Cutting thru lies: Dictatorships, disinformation and sacred cows

By APRN | September 20, 2021

We, the Asia Pacific Research Network, stand with the Filipino people in remembering the martial law and atrocities committed by the late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos. The Network expresses its strong support for the Filipinos fighting for truth and democracy against tyrants. 

Forty-nine years ago, Marcos issued Proclamation No. 1081, a declaration of martial rule in the country. This led to the suspension of the Philippine Constitution giving the president full control of the legislative and executive bodies. 

The Marcos regime lasted for 21 years resulting in gross human rights violations, economic crisis and destitution for Filipinos. The global rights watchdog Amnesty International (AI) alone documented rights violations and reported an estimate of 70,000 incarcerated individuals, 34,000 torture victims and 3240 murdered Filipinos by state forces. According to local rights group Karapatan, at least 759 individuals have been abducted whose bodies have never been found. 

Truth-seeking and journalism have also become dangerous jobs under the late ousted dictator. One of Marcos’ first directive is to authorize the military takeover of the assets of major media outlets including the leading television network ABS-CBN. 

According to accounts of Filipino academic-activist Epifanio San Juan Jr., the military arrested journalists, editors, media workers. It did not stop there. Direct blanket censorship was ordered by the regime prohibiting any public release of material critical of the military or law enforcement agencies including the martial law declaration—a tyrannical ploy to cover up truth with State-sponsored terror.

On top of the horrifying rights abuses and attack on civil liberties are the immense losses for the Philippine economy under Marcos. According to APRN member Ibon Foundation, the Philippines was the 4th worst performing economy in Asia in the period of 1965-1986. Those that took the brunt of this economic crisis are the majority of the country’s population wherein by 1985 two-thirds to three-fourths of some 54 million Filipinos were poor. Worse, at least 27 million people or almost half (49%) of the population were living in extreme poverty. 

All the while, the regime squandered an estimated $5 billion from government coffers as cited from Transparency International. This does not include financial wealth accumulated by Marcos cronies who remain part of the ruling elite to this day.

Return of the Marcoses and peddling of lies

Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Despite massive literature and verifiable sources on the Marcos atrocities, a different version of history has permeated the general public contributing to their return to power. 

Even after 35 years since the people ousted Marcos, his family remains influential if not, thriving in Philippine politics. 

The Marcoses have never acknowledged nor apologized for their crimes against Filipinos. Instead, they have callously asked the public to “move on” from martial law and went as far as petitioning that facts about the dictatorship be removed from history books.

Claims of the “golden days” of the Marcos; denials of human rights abuses and systemic corruption; and manufactured stories of heroism of the dictator are circulating both online and in printed books. 

In a study by scholars from the University of the Philippines, it was found that Marcos loyalists, and allies have been manufacturing and distributing propaganda with the intention to portray a “well-researched scholarship to Marcos lies.” 

Focusing on the new forms of disinformation, content that aims to memorialize Marcos are proliferating in social media platforms. One of the tactics identified in the study is not to build on an existing lie but to saturate the audience with all sorts of information to the point that it appears organic and untraceable to the Marcoses themselves. 

With no surprise it was revealed in 2020 that Bongbong Marcos, son of the late dictator, commissioned Cambridge Analytica to “rebrand” their family’s image on social media. The now-defunct British political consulting firm has been involved in the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal that led to the use of personal profiles to influence foreign elections.

Rise of another dictatorship

Manila Today

Ruling President Rodrigo Duterte who has been a notorious human rights violator himself has repeatedly expressed support for the Marcos family. 

We, in the advocacy research community, underline the direct hand of Duterte in the rose-tinted depiction of the Marcoses. It was Duterte in 2016 who allowed the body of the late dictator Marcos to be buried in the national “Heroes’ Cemetery.” It was also Duterte who signed into law a holiday memorializing Ferdinand Marcos. 

Today, we not only remember the 1972 martial law declaration but we support the Filipino people in their fight against another dictatorship. The ruling Duterte regime swept the country with thousands of killings under the drug war campaign together with brutal crackdowns against critics, silencing of truth-seekers, gross negligence in the pandemic response and an administration marred with corruption allegations. 

Akin to Marcos, Duterte has kept cronyism and patronage politics alive under his administration. Despite corruption allegations versus Duterte’s health minister and other cabinet members, they remain in power and sacred cows of the regime. The Philippine Health Minister was recently involved in the mishandling of  $3.34 billion worth of funds intended for COVID-19 response.

Cut from the same cloth as that of the late dictator, Duterte has made a name for himself as a tyrant responsible for the deaths and suffering of millions of people. 

APRN asserts that democracy is built on truths and that State sponsored attacks on the press, academe and activists are affronts to people’s rights. Moreover, the peddling of outright lies and disinformation by the Marcoses or any regime only serves their political agenda and violates State obligations to transparency and accountability. 

This offensive against the truth and history goes against our network’s core principles. The Network highlights the importance of evidence-based research by the people and for the people. It is essential that research and information serves the needs of citizens while underscoring their role in defending their rights, democracy and effecting social development. 

Therefore, we stand by the historians, journalists, academics, survivors of the dictatorship and advocacy groups who continue to remind tyrants that the Filipino people and peace loving peoples of the world never forget.

As a Network that advances people’s research, we align ourselves to those steadfast in protecting and promoting the truth. We believe that history should raise our commitment to people’s democracy, if not, our readiness to defend it. And, the only way to do that is if our collective memory is based on the truth.# 

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