Their side of the story

By: Artchil B. Fernandez

THE University of the Philippine (UP) Diliman starting the second semester this school year will offer a subject on martial law. The general education subject Philippine Studies (PS) 21 – Wika, Kultura at Panitikan sa Ilalim ng Batas Militar (language, literature, and culture under the Martial Law) under the College of Arts and Letters (CAL) will be handled by the Departamento ng Filipino at Panitikan ng Pilipinas.

Dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. placed the country under martial law on September 21, 1972 to perpetuate himself in power. The 1935 Constitution forbade him to run for a third term. Using the fake ambush staged by his Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile on himself as an excuse, Marcos declared martial law on the pretext of saving the republic from the conspiracy of the left and right to take over the government.

Reacting to the move of UP Diliman to teach the young generation about the evils of martial law, the dictator’s daughter Imee Marcos wanted their side of the story on martial law to be included in the subject. “It’s good that it will be studied. At least, hopefully, we would be given a chance to say our knowledge of what happened. It’s important that there are different viewpoints and that everyone is heard. The problem with academic freedom is that it’s the freedom of only one side, and not the other side.”

On the surface, Imee Marcos’ appeal for “objectivity” in the teaching of martial law has sense. There are always two sides to the story. However, this plea for objectivity or hearing their side of the story does not apply in the case of martial law and what the Marcoses did to the Filipino people.

Hearing both sides of the story is only done when the case is still under investigation and the facts have not been established. Both parties present their side of the story with supporting pieces of evidence to a competent authority, usually a court. After an exhaustive examination of evidence and meticulous evaluation of the stories of both sides, the court comes up with a decision when the facts of the case have been established.

The facts about martial are already well established. The investigation phase on the evils of that dark chapter of Philippine history is long over. The numerous decisions of different courts which heard the cases against the Marcoses have proven they are guilty beyond reasonable doubt of committing terrible crimes against the Filipino people.

Imee Marcos was found by the District Court of Honolulu, Hawaii in 1991 as civilly liable for the “wrongful death of deceased Archimedes Trajano committed by military intelligence officials of the Philippines allegedly under the command, direction, authority, supervision, tolerance, sufferance and/or influence of defendant (Imee Marcos) pursuant to the provisions of Rule 39 of the then Revised Rules of Court.” Trajano, a Mapua student questioned Imee Marcos’ credentials to head the Kabataang Barangay in 1977.  He was picked by her bodyguards and his dead tortured body surfaced a few days later. Imee Marcos was ordered by the court to pay Trajano’s family $4.16 million in damages for wrongful death. During the trial of the murder case, Imee Marcos certainly presented her side of the story.

Imelda Marcos, the other half of the conjugal dictatorship and Imee’s mother was found by the Fifth Division of Sandiganbayan guilty of seven counts of graft. She was sentenced to seventy years in prison (six years and one month, up to 11 years for each count.) She was found guilty of violating R. A. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, when she transferred around $200 million to seven Swiss foundations during her term as a member of the defunct Batasang Pambansa, as Metro Manila Governor, and as then Minister of Human Settlements. The case filed in 1991 took almost thirty years to conclude. In the long trial of the graft case, Imelda Marcos was definitely given enough time to present her side of the story to the court.

The Swiss Federal Supreme Court in 1997 declared the $684 million Marcos money in Swiss accounts ill-gotten and ordered the return of the amount to the Philippines. The Philippine Supreme Court in 2003 also ruled that the money is ill-gotten. The Marcoses fought for the money and lost. They presented their side of the story on the disputed money. Courts ruled they stole the money from Filipino people.

In 1995, a Hawaii district court found the Marcoses guilty of human rights violations – torture, summary execution, disappearance, illegal arrest. The court ordered the Marcos estate to pay $ 2 billion in compensation to 9,539 victims. During the litigation, the Marcoses presented their side of the story. The evidence against them, however, were overwhelming. Human rights violations happened during martial law.

The facts on martial law have been established by courts here and abroad. Fact is fact. The other opposite of fact is fiction. Truth is truth. The opposite of truth is lie, falsehood. There are no two sides to fact and truth.

What Imee Marcos demands when she said that their side of the story be heard is the acceptance of their fiction, their lies. She wants people to swallow their falsehood.

It is wrong for Imee Marcos to claim that their side of the story was not heard. The courts heard them and found them to be lies. In the 20 years that her family ruled the country, the entire government machinery was used to promote their side of the story. Since the advent of social media, Imee and her family had been aggressively pushing their side (lies and falshoods) through paid trolls. Chic memes and slick videos advancing the fiction of the Marcoses proliferate in the social media. The gall of her to play the victim!

Academic institutions like UP teach only facts. In scholarly and academic work, facts are established through painstaking and rigorous evaluation of claims and materials. PS 21 cannot entertain the side of the Marcoses for the subject is a fact-based and evidence-based course. The Marcos fiction has no place in a legitimate academic subject.