Philippine activists slam attempt to change phrase ‘Marcos dictatorship’ in public curriculum

BenarNews staff
Philippine activists slam attempt to change phrase ‘Marcos dictatorship’ in public curriculum Philippine grade school students prepare for lessons in their classroom at the San Juan Elementary School in San Juan City, Aug. 22, 2022.
Gerard Carreon/BenarNews

Philippine activists have slammed the education department’s attempt to change the phrase “Marcos dictatorship” to just “dictatorship”  in public schools’ grade 6 curriculum, saying it would change the truth about martial law’s brutality under the current president’s late father.

The department’s curriculum bureau however insisted that removing the reference to the elder Ferdinand Marcos was only a recommendation and was not ordered by anyone.

The curriculum bureau issued a memorandum on Sept. 6 to an education undersecretary directing that the phrase “Diktadurang Marcos” (Marcos dictatorship) be changed to just “Diktadura” (dictatorship) in its Grade 6 social studies curriculum for public school students. 

The change was made “after the arduous process of review and revision was done under the guidance and scrutiny of experts, the review stakeholders and the public, and the launch of the [new] curriculum,” the memo said. 

On Sept. 21, 1972, the elder Marcos signed a proclamation placing the country under martial law. About 70,000 people were thrown in prison, 34,000 tortured and more than 3,200 killed during his term as president, according to Amnesty International. 

In addition, activists allege that the late president, his family and their cronies stole around $10 billion in public funds during his presidency, which lasted from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s and included 14 years of martial law.

The elder Marcos’ reign as president ended after a people’s power revolt in 1986. He died in exile in Hawaii in 1989.

Critics opposed the “distortion of truth” under Education Secretary Sara Duterte, who is also vice president. The daughter of former President Rodrigo Duterte, she contested the 2022 general election as President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s running mate.

“The department of education has no business doing that,” Loretta Rosales, a prominent martial law victim, said in a Sept. 12 radio interview. 

“You don’t distort the truth that takes place in history. We must restore what is true.” 

Opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros said it was important to preserve the historical record as it could be a guide to a better future.

“Memory and truth-telling are the cornerstones of justice. … There are things that shouldn’t be allowed to be rebranded,” Hontiveros said in a Sept. 12 statement. 

The move was “a clear strategy of the current administration to rehabilitate the dark history of the Marcos family,” said the group Congress of Teachers/Educators for Nationalism and Democracy.

“It is also a blatant example of disinformation, where the people are deliberately misled by manipulating historical facts,” the group said in a Sept. 9 statement. 

Several groups are set to hold protests in Manila on Sept. 21 to commemorate the 51st anniversary of the declaration of martial law.

15 PH-marcos-school2.jpg
Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. pays tribute to his late father and namesake on the 106th anniversary of his birth during a mass in Batac, Ilocos Norte, Sept. 11, 2023. [Presidential Communications Office]

‘No one ordered this’ 

The education department said the curriculum change decision came from within the department and was not a directive from any other office or agency,

“No one ordered this. It was a collective decision,” Jocelyn Andaya, director of the department’s Bureau of Curriculum Development, said in a radio interview on Sept. 12. 

She said the Marcos name would still be included in the lessons. 

“The Marcos name may not be in the title of the topic, but it’s in the lessons because, at the end of the day, our learners should be able to think critically about what really were the problems and challenges in the democracy at the time when martial law was declared,” she said. 

She also clarified that the Sept. 6 memo contained only recommendations, which would undergo a vetting process during the pilot implementation of the revised curriculum.

Sara Duterte said in an interview Sept. 12 that “it was the education experts who decided the direction in teaching.” 

However, veteran Rep. Edcel Lagman said the memo violated a 2013 law that recognizes the horrors of martial law and grants compensation to its victims. 

That law “mandates the [education department] and CHED (Commission on Higher Education) include in the curriculum from primary to tertiary education the atrocities of martial law under the dictator, Marcos Sr., and the heroism of the martial law victims of human rights violations,” Lagman said. 

In January, Marcos told the World Economic Forum (WEF) dialogue that he entered politics to cleanse his family’s name after the 1986 revolt ended his father’s almost two-decade term as president.

“[F]or us to defend ourselves politically, somebody had to enter politics and be in the political arena,” Marcos said in a dialogue with WEF President Børge Brende. 

“[N]ot only the legacy of my father but even our own survival required that somebody go into politics.”

Jeoffrey Maitem in Manila contributed to this report.


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