What you need to know
Amid accusations of historical distortion, the Marcos government has stoked fears of re-writing history books as it cuts the budget for archiving and culture.
The Marcos family has long been accused by survivors of Martial Law of historical distortion. Under current President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., son of the late dictator of the 70s and 80s, officials are now proposing to cut the budget for institutions preserving arts, culture, and history, stoking fears that the administration is doubling down on whitewashing the country’s past.
In the proposed plan, the budget for the National Commission for Culture and Arts (NCCA) is slashed by 83%. The National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), which advises the President on matters of historical significance, will lose 27% of its budget. The National Archives and the National Library will lose 25.2% and 22.6%, respectively.
The budget deliberations are set to continue into the last months of the year. But since the regime’s allies control all chambers of government, the plan is expected to pass through unchallenged.
It’s unsurprising why the NCCA and NHCP are targeted. The former was established by President Corazon Aquino, a central figure in the People Power uprising of 1986 overthrowing the first Marcos regime, while the latter published a position paper in 2016 stating that Marcos Sr. should not be revered like all other presidents. Coincidentally, this month also marks 50 years since Marcos Sr. declared Martial Law on September 21, 1972.
Gabriela Women’s Party-list Congresswoman Arlene Brosas assailed the budget plan, saying it weakens the public’s defenses against historical distortions and disinformation.
“This move seems to be a political statement from the Marcos Jr. administration that they do not care about history, and that they are hell-bent on doing whatever it takes to conceal the truth from the Filipinos,” Brosas added.
Recently, the President, speaking amid a slew of commemorative events popping up over the country, has defended his father’s legacy. He said his father was forced into declaring Martial Law to establish peace and order while fighting a “war on two fronts,” referring to the communists and separatists rebels of the era. Refuting the label “dictator” on his father, Marcos Jr. made no mention of the well-documented atrocities during the period.
Tampering with history
The Marcos family has a record of tampering with history, said Professor Francis Gealogo, former NHCP commissioner and now convenor of the Tanggol Kasaysayan (Defend History) Network.
Gealogo has traced disinformation to decades before, when Marcos Sr was an aspiring candidate for the top seat.
He recounted how Marcos Sr. claimed to be a decorated soldier who single-handedly delayed Japanese occupation in World War II, which has been disproven in U.S. Army records.
“During the dictatorship, the height of media censorship and control, the state facilitated the transmission of what might be considered institutionalized historical distortions with a lot of Marcosian books and study material on philosophy and ideology.”
Among the claims Marcos Sr. made was that he single-handedly delayed the Japanese occupation of Bataan. The statement has been dismissed by the U.S. Veterans Commission, according to Gealogo.
Martial Law survivors are gearing up for a series of events spearheaded by civil society to counteract what they call the rampant historical distortion and mis-education of the country.
Bonifacio Ilagan, a former political prisoner and now convenor of the Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses and Martial Law (CARMMA) told The News Lens that “history is the centerpiece of the Marcos Jr. administration.”
Ilagan explained that “Marcos Jr. won [the presidency] on the basis of false narratives ang negative historical revisionism. Now that he is president, he is ramming it through, giving official imprimatur to the falsities of history. And what better way to wield it but by emasculating all government agencies involved in history?”
Sensible funding urged
One of the NHCP’s mandates is to oversee historical markers, shrines, and museums, including the People Power monument in Metro Manila. Eufemio Agbayani III, a historical sites development officer at the NHCP said that the agency has been pressing for keeping its funding with their resources barely enough for its needs. “We are still hanging on for now, but would appreciate better help especially since we are set to open more museums in the country, not to mention those affected by the recent typhoons and earthquakes,” he said.
Gealogo assailed the state’s budgetary priorities. “Why are they cutting the funding for agencies on history, culture, and consciousness while hundreds of millions are allotted towards confidential funds of other agencies without transparency?”
The academic was referring to both the President and Vice-President gaining access to hefty intelligence funding. This month, Marcos Jr. asked Congress to approve 4.5 billion pesos (US$77,000) worth of confidential and intelligence funds for his office. Meanwhile, Vice-President Sara Duterte is set to acquire 650 million pesos (US$11 million) of the same kind of funding. Gealogo said the fiscal concerns are real since the leaders will not have to disclose use of these funds on the grounds of national security.
Broas also questioned why certain agencies, who have been flagged in the past for spreading disinformation, are either retaining their funding or getting budget boosts. She assailed the government for allocating around 10 billion pesos (US$171 million) to the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). The task force has come under fire many times for red-tagging or arbitrarily labeling state critics as armed rebels or terrorists.
Brosas called the task force one of the “primary machineries in sowing fear and fake news. So there’s less funding for history, more for red-tagging and violence.”
She called on legislators to support social services with state funding.
TNL Editor: Bryan Chou, Nicholas Haggerty (@thenewslensintl)
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- Michael Beltran
- arlene brosas
- Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.
- Sara Duterte
- Bonifacio Ilagan
- National Commission for Culture and Arts
- National Historical Commission of the Philippines
- The National Archives of the Philippines
- Francis Gealogo
- Tanggol Kasaysayan (Defend History) Network
- Eufemio Agbayani III
- National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (N