Historical revisionism is cancel culture

By Dean Jose Mari Tirol

It was on this day 49 years ago that a man announced that he had signed a decree two days prior, placing the Philippines under Martial Law. Thus began his formal process of perpetuating himself in power through “legal” means, i.e. rule by law.

His heirs have a singular goal: to return to power. They aspire to do this by riding on his alleged achievements, rehabilitating his image and reputation, reestablishing his myth, and transforming him into a saint.

They and their supporters argue that one cannot have a valid opinion about him and Martial Law if one was not yet around at that time. This of course is logically unsound: the facts about Marcos and his regime have been established by historians, the Supreme Court, and by ordinary people who were more than just eyewitnesses to his excesses and abuses.

It is also legally unsound: judges are expected to not have any personal knowledge of the facts of the cases before them, but legitimately decide these cases based on facts presented to them by the parties.

As well as contrary to common sense: we were all literally present when we were born. But none of us have any personal recollection of the circumstances of our birth. Does that mean that our parents’ stories and recollections to us are false?

So it is clear that there is a concerted effort to play down and even twist established facts and to replace these with half-truths and lies.

But we must recognize that each one of us has the right to freely express ourselves. Nevertheless, we must also admit that the said right is not unbridled as it comes with responsibilities. Since some of our countrymen do not have the time and/or patience for critical thinking or even common sense.

We must also acknowledge that history is not set in stone. If new facts (in legal language, “newly discovered evidence”) are discovered, these must also be appreciated even if these will affect our long-held beliefs. But in the case of Marcos and Martial Law, their apologists and promoters have simply spewed new opinions but have not alleged any newly discovered facts.

The Supreme Court, in many cases, recognized the many truths about Marcos, the Martial Law years, and his entire term as President from 1965-1986. The Court arrived at these truths in conformity with the rules of evidence, and despite the efforts of the Marcoses and their side to render the same inadmissible. To stifle them.

I cannot memorize all these cases as they are too many, but I will cite one- Ocampo et al. v. Enriquez et al. (2016), the relatively recent SC decision affirming Pres. Duterte’s decision to allow the burial of Pres. Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani. While the SC affirmed Duterte, it nonetheless emphasized that Marcos is not a hero:

“… our nation’s history will not be instantly revised by a single resolve of President Duterte, acting through the public respondents, to bury Marcos at the LNMB… the lessons of Martial Law are already engraved, albeit in varying degrees, in the hearts and minds of the present generation of Filipinos. As to the unborn, it must be said that the preservation and popularization of our history is not the sole responsibility of the Chief Executive; it is a joint and collective endeavor of every freedom-loving citizen of this country.”

“… a joint and collective endeavor of every freedom-loving citizen of this country” – our collective endeavor and responsibility. But to reiterate, it is unfortunate that many of our countrymen do not have the time or the inclination to engage in critical thinking and discernment.

Nevertheless, I do not think that this would justify “canceling” anybody simply because they espouse views that are contrary to our own. Otherwise, what would differentiate us from them, who seek to erase the truth about Marcos and Martial Law? What would distinguish us from Duterte whose words oftentimes results in the literal canceling of the lives of activists, alleged drug addicts, and communists without due process of law?

Besides, canceling is not consistent with #NeverForget, which is one of the recognized slogans about the Marcos years (aside from #NeverAgain). And it does not address the root cause of the problem, which can be solved only by educating our countrymen about our rights and obligations as citizens, the necessity of discernment or at least common sense, and to not uncritically rely on so-called influencers and thought leaders to analyze and digest things for them.