COTANGENT – By Daphne Cardillo
If we look back and reflect, Marcos still is the greatest president that we have ever had. Much as we would like to assign evils to his strongman rule and its inherent repression, that era of rigidity paved the way for 21st century Philippines.
First, it railroaded history.
If we trace back the pace of our country’s movement towards autonomy and independence, it might take another century for us to arrive where we are now. Since the early 1900s, the pull from being a colony to a neo-colony in all spheres of our national life has been slow and ambivalent – atras abante. The history of accommodations, complacency and compromises in government and politics only prolonged the pain of growth towards real autonomy and independence.
When Martial Law was declared, dictatorship was given full force reaching contempt. Foreign intervention in national governance was more insidious – colonization without occupation. The American way of life and western culture was lumped in our throats. Multinational companies flooded our land and shores. And the peso rapidly depreciated its face value.
Only then did the Filipino people realize the meaning of sovereignty and independence. Thus, out with the US military bases.
Second, it gave rise to a nationalist perspective and acts of self-determination among our people.
The concentration of power in government rose to its height and again reaching contempt. Like simple fractions, the Filipino people were reduced to their lowest terms. To top it all, the Aquino assassination erased all hope among our people for a leader that would challenge Marcos. This proved to be a turning point. The people finally lost trust in government.
Now with nothing to depend on, our people started looking inward and trusting themselves. Organizations and cause-oriented groups mushroomed and later bloomed to full expression at the Edsa revolution. Yet even with the change of government and a mother figure at the helm, our people cannot anymore forego the power that they have generated among themselves. Thus we see the refinement in people empowerment in people’s organization (PO) and non-government organization (NGO).
If we look into the participants at these attempts at self-determination we see a new breed of Filipinos who are defining themselves in their respective milieu, knowing their strengths and weaknesses, setting goals and limits in their own ways and gradually changing the course of our national destiny. Our POs and NGOs extend to a wide area of concern; from income generation, health education, cultural reorientation, social and political amelioration, and environmental protection. Thus, a new kind of citizenry is born.
Third, it polarized Philippine society.
On the political spectrum, our people were pulled either to the extreme of left or to the extreme of right. On the economic side, the gap between the rich and the poor has widened exposing the rich in their abundance and the poor in their want. While on the social sphere, the cultural minorities were marginalized, the political dissenters silenced and the Muslims radicalized. That era of martial rule magnified the glaring injustices, inequalities, and irregularities in Philippine society. Thus, the clamor for structural and institutional change raged on — and the struggle continues.
Indeed, people and events may have a reason for coming into being. And for us a passive and dependent lot, Marcos did the dirty job of knocking our heads, squeezing our blood, tearing our hearts and souls so we may stand up and fight fiercely for our right to be free.