Of Martial Law and Heroism

Imelda Marcos jewelry

Ferdinand Marcos ruled over the Philippines for a long time, he was the president from 1965 to 1986. He declared the Martial Law because he claimed communism was taking over the Philippines in the early 1970s. Looking back, who benefited most from Martial Law? Is the Filipinos or just the Marcoses?

That’s 21 long years, and we can’t say that it was a smooth and peaceful rule. In fact, it was quite the contrary. Struggles were bound to happen in that length of time. It wasn’t easy and it was difficult for some Filipinos. Lives were taken, sacrifices were made, yet some people still see Marcos as a hero.

How is heroism defined these days? Is it overrated? Is it selective? Why do we declare someone a hero when he caused most of the hardships? He may have had moments of brilliance but is it worth ignoring his acts of tyranny? Does it justify abuse, human rights violation, and murder?

When you have willed people to die, are you still worthy to be called a hero? When you live in excess to the disadvantage of your countrymen is that still worthy of heroism?

Putting the country under 21 years of rule – is not that in excess already? In those 21 years, you could have reared a child to adulthood already. And those who are critical of the government that time, did they deserve to be arrested, illegally detained, tortured which lead to death for some?

Marcos’ eldest child and daughter Imee Marcos was appointed the director of the National Youth Council in the 1970s and on one gathering, a student named Archimedes Trajano questioned how she obtained her position.

A question which apparently annoyed Imee. Trajano was then dragged out of the venue by Imee’s bodyguards and he was never seen alive again after that incident. Just because he asked a question – a valid one actually.

Liliosa Hilao, a student from PLM (Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila) was critical of the government and voiced out her opinion through writing. She was the editor in chief of the school’s publication.

In 1973, she was forcibly taken away from her home and just like Trajano, she never made it back alive. Her body showed signs of torture. A young lady was murdered because of voicing out her opinion.

Imelda Marcos jewelry

What about Marcos’ wife’s penchant for beautiful and expensive things? Her extravagance is infamous and she is not one to be humble about her excesses. She loved jewelry, but not just ordinary, expensive jewelry. She wanted them branded like Cartier and Bulgari. By the end of Martial Law, she had more than 700 pieces of jewelry.

Imelda also liked to socialize. She purchased more than more than 500 pieces of long gowns, 15 mink coats, more than 800 hand bags and who could forget about her shoes? She would be later known for her vast collection of shoes, both branded and from local brands.

How were they able to fund these when Marcos’ income never exceeded $13,500 annually? Stolen wealth. Marcos involved his closest allies and relatives in his schemes to increase his finances.

Marcos used them as fronts to buy shares from large companies and purchase real estate. Local coconut farmers were taxed in the 70s and the funds collected were used for Marcos’ investments.

Marcos and his family lived in excess – they wanted power and wealth and there was no stopping them. Not even blood, not even the deaths of innocent people. Not even from stealing from the country’s coffers. Knowing all of these, would you still look up to him as hero?

Sources:

Antonio Montalvan II, “#NeverForget the killing of Archimedes Trajano,” http://opinion.inquirer.net/96891/neverforget-killing-archimedes-trajano, August 29, 2016.

Vberni Regalado, “The young victims of Martial Law,” http://www.philstar.com/campus/2017/09/21/1741305/young-victims-martial-law, (September 21, 2017).

Ana Roa, “Regime of Marcoses, cronies, kleptocracy,” http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/641277/regime-of-marcoses-cronies-kleptocracy, (September 29, 2014).

Nick Davies, “The $10bn question: what happened to the Marcos millions?,” https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/may/07/10bn-dollar-question-marcos-millions-nick-davies, (May 7, 2016).

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