Against Rewriting History: Inquirer on the Marcoses’ Revisionism

CHEERS TO the Philippine Daily Inquirer for its series on how social media is being weaponized by the Marcos family to advance their political interests and revise Philippine history.

Written by Mariejo Ramos, the three-part report of the Inquirer looked at the “troll armies” and websites supporting the Marcoses’ return to power, and the actions taken by some sectors to counter the false narratives of these groups.

In Part 1, Ramos said she monitored “some 100 active Facebook pages and groups—with a combined total of more than six million followers” that used multi-media content to dismiss as false the verified atrocities committed by the Marcos regime. These individuals also supported and spread false information about the Marcoses’ ill-gotten wealth and the education of the Marcos children, particularly that of Imelda Josefa “Imee” and Ferdinand “Bongbong” Jr.

A cyber security expert who requested anonymity told the Inquirer that “If the people who run troll armies have the money to fund low-level foot soldiers at P500 (around $10) a day to run copy-paste operations, they definitely have the funds to create new websites left and right. After all, a new internet domain name only costs about P500.”

Ramos added that disinformation can also be spread through state-run sites. One instance involved a former campaign staff of Bongbong Marcos, who now works for the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO), posting details of the late Ferdinand Marcos’ government career on the Official Gazette without mentioning his declaration of Martial Law.

Part 2 referred to “well-funded efforts” of the Marcos family to engage the regime’s defense minister, former Senator Juan Ponce Enrile to deny that there were human rights violations during the Martial Law years. In a conversation uploaded on the Facebook page of Bongbong Marcos, Enrile told Bongbong that no one was jailed or arrested for their political or religious beliefs. This provoked netizens to express their anger at the blatant ploy to whitewash the abuses during the period. Martial Law survivors pointed out that since Enrile had supported the law providing for their indemnification, Enrile actually admitted that human rights violations did happen during the Marcos dictatorship.

Francis Gealogo, a history professor at the Ateneo de Manila University, told Ramos that historical revisionism to suit specific interests is not new. Gealogo said it involves “not just tinkering with facts but (also with) the interpretation of facts.” In Marcos’ case, his supporters focus on his achievements without mentioning the repressive circumstances with which the so-called milestones of his presidency were accomplished. The late dictator himself was “historically conscious,” employing academics in 1979 for the history book “Tadhana” to justify the declaration of Martial Law.

Part 3 traced how thousands of millennials—the younger generation assumed by Imee Marcos to have “moved on” from the past— took to the streets to denounce the burial of Ferdinand Marcos on November 18, 2016 in the Libingan ng mga Bayani. Gealogo said “despite the youth’s vulnerability to misinformation, many millennials should be credited for leading the protest movement at the height of the Marcos burial controversy.”

This part raised the different efforts that should be made to counter revisionism.

Educator Antonio Calipjo Go, who has been scrutinizing school textbooks for years, told the Inquirer that the youth have limited knowledge about the dark years of Martial Law because of curriculum changes and textbooks in the schools that encourage “selective amnesia.”

Rosalie Masilang of the Department of Education admitted there are limits to what can be taught, as the curriculum has to include other significant topics in Philippine history.

Gealogo said more effort must be done to contend with open-source and easily accessible information online, including teaching the general population to be more critical and to memorialize the past through public spaces and institutions. He noted that not many Filipinos are aware of the existence of the Bantayog ng mga Bayani in Quezon City, or the efforts to digitize portions of the Bantayog’s library on the Marcos dictatorship.

The Inquirer’s series reinforces the attempts to counter the distortion of long-established facts, whether through social media or in face-to-face interaction. This fulfills media’s role in providing society a shared intelligence, a common vision, and shared values on which it depends for its own existence, democracy, human rights and freedom for all.

**The Inquirer series was produced with a grant from the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA), of which CMFR is a founding member.