MANILA - Despite legal proof of atrocities and ill-gotten wealth during his father's strongman rule, former senator Bongbong Marcos has called for a revision of Philippine textbooks, where his father's repressive regime is retold as a grim part of Philippine history.
In a media forum Friday, Marcos, son of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, claimed it was his family that was a "victim" of historical revisionism, asserting that accusations against them have been unproven.
Marcos' family and supporters have been criticized for painting a rosy picture of the strongman rule, even as killings, human rights abuses and plunder during that time have been proven in courts.
"Nilagay nila sa libro, ng textbook ng mga bata na ganito, na ang mga Marcos ganito ang ninakaw, ganito ang ginawa. Ngayon lumalabas sa korte, hindi totoo lahat ng sinabi ninyo dahil hindi niyo naipakita,” he told reporters at a National Press Club forum in Manila, referring to several court decisions junking cases against them.
(They placed in the textbooks for children that this is what happened, the Marcoses stole this, that we did this. Now, it appears from the courts that not everything they said is true because they were not able to prove it.)
“[T]here was no evidence. That was always the outcome. And the reason na tumagal nang ganito ay propaganda pampulitika,” he added.
(There was no evidence. That was always the outcome. And the reason why these lasted this long is for political propaganda.)
Marcos said his family has been campaigning for years to have these textbooks changed but those in power would not act, allegedly influenced by the opposition.
“What has been proven wrong is essentially what they continue to contend in the textbooks of our children, is essentially you are teaching children lies,” he said.
Instead, he wants history professors and political scientists to write these textbooks to encourage young children to participate in current affairs and not hate on certain people.
The Marcoses have been acquitted in several graft and malversation cases and as of 2019, the Sandiganbayan and the Supreme Court have dismissed at least 20 of the 43 civil and forfeiture cases against them.
These include a P1-billion civil case in October last year and a P200-billion civil case in December 2019.
But the Commission on Human Rights said these are not proof the Marcoses are innocent.
“The decision of Sandiganbayan to dismiss the cases was solely based on the technicality that the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) did not use original documents as evidence, contrary to the Best Evidence Rule,” CHR spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia said in a statement.
In contrast, a July 15, 2003 Supreme Court ruling in the case of Republic v. Sandiganbayan said the Marcoses admitted that millions of dollars in Swiss accounts belonged to them, which are beyond their lawful income of only US$304,372.43.
Rules and regulations of the Presidential Commission on Good Government, the SC said, consider as evidence of ill-gotten wealth if the value of accumulated assets, properties and material possessions is out of proportion to the known lawful income of the persons involved.
The Sandiganbayan, in November 2018, also convicted Marcos matriarch Imelda of 7 counts of graft for using her Cabinet position to maintain Swiss accounts.
The same court forfeited in December 2019 nearly P3 billion pesos of Marcos’ ill-gotten wealth.
The Philippine government also secured victories in courts in Hawaii, New York and Switzerland.
“We have court records here and abroad showing your family’s wealth was ill-gotten. We have laws to compensate your family’s victims. Alam ng tao ang totoo. (The people know the truth.) But let’s be wary—some people don’t just lie, they even abuse our justice system to revise history,” human rights lawyer Chel Diokno said on Twitter.
For CHR’s De Guia, “the passage and enforcement of Republic Act 10368 in 2013 is the highest acknowledgement of the State that such transgressions happened under Marcos regime.”
RA 10368 or the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act provided for P10 billion in reparation for victims of human rights violations during the Marcos regime.
The same law required a commission created under it to coordinate with the Department of Education and Commission on Higher Education to ensure teaching of “Martial Law atrocities” and the lives and sacrifices of human rights victims from elementary to college.
Marcos was a senator when the law was passed.
“The recent call to revise Philippine history books to absolve the Marcos family from all the atrocities and corruptions they perpetrated is a direct affront to the thousands of victims of human rights violations under the authoritarian rule. The CHR expresses its strong disapproval of such unconscionable move,” De Guia said in a statement.
Another human rights lawyer and one of the authors of RA 10368 Erin Tañada also blasted Marcos’ call to revise history books as a “desperate attempt by the Marcoses to erase the memory of the horrors of martial law and absolve the sins of their father.”
“Nais ng mga Marcos na ibaon na lang sa limot ang mga pag-abusong nangyari noong panahon ng diktadurya kung saan libo-libong Pilipino ang pinatay at pinahirapan at bilyon-bilyong piso mula sa kaban ng bayan ang nakulimbat,” he said.
(The Marcoses want to bury the memory of the abuses during the dictatorship where thousands of Filipinos were killed and tortured and billions of pesos were amassed from the public coffers.)
Tañada’s grandfather Lorenzo and his father Wigberto, like Diokno’s father Jose, were vocal critics of the Marcos regime. All three were former senators. Lorenzo and Diokno were detained during martial law.
An Amnesty International report said around 100,000 people were victims of martial law, with 3,000 killed, 34,000 tortured and 70,000 arrested.
The Marcoses amassed an estimated $5 to $10 billion or more than P500 billion in ill-gotten wealth, based on a study of the World Bank-United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s (UNODC) Stolen Asset Recovery report.
As of 2018, the PCGG said it has recovered P172 billion.
“We must all side with and fight for the truth. We must not let the lies being propagated by the Marcoses to prevail,” Tañada said.