“The truth remains as it is and is there for anyone willing to come to terms with it.”
We generally expect families to stand up for their own even when they are wrong, so it is heartwarming to know that Wanna Ver, in a recent interview with Rappler, found the facts too overwhelming for her to continue believing the stories she was told as a child.
In the history of epiphanies, her coming to terms with her father General Fabian Ver’s actions to perpetuate the Marcos dictatorship is one most welcome and appreciated.
Similarly, Lila Shahani, niece of President Fidel V. Ramos, also a general and chief of Marcos’ constabulary and his second cousin, has written her thoughts on her uncle’s legacy and human rights violations that happened under his watch.
Shahani, daughter of the late senator Leticia Ramos Shahani, said that in her research, she found that her uncle “FVR must have had an idea about what was happening under his watch, but he did not directly order, let alone orchestrate, torture sessions, unlike General Ver, Marcos’ chief henchman. This was eventually corroborated by official documents in the human rights class action suit against Marcos in Hawaii, where Ver is explicitly named, among others.”
According to Wanna Ver, she was told growing up that the Philippines had needed martial law to fight communism and poverty. She believed Marcos Sr. brought positive transformation to the country.
Later, she came to read other accounts of the era and meet survivors of the human rights abuses of the time. This gave her a clearer view of historical facts undistorted by personal agenda and justification.
“Before watching it, the data on human rights violations were names on a page, numbers on a graph,” Wanna said.
“After seeing the interviews of [human rights victims] Hilda Narciso, Etta Rosales, and May Rodriguez, they turned into real people to me. They had been harmed and continue to suffer from the abuses of my father’s regime. It was the human rights survivors that made me finally realize that the Marcos’ Golden Age history was a fabrication.”
Under the weight of this knowledge, Ver offers apologies in behalf. “I feel like a million sorries is not enough. I needed to learn the truth of what happened so I could tell a different story, to help those without a voice to tell their story…because of the role my father played in their suffering.”
Meanwhile, Shahani’s account relates the heinous atrocities perpetrated upon several victims of that regime. She found a report from 1983 on a farmer from Davao del Sur, Buenaventura Tampipi, “who had been found earlier that year with a four-inch nail protruding from his head.
“The report continued: ‘The shank of the nail was driven straight back into his brain above and directly between his eyes. Mr. Tampipi was paralyzed on the right side of his body and unable to speak.’” He eventually died of his wounds.
Shahani goes on: “What of Dr. Johnny Escandor of the Philippine General Hospital, who was found dead in early 1983 with dirty rags, socks, soiled briefs, and plastic wrapping inside his cranial cavity? The pathologist who performed the autopsy could not even write a histopathology report down and, to this day, remains too fearful to be interviewed.”
The Marcos years, far from being the golden age that many claim it to be, were among the darkest days of our country. Martial law, meant to stem the tide of communism, was misused as an excuse to hunt down dissidents. Any accomplishments made during that era can in no degree mitigate the excesses perpetrated by the abusers.
The infrastructure development and other gains that many point to as redounding to Marcos Sr.’s credit are only the bare minimum of his responsibility and obligation to the nation as a public servant and elected official. They are not offshoots of his magnanimity or personal generosity – they were his job.
This is not to say that a Bongbong Marcos presidency will turn out to be the same as Marcos Sr.’s; as many of his supporters say, the sins of the father should not be visited upon the son. But for many who grew up in the shadows of his father’s administration, apologies for their suffering never came. Wanna Ver is giving one apology at a time. Lila Shahani is fervently researching and revealing the truth.
But as Marcos Jr. said in the ‘Kingmaker’ documentary, “What am I to say sorry about?” He still claims, Shahani wrote, that “torture did not happen” under his father’s leadership.
His remark speaks volumes about his character and values. And while historical narratives may be distorted by lies and fabrications, fake news and loud misleading and misled discourse, the truth remains as it is and is there for anyone willing to come to terms with it and reality, as Wanna Ver and Lila Shahani have.
*** FB and Twitter: @DrJennyO