Grey Hair Challenge

by Juan L. Mercado

Conrad de Quiros lobbed a dare for those with grey hair. We “challenge —no, demand upon—the older generation, the ones who hold the institutional memory of the country, to dredge the past and leave a cautionary tale in their wake.

What triggered De Quiros call?

“Videos appeared on YouTube advertising itself as facts about Marcos and Aquino…meant only to establish the truths of history.

“But of course they’re  Marcos propaganda,” he said. Specifically, they’re meant to sow doubts about the essential truths of history, thereby allowing a rewriting of it. Thereby allowing Marcos to be buried in Libingan ng mga Bayani.

The video I saw is a classic in exploiting half-truths. Or specifically in how to wring a different spin from bald facts, he said. Cory was in Cebu and did not lead People Revolution.

But the videos are clearly aiming for the young middle class urban dwellers who are computer-savvy in hopes of getting them if not to lead the charge in the rewriting of history at least to be the least resistant to it.

Well, our mop is grey. And we’d like to respond to Conrad de Quiros call by retrieving The Remembancer (Inquirer/April 21, 2011).  It is about the struggle against forgetting.

In his column “Speak Memory”, Simeon Dumdum wrote wistfully of the need for a “Remembrancer”. This medieval official jogged memories of “barons” and nobles issues they preferred to forget.

Like today’s House Resolution No. 1135? Gloria Macapagal Arroyo & Clan, Imelda Marcos, plus 210 other representatives signed HR1135. It badgers President Benigno Aquino to allow Libingan ng mga Bayani interment for the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Communal amnesia would expunge all “New Society” crimes. “The Marcos family never expressed any remorse”,  Inquirer’s Randy David points out. “They do not seek forgiveness.” They see HR1135 “as a vindication of their innocence. They want the nation to revise its remembrance of the past.”

P-Noy whose father was assassinated under the dictatorship,is asked to reverse the verdict of People Power. Also, it’d shove,into an Orwellian memory shredder, various crimes from shell foundations in Lichtenstein, fake war medals, the confiscated 60-piece Roumeloites jewels to 3,257 persons “salvaged”, 737 desaparecidos, plus thousands detained without trial.

Here, congressmen stared blankly at 7,526 “remembrancers”. Cebu’s Judge Meinrado Paredes and Inquirer columnist Ma.Ceres Dayao were among Marcos victims who received token $1,000 checks awarded by the US District Court of Hawaii. Their presence recalled the Court’s decision finding Marcos “liable for systematic torture, summary executions and disappearances.”

Former Senator Rene Saguisag is a pro-bono “Remembrancer”. The Marcoses were kleptocrats according to Sandiganbayan decision of 2003 (406 SCRA 190). He recalled in a letter to veterans. Impunity blanketed the 169 workers’ deaths in Imelda’s Film Palace. Imee ignored the Hawaii court’s penalty for the 1977 salvaging of Archimedes Trajano the Mapua student who questioned the then Kabataang Barangay head.

“Forget the past,” Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Gringo Honasan and Antonio Trillanes III kibitzed from the sidelines. “Let the country move on.” They parrot Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet (1915-2006).

Under Pinochet’s iron-fist rule, 2,279 persons were murdered by state agents. Thousands disappeared. “It is best to remain silent and forget,” Pinochet said after his extradition from the UK and imprisonment. “It is the only thing to do: we must forget.”

No, disagrees Czech author Milan Kundera. “The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting,” he wrote in “The Book of Laughter and Forgetting”. Today’s battle for memory defines tomorrow for our grandchildren.

Forgetting seemed preferable to “uncovering the facts, giving the nameless dead their true names and decent burial and prosecuting the perpetrators,” Sociologist John Carroll, SJ told the 1999 Ateneo-Wisconsin University conference on “Memory, Truth Telling and the Pursuit of Justice. “The Philippines is a nation in denial”.

Of 5,000 cases for World War II collaboration filed with the People’s Court, 156 were convicted. “(It) created the impression that there was no real difference between patriots or traitors. Or that it was not the worth the effort to sort them out.” None of the Marcoses or coup artists were penalized. Instead, they became political or economic kingpins.

Punishment is not a matter of revenge or even justice, Fr Carroll wrote. It is the community rising to reaffirm values seriously violated. “Not to react as a community would be to reduce a community’s values or “common conscience” to personal preference — and invite collapse.

In the Philippines, willingness to forget massive Marcos crimes reflects weakness of ‘common conscience, he added. “Unless, the nation rises up to vindicate and reaffirm those values, it may be condemned to wander forever in the wilderness of valueless power plays of the elite.”

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