ON THE 34TH ANNIVERSARY
OF MARTIAL LAW
Even as the Marcoses prepare final resting place for FM:
Allies Still within Corridors of Power
Even as his relatives
prepare to lay the remains of the deposed dictator Ferdinand Marcos in
their new-found final resting place for him in his hometown of Batac,
Ilocos Norte, those who lorded it over during his 20-year rule are still
within the corridors of power. Their former patron may be dead but their
political careers are still very much alive.
BY ALEXANDER MARTIN
As his relatives prepare to lay the remains of the deposed dictator
Ferdinand Marcos in their new-found final resting place for him in his
hometown of Batac, Ilocos Norte, those who lorded it over during his
20-year rule are still within the corridors of power. Their former patron
may be dead but their political careers are still very much alive.
Ever since they were allowed to return to the Philippines from exile
during the Ramos administration, the Marcoses had been lobbying for the
remains of the deposed dictator to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani
(Heroes’ Cemetery) – Marcos as they said being a former president who
claimed to have a most-decorated war hero. The preserved body has been on
display in a glass coffin in a mausoleum in Batac, 471 kms north of
Manila, for several years.
They met stiff opposition particularly from victims of human rights
violations during the martial law period and their relatives. The
indignation has prevented all Philippine presidents since the 1990s from
allowing Marcos’ remains to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
But now, his family
appears to be satisfied with the final resting place they have found for
him in his hometown.
SHOE COLLECTOR: Former First Lady
Imelda Marcos displays a shoe of hers – part of over 3,000 pairs –
during a media interview.
“We identified the
place because it’s not part of controversy,” former First Lady Imelda
Marcos was quoted as saying in a recent interview with the Associated
Press. “He deserves it. We don’t want to cause any more controversies.”
But if Marcos’
remains are soon to be laid to rest, his relatives and allies are far from
going to their final resting place, politically. They still exercise
considerable influence over the political scene.
noticeable in their present political influence, among the Marcos
relatives and allies, are Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Ilocos Norte
Rep. Imee Marcos, Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile and Panfilo Lacson, the Estrada
family, and House Speaker Jose de Venecia.
Military man as
Ermita, a 1957
graduate of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), served with U.S. forces
during the Vietnam War (1962-1975). He is said to have taken part in
“covert operations” against Vietnamese national liberation fighters during
his assignment in Vietnam, a claim he has neither confirmed nor denied.
He served as a senior
military assistant at the Office of the Undersecretary, Department of
National Defense (DND) from 1976 to 1985. From 1985 to 1986, he was
commanding general of the military’s Civil Relations Service.
He became a defense
undersecretary from 1988 to 1992, and from 1993 to 2001 was involved in
various capacities in the peace negotiations with Moro and communist
In 2003, he was
appointed as defense secretary, and was named executive secretary after
the 2004 presidential election.
Ermita is presently
the most powerful among Marcos’ allies, as he is said to hold the reins of
power as “little president” during President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s
Imee, who is
associated with the opposition bloc in the House of Representatives, has
time and again expressed intention of running for a Senate seat. There are
signs that she could get her wish. In the July 2006 Pulse Asia survey on
senatorial preferences, the late strongman’s eldest daughter came out as
11th out of more than 20 possible senatorial bets, including
noted anti-dictatorship fighters like Sen. Joker Arroyo and Bayan Muna
(People First) Rep. Satur Ocampo.
Because of this, it
is worth recalling that four years ago Imee issued a number of statements
to the media calling for a “thorough and objective study” of the martial
law period, in which its flaws as well as its supposed merits would be
taken into account.
Data from various
human rights groups place the number of victims of extrajudicial killings
under Marcos’ 20-year rule at 1,500. Data from Karapatan (Alliance for the
Advancement of People’s Rights) show 759 persons as having involuntarily
disappeared during Martial Law. Military historian Alfred McCoy, in his
book Closer than Brothers, said there were 35,000 torture victims
all in all during the Marcos years.
The economy also
plummeted during the Marcos period. In an article written for the
Philippine Graphic last year, Rowena Carranza-Paraan showed that when
Marcos assumed office in 1965 the country’s foreign debt stood only at
less than $1 billion, but had already shot up to $28 billion when he was
ousted in 1986.
