[OPINION] Making the Marcoses say sorry does nothing; here's what to do instead

 

We express regret when we realize that we can no longer change our past actions. As moral beings, we are filled with remorse when we do something wrong, or when we fail to do what we should have done.

While it is impossible to undo past actions, we can, however, reconfigure how we remember it. Selective amnesia, for instance, can make individuals forget traumatic experiences while keeping intact the memories associated with it. People who experience post-traumatic stress sometimes modify past recollection by suppressing specific unwanted memories and controlling the ability to remember them.

Meanwhile, others tend to believe and promote an alternative narrative of the past. These people cling to such recollections as if their life depends on it.

The latter is undoubtedly the case with Bongbong Marcos.

While it is hard to move on from the traumas of the dictatorial regime, it must be realized that demanding a public apology from the Marcoses or asking them to admit to their crimes will achieve nothing. How can we expect regret and repentance from someone who consciously alters the past? Basing on the past and current activities of the Marcoses, we should know by now that a complete admission that their wealth was ill-gotten will never happen. Thus, what we must do instead is direct our energies toward making the Marcoses accountable by ensuring that any forms of historical revisionism will never vandalize our national history. (READ: [EDITORIAL] #AnimatED: Marcos, Duterte, and burying our history)

On this end, Sandiganbayan is not helping either, as they added insult to injury last December by dismissing the P200 billion civil suit filed by the government against the Marcoses. 

The government so far has lost 5 ill-gotten wealth cases. As we witnessed last Friday, January 10, Bongbong Marcos capitalized on these victories as he asserted that history textbooks have long been involved in the production and proliferation of their opposition’s “political propaganda.” The son of the late dictator claimed that children today have been learning “lies” as they continue to read textbooks that portray their family as plunderers of national wealth. To him, the dismissal of several forfeiture cases against them should be taken as an indication that it is high time for our history books to be revised. 

Indeed, there were cases in the past when history books were involved in the circulation of propaganda. An excellent example would be the state-sponsored Tadhana: The History of the Filipino People, which was “penned” by the late Ferdinand Marcos. 

It is also true that revisionism can reconstruct history through an intensive and sustained proliferation of alternative narratives of the past. Such activities can be observed in Marcos-sponsored or pro-Marcos blogs, Facebook pages, and YouTube channels. (READ: [EDITORIAL] #AnimatED: Selling our memory to thieves)

When a past event is retold or historicized, inconsistencies, discrepancies, and gaps are to be expected. National memories are highly selective and subjective because culture, politics, and ideologies generally influence what societies choose to remember (or forget). Different historical conditions and biases affect the nature of primary sources which historians use to write about the past. More so, historians’ narratives of the past are influenced by the ideologies they subscribe to. Hence, when we access a past event through their works, what we read are historians’ reconstructions of the past; it is not necessarily or exactly the past event as it was. 

However, these limitations of national memory and history should not be misunderstood. While historical narratives manifest historians’ biases, we should bear in mind that these texts are products of an academic discipline. Academically acceptable history textbooks are products of rigorous archival research and scholarly peer review. They are not based on hearsays or accusations but facts and evidence. Scholarship prescribes specific measures that ensure the quality and credibility of history books. 

Bongbong Marcos is wrong to dismiss the value and credibility of history textbooks too quickly. Considering the rigors of academic writing, it is not difficult to conclude that it is not the textbooks that promote propaganda, but rather the blogs and Facebook pages that circulate misleading and unverifiable “historical” texts and narratives. (READ: Networked propaganda: How the Marcoses are rewriting history

While it is true that historical works are subjective, we must be vigilant when a politician calls for its revision. Politically motivated revisionism does not serve the purpose of the people; history teaches us that it only satisfies the desire of those who promote it. – Rappler.com 

Fernan Talamayan is a doctoral student at the Institute of Social Research and Cultural Studies, National Chiao Tung University, Taiwan. He received his MA in Sociology and Social Anthropology from the Central European University, Hungary, and his MA in History from the University of the Philippines Diliman.