Commentary: Once more? Never again

Democracy is in danger under a new Marcos regime. Now, more than ever, it is our time to take action, in whichever form we can, like the Lasallians before us.

Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has won in a historic landslide election. What once was an unenviable possibility is now a chilling reality.

Through an unprecedented democratic mandate, the Filipino people had effectively granted the Marcoses permission to reclaim Malacañang, the site of their greatest humiliation 36 years ago. Overnight, the world watched Southeast Asia’s oldest democracy upend itself. The Marcos dynasty, who portrayed themselves as victims of their political enemies, have completed their decades-long redemption arc.

From the political beginnings of Marcos Sr. to the eve of his son’s presidential bid, the Marcoses have long fancied themselves as masters of their destiny, crafting lies that positioned them as history’s tragic heroes. For years, the lies kept coming—on broadsheets, in books, and, for the past decade, all over social media.

When May 9 ultimately arrived, history was rewritten. The election proved seminal; it was an affirmation of a new status quo—one where the distorted historical narrative prevails.

Marcos Jr. has never acknowledged nor apologized for his family’s crimes, that much is true. Time and again, he has denied they happened and eluded any and every attempt of the Filipino people to reclaim the billions looted from our coffers. Once he assumes power, the Presidential Commission on Good Government—the very office tasked to retrieve his family’s ill-gotten wealth—will be at his beck and call. Martial Law victims, now on the verge of living under yet another Marcos presidency, may never get their compensation.

“Judge me not by my ancestors, but by my actions,” he said.

Indeed, Marcos Jr. is not like his father, that much is also true. He has neither a college degree nor a decorated political career to his name. Onstage, he exudes neither charisma nor wit. Behind a debate podium, he is nowhere to be found. How he will face the people or run the country as chief executive remains a mystery. Yet, to some 31 million people, he was still the best choice for president.

But those voters are not our enemy. As disheartening as the result is, we must remain level-headed. We must not blame our fellow Filipinos for how the elections ended. We must engage them in civil discussions and continue to support them in honest causes. After all, our fight is ultimately their fight, too. It is a fight for all Filipino people.

We should not lose heart at the sight of defeat. More than 20 million voters still rejected the Marcos scion, with 15 million backing his closest rival. Though outnumbered, this sizable contingent represents a movement that showed how a volunteer-driven campaign can come together for a common cause.

Election day may have already passed, but the battle is far from over. Already, our countrymen are taking to the streets—most of whom are from the youth, some first-time voters. We did not live under the brutal regime of Marcos Sr., but we are not blind to the undeniable fact that innumerable atrocities happened. And so falls on us the responsibility of ensuring the memories of its victims are not forgotten. 

Democracy is in peril, but it is not dead so long as good people continue to fight for it. Beset once more by a restless political climate, Lasallians must make a choice: answer the call to partake in the fight to protect democracy, or sit passively on the sidelines. Our history as an educational institution shows us the path has always been clear. 

We must take action, whatever form such action will take. Just as many Lasallians have before us, we have a role to play in nation-building, whether it is through words or deeds. We push forward not only to honor our forebears who fought and died for the liberties we have today but also to ensure these liberties carry on beyond our children’s generation.

The LaSallian, like many student newspapers, was stifled by censorship and threats of indefinite closure under Martial Law. But it remained unwavering in its pursuit of truth and justice, at times even critiquing what it perceived as a lack of political consciousness in its readership. The publication had once adopted a slogan in honor of its author, the late Philippine Collegian editor in chief and Martial Law victim Ditto Sarmiento. Today, it once again serves as a rallying cry.

Kung ‘di tayo kikibo, sino ang kikibo? Kung ‘di tayo kikilos, sino ang kikilos? Kung hindi ngayon, kailan pa?

(If we do not speak up, who will speak up? If we do not act, who will act? If not now, when?)

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