This is the chapter
of our history which, to Imee’s mind, needs a “thorough and objective
study” that would take into account not only its flaws but also its
Enrile is reported to
have been recently chosen as the new chairman of the Senate Committee on
Justice and Human Rights. This has drawn denunciation from human rights
advocates, who remember him as one of the architects of martial law –
having served as Marcos’ defense minister. “I am the author of martial
law,” Enrile himself said in a TV interview in late 1991, a year before
the election in which he had originally planned to run for president.
In February 1986, in
a press conference with then Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Vice
Chief of Staff Gen. Fidel V. Ramos in which they announced their defection
to the opposition, Enrile admitted that he had faked his own ambush in
1972 to provide a scare scenario that would justify the declaration of
martial law shortly after.
Enrile briefly served
as defense secretary under the Corazon Aquino government until he was
sacked for his alleged role in a coup plot. He won a Senate seat in 1987.
In 1995, he ran for and won a seat in the House, representing his province
of Cagayan. Three years later, he won in the senatorial elections.
When Imelda Marcos celebrated her birthday in 1998, Enrile was among the
well-wishers present. He was caught on TV getting a pat on the back from
the former first lady, who said: “This man is actually a Marcos boy.”
He ran again for senator in 2001 but lost, and would win another Senate
term three years later.
The senator from
Cagayan has boasted in several media interviews of having himself issued a
number of arrest, search and seizure orders against opposition figures
during Martial Law. He is one of the most vocal proponents of the
Anti-Terrorism Bill, which human rights advocates have denounced as
running counter to civil liberties.
proponent of the Anti-Terrorism Bill is Lacson, who is reportedly planning
to run for Manila mayor in 2007.
Lacson joined the
Military Intelligence and Security Group (MISG) upon graduation from the
Philippine Military Academy (PMA) in 1971. McCoy, in Closer than
Brothers, said that Lacson, together with fellow MISG officers Roberto
Ortega (father of former actress Michelle Ortega) and the late Rolando
Abadilla “tortured together” for more than a decade.
A senator since 2001,
he ran for president in 2004 but lost in what appeared to be a massively
fraud-ridden poll. He joined some of the big anti-Arroyo rallies in 2005.
The Estradas and
Estrada was mayor of
San Juan for nearly two decades during the Marcos presidency. He was a
senator from 1987 to 1992, and vice president from 1992 to 1998. He ran
for president in 1998, and won.
He has never been unabashed in his sympathy for the Marcoses, and to prove
the point one of his first announcements after his proclamation as
president-elect in 1998 was on his decision to have Marcos’ remains buried
at the Libingan ng mga Bayani – an announcement that drew fire from human
rights activists and their allies. He had to take back his announcement in
the wake of the massive public indignation that it generated.
But throughout his presidency he was always on a collision course with
public opinion because of his government’s alleged corruption and
anti-people policies. He was ousted in 2001 in what has since become known
as the People Power II uprising.
Nevertheless, he continues to wield power through his wife Loi Estrada,
who managed to get a Senate seat in the May 2001 elections, and two of his
sons. His son with businesswoman Guia Gomez, JV (Jose Victor), became
mayor of San Juan in 2001 and is now on his second term, and he emerged as
10th in the July 2006 Pulse Asia survey on senatorial
preferences. Meanwhile, his son with Loi, Jinggoy, is now also a senator –
accompanying his mother who has managed to win a second term.
Like Lacson, the
Estradas are also active in rallies against the Arroyo administration.
They are able to send large contingents to these rallies.
De Venecia was not on
the political limelight during the Marcos years, then being a businessman.
But he saw his fortunes grow during that time, his Landoil Resources being
a beneficiary of behest loans together with the many companies owned by
notorious tax evader Lucio Tan.
He has managed to
stick to his position as Speaker of the House of Representatives, which he
first attained in 1995 – the only interruption being in 1998-2001. He had
run for president in 1998 but lost.
He is the most vocal
proponent of charter change and the proposed shift in the form of
government from presidential to parliamentary. It is now common knowledge
that he intends to become prime minister under a parliamentary system.
Still much work
Marcos has been dead
for 17 years and, if plans push through, is about to be buried. But his
relatives and allies are still very much active in the political scene.
That they continue to wield influence 20 years after the ouster of their
patron and 17 years after his death proves that there is still much work
to be done. Bulatlat
PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION ■
© 2006 Bulatlat
Alipato Media Center
Permission is granted to reprint or redistribute this article, provided
its author/s and Bulatlat are properly credited and notified.