The threat of Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., or “Bongbong,” winning the vice-presidency in the forthcoming national elections has galvanized a wide array of forces to bring to the fore the many issues regarding the Marcos dictatorship.
The Vice-President is merely a spare tire, in a manner of speaking. The President can give the Vice-President some position that is not threatening. Given what the Constitution says, the Vice-President can be harmless.

Yet, in the Philippines, the vice-presidency is the stepping stone on the way to ultimate power. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo astutely used that position to undermine then President Joseph Estrada and eventually grab power.

Hence, we are shocked that Bongbong, clawing his way to the top, is getting the support of a significant segment of voters.Let’s be clear on this. I, in particular, will not vote for Bongbong just because he is the son of a most venal dictator. His being the progeny of the reviled Ferdie and Imelda is not his fault.

However, we must not vote for Bongbong because he insists on the correctness of the dictatorship, because he refuses to disclose the family’s ill-gotten wealth and has benefited from it, and because he will not apologize for the many crimes committed by the dictator and his family.

The evidence is overwhelming regarding the profligacy and ill-gotten wealth, the crimes and atrocities committed, and the failed economic and social policies, among other things. They need not be repeated here.

Bongbong must be defeated. His victory in the elections — we must not let this happen — will pave the way for revanchism in its most deceitful form.

To arrest the advance of Bongbong, the different sectors of society — the Left, the moderates, and other shades of democrats — have issued statements and organized activities to expose the sins and horrors of the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship.

The actions involve not only the politically organized but independent civil society as well. This is most welcome.

Recently, the concerned members of Ateneo de Manila have come out with a statement entitled “We are not blind to the darkness and oppression of the Marcos years!” (released on 4 March 2016). Here’s the introductory paragraph:

“In response to Ferdinand ‘‘Bongbong’’ Romualdez Marcos, Jr.’s call that teachers and students of history should make a judgment about the Marcos administration, we, the undersigned members of the Ateneo de Manila community, vehemently oppose and condemn the ongoing willful distortion of our history. We deplore the shameless refusal to acknowledge the crimes of the Martial Law regime. We reject the revision of history, disturbing vision of the future, and shallow call for ‘unity’ being presented by Marcos, Jr. and like-minded candidates in the 2016 elections.”

The members of the Ateneo de Manila community, including the alumni, have generally been opposed to the dictatorship and to the revival of fascist sentiments.

In the 1998 homecoming, for example, the High School Class of 1973 gave tribute to the Ateneo de Manila alumni and professors who were killed, tortured or jailed by the Marcos dictatorship. The martyrs were among the best and the brightest:

Emmanuel Agapito “Eman” F. Lacaba, Edgardo G. “Edjop” Jopson, William Vincent “Billy” A. Begg, Ferdinand M. Arceo, Abraham P. Sarmiento, Jr., Dante D. Perez, Artemio “Jun” Celestial, Jr., Lassie Silva, Sonny Hizon, Manny Yap (disappeared), Evelio B. Javier, and of course, Benigno “Ninoy” S. Aquino, Jr.

The homecoming also gave recognition to students and faculty who were dismissed or denied admission from the Ateneo because of their ideology and their opposition to the dictatorship.

Yes, Ateneo had its dark period during the presidency of Fr. Jose Cruz, S.J. in the early years of martial law. Fr. Cruz, S.J., a supporter of Marcos, expelled or dismissed the student radicals. Among them are current leaders in government and the private sector like Diwa C. Guinigundo (Deputy Governor of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas) and Ramon R. Isberto, Public Affairs Head of PLDT. Two of those dismissed are now part of my group, Action for Economic Reforms — Mon Fernan and Raffy Paredes.

Ironically, one of the militant anti-Marcos activists expelled from Ateneo is now Bongbong’s spokesman, Jonathan de la Cruz.

Yet, what the members of the Ateneo community, including the alumni, have done is not enough to give an honest and thorough accounting of history and remove the vestiges of dictatorship. The hundreds who signed the statement still cannot represent Ateneo as a university institution.

Despite its current progressive leadership, Ateneo as a total institution has yet to apologize for its accommodation of the dictatorship and its dismissal of idealistic activists during the presidency of Fr. Cruz, S.J.

It is high time the current Ateneo administration took this step. And it is high time all democrats took relentless action to thwart the revenge of the Marcoses.

In a way, the lack of decidedness, courage, and doggedness to completely destroy the remnants of the dictatorship has contributed to the Marcos comeback.

Let’s look at the counter-factual: What if Corazon Aquino’s revolutionary government adopted the policy of immediate confiscation of the Marcos wealth? What if Joker Arroyo did not give to a reactionary Congress the chance to dilute agrarian reform? What if we prevented the succeeding administrations — the Fidel Ramos and Estrada terms — from allowing the return of the Marcos family and cronies?

But in another way, the threat of Bongbong winning is a blessing in disguise. It gives us an opportunity — though the task is daunting — to sweep Bongbong and the Marcos family into the place where they truly belong: the ash heap of history.

Filomeno S. Sta. Ana III coordinates the Action for Economic Reforms.

This article was first posted on BusinessWorld last March 6, 2016.