The dream of a benevolent dictator

By: Raymund Fernandez November 29,2016 - 08:36 PM

There is a reason why a superhero like Batman or Spiderman don’t run for president. They know: “With great power comes great responsibility.” And political offices like the presidency of any country, even ours, would simply not be compatible with the sort of vigilantism required of superheroes. Such political power coupled with what extra powers superheroes have would be too much. It would turn heroes into villains. Which is why only super villains seek political power. It’s usually the job of superheroes to see to it that super villains are foiled in the end.

It is the logic of history. And what better proof do we have of it than that old villain, the great dictator, Ferdinand E. Marcos? My father talked about him way back in 1969 when he won the presidency against Cebuano candidate Serging Osmeña, then our best hope for a Cebuano to become president. People thought Marcos was some sort of genius. They thought this even as they saw how Marcos both stole and bought the elections. Cheating and vote buying was everywhere. But that was how elections were won or lost back then. And for the oldies, it takes a lot of power to be able to do that. Every president was for them some sort of superhero. And on this superhero they lay all their hope and dreams. And so it was with Marcos.

But as things turned out, whatever goodness Marcos had would quickly fall into a simple malevolent lust for power. Back then, Philippine presidents only had four-year terms. When Marcos’ term was almost ending in 1972, he declared martial law. His reason was that this was the only way we could fight communism and bring about great progress through the establishment of a “New Society.” And so Marcos proposed the idea that if we gave him all the power he needed by surrendering our freedoms, especially the freedom to criticize him, he would make our country more disciplined and we would all progress.

And no wonder that many Filipinos at that time agreed with him. They thought a strong superhero like Marcos could solve all the problems of our country, since it seemed a clear fact that we were undisciplined. And so the Filipinos gave him all the power he wanted thinking they would all benefit in the end. But what happened instead was that Marcos and those closest to him would grow mad with their power. They borrowed as much money as they could from the World Bank in order to build infrastructures like highways and great bridges. But, of course, they would get millions of pesos of kickbacks from these projects. Our children’s children will still be paying for these loans. The Marcoses became one of the richest families in the world, showing off their wealth even while our country got poorer and poorer.

And, of course, many of the older Filipinos turned a blind eye to this. Especially since quite a number of them also benefited. But many young people saw what was really happening. They protested against Marcos. But since the superhero Marcos had become a super-corrupt dictator, what he did with many who protested was to send them to jail. Many were tortured or made to disappear so that we don’t know what really happened to them. One of them was my friend, Fr. Rudy Romano. They were victims of martial law. There were so many of them, all their names would not fit this page.

It was only in 1986, after they killed Ninoy Aquino, that people could simply not take any more. We rose up in a peaceful revolution called the People Power Revolution in the streets, but most of all at Edsa. Ordinary people risked their lives by putting themselves in front of tanks and armed soldiers. There was a stand-off until the soldiers themselves decided they would not kill their fellow Filipinos and decided to help the people unseat Marcos. They would have jailed them if only the Americans did not send a plane to fly the Marcoses to Hawaii.

It is important for us to remember this, especially now when some people once again dream of their president, Rodrigo Duterte, becoming their superhero and great dictator. It is an old and stupid dream. And history has shown us what happens when we think it is possible to have a benevolent dictator solve our problems for us. We should be our own superheroes. Only we can solve our problems. There are no shortcuts to making our country better. It can be done only by persistent hard work done through many years of helping each other under a democratic system where our freedoms and rights are guaranteed. With great power comes great responsibility. Without it, every superhero becomes a pitiful villain.

Subscribe to our regional newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.
Read Next

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of Cebudailynews. We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

TAGS: Batman, Cebuano, cheating, country, dictator, discipline, election, Elections, Ferdinand Marcos, Filipino, freedom, Hawaii, Marcos, martial law, new society, Osmeña, Philippine, Philippines, political, politician, politics, power, President, problem, protest, responsibility, serging osmeña, spiderman, undisciplined, vigilante, vigilantism, villain, vote buying

Subscribe to our regional newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and
acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.