With a little more than a month before a new administration assumes office in the Philippines, “truth-tellers” are warning against what they described as the threat of “revisionism” to the country’s history.
“We are now challenged to protect our facility, not only physically but also the freedom of the people who come here,” said May Rodriguez, executive director of the Bantayog ng mga Bayani (Monument of Heroes) Foundation.
The Foundation aims to protect the “memories” of those who suffered during the years of martial law under the dictatorship of the late Ferdinand Marcos Sr., father of presumptive president Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
“Like now, we are surrounded by police when we are just trying to peacefully process our emotions after the elections,” said Rodriguez, pointing out to the security personnel during the event held on Saturday, May 21.
“That is the mood that we expect to happen in the ‘Bantayog’ in the next few years,” she said.
“Bantayog,” which also serves as a museum, holds documents, newspapers, magazines, books, and other material about the martial law years.
“We are now digitizing like crazy,” said Rodriguez, a former political prisoner and journalist. She said they were only able to start setting up a digital archive in 2017.
“Maybe one of the reasons why was that [President Rodrigo] Duterte was a threat [to historical revisionism],” she said. “But more than that, we know we had to do it.”
Rodriguez said if only they were able to do the digitizing earlier “less people would’ve have been swayed by fake news and propaganda online.”
“Now, people are so consumed by fake news, it’s difficult for the truth to get through them. They interpret truth in the lens of the poison,” she said.
Rodriguez noted that “historical revisionism” is all over the internet and has become predominant on social media.
“Now that [the Marcoses are] back in power, it’s almost certain that they will mantle the truth as they have been doing, presenting the dark and bloody years as the golden years of the country,” said award-winning filmmaker Joel Lamangan.
Lamangan remembers the torture he went through while in prison as a student activist in 1973 when he was only 16 years old. After his release, he was again arrested in 1974.
“That was four years of my youth stolen from me,” he said.
Lamangan said the media and movie industries should be braver in terms of telling the truth under the incoming Marcos administration.
One of the directors who bravely busted the myths about the Marcos dictatorship was the late Lino Brocka, said Lamangan.
“Filmmakers shouldn’t be cowering in fear, they shouldn’t be submissive to the powers that be, especially to the capitalists who dictate the story,” said the movie director.
“Artists should be siding with the truth. Every time we refuse to do so, it is the people who are left miserable as we are not telling their truth,” he said.
Marcos Jr.’s term is set to start on June 30, way before that, some government agencies are already giving glimpses of what holds for the country in the next six years.
Veteran journalist and author Maria Ceres Doyo said journalists and writers “should be on their guard” for the stories that were already published and those still to be written.
Early this month, Alex Monteagudo, the head of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, alleged on a Facebook post that publisher Adarna House is publishing and selling books that “subtly radicalize the Filipino children against our government.”
The allegation came after Adarna House hosted a sale for those pre-ordering their #NeverAgain bundles, which consist of five children books about the martial law years.
“We know the risks, we know the threats, we just can’t allow the fear to erase our works that tell history,” said Doyo.
She said that it is imperative for journalists in the coming years to maintain their platforms with the rise of social media.
“Journalists have always been attacked by trolls, being called out names, accusing us of brewing hate and engendering division among the people, but no, truth-telling is not hate-mongering, truth telling is not destroying others,” she said.
“If there were no writers, there would be no Bible. The word is important, the truth of course, is important. So, we have to keep listening and writing,” added Doyo.
For Rodriguez, holding on to the truth might be a lonely battle, but she said there’s still time.
“We still have room to exercise our rights, to hold our truth. We want to keep stretching our freedoms because if not, we will just fold in this fight,” she said.