Art group alarmed by pro-Marcos ‘likes,’ memes on social media
MANILA, Philippines—Vilified in history books, the dictator seems to be hoping for redemption online.
A group of artists is waging a campaign to counter the “historical revisionism” in the social media which tends to make the iron rule of Ferdinand Marcos look admirable—and even worth repeating—to the younger generation.
In line with last month’s commemoration of Marcos’ declaration of martial law in 1972, members of Dakila (Filipino term for “noble”) came up with posters containing a pro-Marcos statement on the upper part and a critical view of his regime on the lower half.
One poster says: “1966: When Marcos became president, the official exchange rate of the peso to the dollar was P3.90. The Philippines is one of the healthier Asian economies—second only to Japan.”
Printed upside down in a faint text: “1974: Imelda Marcos, believer of the ‘True, Good and Beautiful,’ tried to hide the glaring poverty of the people by covering up the squatters’ area with whitewashed walls. The country was billions of dollars in debt. In 1986, the dollar-peso exchange rate was P20.53.”
Ayeen Karunungan, Dakila campaign director, said the lower half was intentionally difficult to read “because truth can be obscured just like that.”
“It’s easier to believe what is given to us at face value but we have to exert effort in finding the other side of the truth,” she said.
Price of freedom
Another poster reads: “The prize of good economy during the martial law years: 1,000,000 foreign tourists in 1980 from 200,000 in the previous years, P193-billion gross national product in 1988 from P55 billion in 1972; $7-million worth of rice exported.”
The opposite text says: “The price of fighting for freedom during the martial law years: 50,000 people arrested in the first three years, 3,257 murders, 35,000 torture cases, 70,000 incarcerations.”
“It’s alarming when people say that they would rather have martial law than the democracy we have today,” Karunungan said. “How many people died and were tortured and disappeared under the Marcos regime?”
The sentiment that Marcos was “the best president the Philippines ever had” is becoming widespread through YouTube videos, Facebook pages and user comments.
Days of the ‘nutribun’
The so-called loyalists wish “Apo Macoy” were still alive or that his regime would make a comeback, since the economy back then was supposedly great, the Marcoses valued artists and Apo had grand plans for the New Society.
They glorify Marcos while claiming that the Cojuangco-Aquino family—of the late President Cory Aquino and her son, President Benigno Aquino III—just demonized him in the media.
One user cited the free “nutribun” and milk in schools while noting that the Philippines didn’t have to import rice back then.
Emmanuel Amistad, executive director of Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP), noted that the Facebook page “Bongbong Marcos for President” had gained more than 100,000 “likes’’ from people who want the dictator’s only son back in power. Another page, “Pres. Ferdinand E. Marcos,” has earned more than 200,000 likes.
Dakila’s social media drive is part of an ongoing “Never Again” campaign waged by organizations such as TFDP and Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND).
The groups aim is to educate the public about martial law, especially the human rights violations it engendered.
“There are a lot of pro-Marcos and promartial law materials online. The social media is a very powerful tool and it has been used to make the youth believe that life was great (during martial law),” Karunungan said.
“But how can life be great when anyone can be arrested any time of the day? This is how social media can easily revise history. And the Marcoses have been known to do that—historical revisionism,” she said.
“We want to use it to remind the youth of what really happened, so that they will not want the same thing to happen again,” Karunungan said.
The campaigners recently organized an event paying tribute to the martyrs of martial law, like Edgar Jopson, Liliosa Hilao and Ma. Lorena Barros, student leaders who were tortured and killed.
A list of TFDP-documented victims can also be viewed at the online Museum of Courage and Resistance (tfdpmuseum.blogspot.com).
“Hopefully, through our campaign, we may be able to spark discussions on the importance of human rights and freedom, above anything else,” Karunungan said.
“We should not let the Marcoses regain Malacañang and use it to redeem their reputation,” Amistad said. “This nation owes a debt of gratitude to the countless, faceless and nameless Filipinos who defied a dictator and his armed minions. This we shall never forget.”