media. At kasabay nito ay ang paglaganap din ng disimpormasyon. Nagkaroon ng pagkakataon ang ilan na baluktutin ang katotohanan. Hinding-hindi po natin hahayaan ito bilang unibersidad at dambana ng dunong at dangal," Concepcion said.

[Translation: The flow of information is so much faster under this time of social media. And with this, the rampant spread of disinformation. Others have taken this opportunity to bend the truth. As a shrine of knowledge and honor, this university will never allow this to happen.]

Guillermo claimed the orchestrated disinformation and misinformation efforts are funded by the Marcoses through their so-called ill-gotten wealth.

And he also theorizes that former senator Bongbong Marcos may capitalize on this in launching his possible presidential bid in next year's polls.

"Ang kalaban dito ay pera at korupsyon. Pera na ninakaw sa bayan na hindi na ibinalik. Ang kalaban ng makatotohanang kasaysayan ay ang pera na tila hindi maubos-ubos na ibinubuhos para malinis at mabura ang mga kasalanan ng mga Marcos sa mga pahina ng kasaysayan. At sa pamamagitan ng pera ay pinapalitan ang kasaysayan ng fairytale," said the professor.

[Translation: The enemy here is money and corruption. Money that was stolen from the nation and was never returned. The enemy of true history is the never-ending flow of money that is being used to clean and erase the sins of the Marcoses on the pages of history. And with money, they are changing what's written in history with a fairytale.]

Resurfacing of myths

UP Los Baños professor Roderick Javar said most of the claims now circulating online were mostly lifted from commissioned and manipulated biographies of the late dictator.

He cited the books "For Every Tear, A Victory" published in 1964 and "Marcos of the Philippines" published in 1969, both written by American novelist Hartzell Spence, and succeeding biographies that were based on Spence's works.

Javar identified some claims in those biographies that were supposedly manipulated like the extraordinary capabilities of Marcos when he was just a baby -- things Javar said are humanly impossible.

"Bago pa raw siya mag-isang taon ay matatas na siya magsalita at matatas na siyang makipag-usap sa mga matatanda. Natuto rin daw siya ng English alphabet ng wala pang isang taon sa pamamagitan ng kanyang pag-aaral, self-taught daw. Sa edad na ito, si Ferdinand Marcos daw ang tanging bata sa kanilang komunidad na umiinom ng gatas hindi sa tsupon kundi sa baso na. Sa madaling salita, binigyan si Marcos ng kakayahang humanly impossible sa edad na ito," the UPLB professor narrated.

[Translation: It was said that he learned to speak fluently and knew how to converse properly with elders even before he was one year old. It was also said that he taught himself the English alphabet even before he was a year old. During this age, it was said that Ferdinand Marcos was the only child in their community who was already drinking milk not from a baby bottle, but from a glass. In short, Marcos was given humanly impossible capabilities while he was only at that age.]

Javar also hit the exaggerated, if not false narratives about the former dictator as a World War II hero. These include dozens of medals that he received for his military service and the Maharlika guerilla unit that he supposedly organized to resist Japanese forces.

U.S. military documents released in 1986 showed that there's no basis for Marcos' claims.

He also mentioned that in the late dictator's biographies, Marcos' family fought against Japanese invaders. But Javar claimed that this information was manipulated, saying that Marcos' brother Pacifico became an interpreter for Japanese soldiers, while his father Mariano was killed by Filipino guerillas for being a spy for the Japanese government.

The professor said this was contrary to what were stated in Spence's writings -- that his father was killed by Japanese forces for resisting the occupation.

"Sa mga pahina ng kanyang mga opisyal na talambuhay nagsimula ang mga kasinungalingang ito," he said.

[Translation: It was in the pages of his official biography where these lies started.]

Ugly truth

Academicians, who served as panelists during Monday's webinar, said while the Marcos family want to project "the true, the good, and the beautiful" during the dictatorship, studies and research instead uncovered "false, not good, and ugly" facts at the time.

UP's week-long virtual commemoration aims to honor the struggle of the Filipino people under the authoritarian regime and the university's contribution to the uprising against the Marcos dictatorship.

The webinar series on martial law commemoration will tackle different issues like corruption, human rights, and the economic situation during that era.

Livestream of the webinars may be watched via and TVUP's official YouTube account from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. every day until Sept. 24.