Repeated Nightmares

by Juan L. Mercado

Is the inivisible bitter “battle for memory” in this country triggering repeated nightmares?

“My name is not Bigote,” mustached ex-President Joseph Estrada said.. “It is Erap.  People call  me Erap.”  Bigote”  masterminded the Cavite murder of PR man Salvador Dacer and driver claims fugutive and former cop Cezar Mancao in a new affidavit.

What about Jose Velarde, Erap’s other name? Did amnesia blot that out?  Or did he fudge it?  In convicting  Estrada for plunder, the Sandiganbayan found he and Jose Velarde “were one and the same persons.

Rep. Ferdinand Marcos Jr, breezed into Mandaue City (Cebu). He tested “chances of winning a national elective position” in 2010. Anybody remember Ferdinand Jr, in battle fatigues, rallying loyalists from a Malacanang balcony  in 1986? Hours later, the Marcoses, with Bongbong in tow, scrambled aboard helicopters to escape People  Power crowds racing for the Palace

“Fancy that. I lived long enough to see the unimaginable,” snapped the insightful   44-year old  Sun Star  columnist Mayette Tabada.  “I feel the curse of the old:  to  witness again the same sorry  history, all  the costly lessons forgotten,  mistakes repeated as if they never were.

“I  remember how my elders spoke in whispers (during martial law) … In college, I learned from ( those)  whose voices were too small to be heard in the media that death in this country was the ultimate luxury.  Living was just a little harder than dying because it took longer

“I would not have believed nightmares repeated themselves.  But early this month, Joseph Estrada confided to a rally in Liloan  (Cebu) that  he’d  be forced to run for the presidency if no other leader would unite the national opposition.

“(He) vowed to save again the country, as the son of the dictator did, as will others,” Tabada added. .”To live long enough to witness this is to realize how valuable the lessons were, —–  and how forgettable.”

Ms  Tabada today  experiences  what Ateneo University president Bienvenido Nebres, in 1999,  called  “our  very  special problem,” He told the Ateneo-Wisconsin University  University conference on Memory, Truth-Tellling and the Pursuit of Justice:  “We have very little collective memory of the past. We  tend  to live in a perpetual present…and get by on feeling, without a national memory and historical perspective.”

“Many find it difficult to distinguish between movies and reality,” Fr. Nebres noted  in 1993. “They fuse into one. So, we can not see very well into the future.”

This is true. Worse, this blurring   cuts across  issues:  Japanese collaboration,  Marcos  loot,  nailing  masterminds in the murder of  Benigno  Aquino  to   ZTE broadband scandals. Thus, there are few closures here..

Surveys tell us that  most students today  barely  recall Benigno Aquino. Fewer know what he died for.  For many  born  in the 1980s,  martial law abuses are  a blank slate..

Who  remembers  that  Marcos brother-in-law, Benjamin “Kokoy” Romualdez took over Manila Electric Company with a P10,000 “down payment.”  Or the “Tasaday” hoax? The late Manuel Elizalde  peddled the Tasaday tribe of Mindanao  as “people living in isolation since the Stone Age”  Swiss anthropologist Oswald  Iten and other scientists   proved the Tasadays were manipulated local tribe members. . By then, land had been grabbed.

In sleaze, the Arroyo regime is giving the Marcos dictatorship a run for it’s money.  Will  tomorrow’s students be  ignorant of the Arroyo regime’s gross abuses?. They will, if this perennial amnesia persists.  How does one explain this collective erasure of memory?

There’s no one simple reason. The main concern for 26.7 million Filipinos, is getting the next meal. “They want solutions with the least pain.” Many schools don’t educate.  Flawed textbooks, for one, distort history. Those who expose mis-education  are skinned in media by paid hacks. The Marcoses, for one, bankroll revision of history.

Amnesia  serves the entrenched  oligarchs just fine.:The  “ins” loot with impunity. And they take turns with the thieving “outs’. No one is jailed for fertilizer scams or overpriced Asean street lamps.  The  rot mutates into more repeated nightmares.

Truncated memories of his track record permit Senator Panfilo Lacson to posture as a reformer. That record  stretches from  Military Intelligence Security Group torture chambers to the Kuratong Baleleng rubout — and now the Dacer-Corbito murders.

“In this country, it seems everything is infinitely negotiable,” Ateneo vice president Alran Bengzon has noted. “Truth frequently becomes whatever pleases the powers that be…The struggle against forgetting is never ending…The impulses towards tyranny and forgetting…persist in any age.”

Why bother with memory then? Only justice based on truth heals a nation, says McGill University ’s Louis Bickford. Democracy  seeks a foundation of truth and therefore demands accountability. “The past is impossible to ignore.” And memory creates deterrence.

Inquirer reader Cathy Quiogue welcomes newspapers and broadcast “developing checklists.”  A monthly  update of  scams would be a good start, leading up to next year’s elections, she writes. It’d give more meaning to all the work that went into uncovering these cases.

“All of us must remember and open our hearts to human memory, the Nobel Laureate Elie Weisel insisted at Auschwitz-Birkeneau death camp rites. “I do not want my past to become the future…of our children’s generation.”

(E-mail: juanlmercado@gmail.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it )

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