Context

We do not live in a vacuum.

Back when I was in high school, a priest asked our Religion class what we thought of this: if God was all-knowing and sees what we eventually be, would He still permit someone like Hitler to exist? I honestly don’t recall what I thought at the time but his answer has stuck with me through the ages. He said that even knowing that someone like Hitler was going to cause such death and misery for an entire world, God would still allow him to exist because somewhere along the way, Hitler would also be able to do good, or cause others to do good.

From that time on, that has been my way of viewing people: no one is 100% good or bad, ever. Everyone is capable of doing good and evil, and even people we consider as “bad” like say Stalin or Hitler have done some good for some. The lives of the saints show us that there are things in their lives we would consider bad, evil even, but somehow, somewhere they still do manage to do good. For most, however, the good is lost or forgotten given the attention given to the bad they do but its somewhere out there, and there will be people out there who would know that. “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones” (William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar).

So, when I hear that Toni Gonzaga interviewed Bong Bong Marcos, son of the late Ferdinand Marcos, on what he learned from his father, or what his father taught him, that was still how I viewed it. Someone that many in the Philippines consider a very bad man because of the Martial Law years could still have done good for his family. To them, as in most families, they would have simply viewed him as their father or spouse as the case may be.

He may have also done good for others. Many in the North consider him a great man who has improved their lives. I have a professor in college who will always be grateful to his family because they helped defray medical expenses of her mother. So, yes, I am sure he, and his family, was able to do good.

So, what was wrong with Ms Gonzaga’s interview? What was so wrong in highlighting what good the late President did, or see him in a different light? Nothing, and everything.

It has so much meaning to so many people: on the one hand, it is a feel-good piece. On the other, it glosses over truly terrible things suffered by so many. Personally, I think it needed context. Ms Gonzaga should have told her audience who Ferdinand Marcos was, not just to his family, especially his son who she was going to interview, but also to the many victims of the Martial Law regime of Ferdinand Marcos. This should not be seen separately but in connection with all that was known of the man who was President at the time of the Martial Law years. One or two lines wouldn’t do it. It had to be carefully explained to all would be listeners; otherwise, this was just what the critics call it: propaganda for the upcoming elections.

In the end, it’s her project. She says she doesn’t have to explain herself, and maybe she really doesn’t have to, in which case it will be up to the rest of us to remind everyone that whatever was said and done was only part of the story and there is much more to the man who taught his son whatever it is he thinks he did. We are not without our own abilities including the right to criticize her piece, and show everyone all the other parts that was forgotten.

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