Forgiving Marcos

AMID the slogan chanting and horn blowing lies the energy of a youth concientized by their professors and parents who themselves were called to action 30 years ago, whose eyes were opened to the atrocities perpetrated for over 20 years by the dictator Marcos.

Many of those have expressed pride and joy over seeing the next generation in action. To their relief they see a ray of hope break through the wimpy angst and indifference that has marred the image of what has been labeled the generation of the millennial.


New EDSA rally on the day of the stealthy Marcos burial. Photograph shared on Facebook by Raffy Tima.

It seems that many of those young ones who hit the streets are from Catholic schools – though I’d like to avoid generalizing as it is a mere observation from my Facebook timeline –  or at least from some form of Christian upbringing. In such a case, where does the whole idea of forgiving Marcos come in?

Forgiveness, after all, is in the very core of Christian teaching and doctrine. From Christ’s own mouth and deed comes the essence of forgiveness, for after all his death – in fulfillment of scripture – lies the forgiveness of all mankind’s sins.

The Bible is overflowing with the subject of forgiveness:

And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses – Mark 11:25

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. – Ephesians 6:35

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. – 1 John 1:9

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven. – Matthew 18:21-22

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. – Mattew 6:14-15

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. – James 5:16

Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven – Luke 6:37

Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. – Colossians 3:13

And so on and so forth.

It is extremely difficult to forgive, especially if you feel you have not done anything wrong, or at least believe that whatever wrong you have done in your life will never compare to the massive sins that Marcos had inflicted on this country.

But what we must all remember that in the realm of Christian forgiveness is in our meeting with the ultimate judge, the Lord, when we finally leave this temporal world. And here’s the catch. True forgiveness only comes with atonement – not any crocodile tears or press releases of mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. True atonement from the heart, that only God can see.

In the meantime, back here on earth we are mandated to forgive, for that is what Christ calls us to do.

As a friend, educator and UP academic Dr. Risa Lansang-Reyes so aptly said:

As a professed Christian, I have decided to forgive Marcos in obedience to what Jesus commands. This does not alter the fact that he was a plunderer, dictator and human rights violator. I assume Jesus forgave Judas. This does not alter the fact that he was a thief and a traitor. A plunderer, dictator, and human rights violator cannot be a hero.

Forgive, yes. But not forget. No, not in terms of getting back at the Marcoses, but moving on beyond that focus of hate to the focus of love – love for our children, the next generation, our country. Harness all that energy of our youth out on the streets to change the ills of government, politics and society.

We vote for leaders – from the barangay, to municipal, to congress, to president – with true discernment. We brush away all vestiges of how much this will earn me today, but with their presented programs on how it will help the community and country.

We move on, not to escape from the past, but to push forward for real change – reform – and not be bogged down by temporal slogans and noise. We work and work hard for structural reforms in our political and economic system. We initiate reforms form our own, personal realms: from the way we work, our employment, our grocery shopping, preparing our tax returns, navigating horrendous traffic jams and commuting under the most trying circumstances…

The Marcoses must answer for and atone for their transgressions. And even if they don’t now, ultimately, they will.

Cursing the high heavens does not cut it. Neither does “don’t get mad, get even.” Indeed, the saying goes: that change is within us. And it all starts with forgiveness.

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