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Never again

31 March 2016

By Daisy Catherine L. Mandap

Thirty years ago we got rid of a dictator. That ended 20 long years of iron-fist and kleptocratic rule, when tens of thousands of Filipinos were either tortured, raped or killed, and the dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos and his family amassed fortune estimated to be as much as US$10billion.
Over the years, several suits were filed against Marcos and upon his death, his estate, mostly for human rights abuses committed during
his martial law.
In a landmark case, the U.S. Supreme Court awarded about US$600 million of Marcos money hidden in Swiss bank accounts as compensation to the victims or heirs of those who were persecuted or killed during those dark days in our history.
But there were other cases. In one, the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Marcos and his eldest daughter Imee, now Ilocos Norte governor, liable for the apparent torture and death of young Archimedes Trajano, who boldly raised a question that irked the dictator’s daughter during a school forum. Trajano’s mother Agapita was awarded more than US$4 million compensation for her son’s death.
Several cases were filed, too, that resulted in a U.S. court turning over to the Philippine government a cache of jewelry that Imelda had brought with her when the Marcoses were forced to flee to Hawaii in 1986. The jewelry collection, estimated to be worth US$21 million, is now up for auction.
Two other cases involving two other sets of Imelda’s fabulous jewelry collection that are worth far more, are still being contested.
According to the government body tasked with recovering the Marcos wealth, many other assets remain unaccounted for, including 146 paintings by masters worth tens of millions of dollars.
One of them, a Monet, surfaced in New York four years ago when Imelda’s former aide, Vilma Bautista, was charged for its illegal sale. Three other paintings listed as among the Marcos assets were also found in her possession.
There were also luxury apartments and other prime real estate in New York that had been tracked down and sold by the Commission on Good Government. Another find was a ruby and diamond tiara in a Swiss bank’s vault.
The fortune they amassed was so boggling that Marcos has gained notoriety as the world’s second most corrupt leader, next only to Indonesia’s Suharto.
What do these cases tell us?
That the horrific abuses and plunder committed during Marcos’ dictatorship are no figment of anyone’s imagination.
That these are the very reasons why the Philippines continues to hobble as the “sick man of Asia”, from being one of the region’s strongest economies before Marcos took over.
That we should never, ever again, let another Marcos, especially someone complicit in the excesses and abuses, assume a post just a heartbeat away from the presidency.
Neither should we elect, or hold up for adulation, someone who tries to cash in on our collective frustration at the post-Marcos woes by hinting of the return of the iron-fist rule.
We should not forget that it is precisely this brand of leadership that led to many of the problems that we continue to experience to this day.
Neither should we forget that it was Marcos’ legacy of corruption and profligacy that allowed at least two other presidents who followed him to amass wealth while in power, pushing us closer to the brink of bankruptcy and hopelessness.
If we are to completely rise from the nightmare of the Marcos years we should not try to revise our history and obliterate the collective grief of the tens of thousands of Filipino patriots who suffered during those years.
We should not allow Bongbong Marcos to become the country’s next vice president, and reject anyone else who tries to hold up the ousted dictator as the paragon of effective leadership.
We should not let anyone make us forget.
Never again.

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