Lugar Lang | What would you have done?

I ADMIT it. I have failed you. I had the opportunity to change the course of events but I didn’t. I just sat there, imagining what I could do. By the end of dinner, I realized I never had any power in the first place in that situation. I sat in a restaurant in Bonifacio Global City at a table beside Imee Marcos for two hours and allowed her to live.

I confess I am still imagining what I could have done. I wanted at least to tell her, calmly, “Isoli mo ninakaw niyo,” referring to at least $13 billion the Marcoses had plundered from the country during the Marcos regime. Even though I know it wouldn’t have made her feel guilty and return any of their ill-gotten wealth, I wanted her to know that I was not on her side. But even when we bumped into each other at the restroom, I didn’t say anything. I was afraid.

In my passive-aggressive mode, I also wanted to take a photo with her to be able to turn it into a meme of protest. Or even steal a photo of her. But my companion wouldn’t allow it. She thought it would be embarrassing to be seen taking a photo with Imee Marcos. Come to think of it, she was right. If I wanted to make a meme, I could just download an existing photo. I didn’t have to stain my reputation. Instead we took 147 selfies of ourselves just to make the point that we didn’t want to take a photo with her. And that made her look. At least.

Being in that small space with the daughter of the dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos filled me with rage. I wanted to confront her about her blatant lie that she was “batang-bata” or too young to know anything during Martial Law. I wanted her to know that I knew she was 21 years old in 1977 when the college student Archimedes Trajano was tortured and beaten to death by her bodyguards after asking her a question about why she was chair of the Kabataang Barangay youth organization. I wanted to tell her there is no “moving on” for the thousands of human rights victims during her father’s Martial Law until justice is truly served. That no amount of compensation can give back the dignity of the more that 75,000 claimants documented by the Human Rights Claims Victims Board. And what of the more than 3,000 lives lost? Their family has not even acknowledged all these abuses, and they continue to exert efforts (and provide funds) to revise history.

She sat there, idly fiddling with her churros con chocolate and her smartphone, while in my head I recited the different brutal forms of torture employed by military interrogators: electrocution, water cure, dunking the head in a toilet bowl full of urine and excrement, hanging like a bridge between two cots and being beaten, being used as an ashtray, being made to lie naked on blocks of ice, rape, sexual degradation, solitary confinement, etc. I imagined her being made to suffer the whole boodle. I wondered if she would have felt true remorse for the Martial Law atrocities after that. I confess I didn’t think so. And it is clear to me that that is not what justice means.

I shot glances at her butch bodyguard across our table and I wondered what she would do if her boss were attacked with a table knife. But I don’t suppose that has ever happened. Imee Marcos has begun doing the rounds in the country, being the “guest of honor” at various commencement exercises spewing empty speeches about nation-building and peace, and no one has ever attacked her. Lately she even went around a market in Quezon City, pretending it was within her jurisdiction to inspect prices. I wonder what her security did to all the butchers’ knives in the area.

I am sorry I didn’t do anything in that restaurant. This piece is my way of rectifying it. After all, this is the only way I really know how to fight back. Please don’t vote for her when she runs for the Senate. #NeverAgain

(Source: Robles, Raissa. Marcos Martial Law. Never Again. Quezon City: Filipinos For a Better Philippines, Inc. 2016.)
Follow or message me on Twitter @jhoannalynncruz

Posted in Opinion