VICE-President (VP) and Education Secretary Sara Duterte-Carpio on Tuesday said her agency was not seeking to revise Philippine history by rebranding the martial law regime of the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos.
“As the Education secretary, it is not part of my mandate to ruin the integrity of our history,” she said in a statement. The Department of Education (DepEd) is preoccupied with education programs and does not have time for historical revisionism, she added.
“DepEd is not in the business of erasing these facts and replacing them with something else.”
Ms. Carpio, who teamed up with the late dictator’s son for the top two government posts in the May elections, issued the statement after reports that martial rule was being reintroduced in schools as the “period of the New Society.”
A senior high school student from Marinduque island earlier posted on social media, including a photo of a DepEd module, that her class was being taught to call the dictatorship from 1972 to 1981 the “period of the New Society.”
Ms. Carpio said the terms New Society and martial law involve “historical facts” that have been used “within their proper context” in DepEd textbooks since 2000.
She accused critics of using the agency to incite feelings against the dictator’s martial rule.
“The period of the New Society started on Sept. 21, 1972,” according to a copy of the module obtained by BusinessWorld.
During that period, “newspapers donned new forms.” “News on economic progress, discipline, culture, tourism and the like were favored more than the sensationalized reporting of killings, rape and robberies.”
More than 70,000 people were jailed, about 34,000 were tortured and more than 3,000 people died under martial rule, according to Amnesty International. The dictator shuttered television stations, newspapers and radio stations.
The Marcoses have been accused of living lavishly in the Philippine presidential palace while Filipinos suffered from a collapsing economy, which declined by 7.3% in 1984 and 1985.
“It is a historical fact that New Society refers to the program launched by former President Ferdinand Marcos, Sr. during his administration,” Ms. Carpio said. “And it is another historical fact that martial law refers to the 14-year rule of the former president.”
Michael Henry Ll. Yusingco, a policy analyst, said the “obvious misrepresentation” of the martial law period “warrants a congressional investigation.” “This matter is very serious because it involves the education of young Filipinos,” he said in a Facebook Messenger chat.
Arjan P. Aguirre, a political science professor at the Ateneo de Manila University, said there should be “a proper investigation about what happened and a quick and appropriate correction of the error made in the module.”
He said the public should be informed about revisionist attempts “especially now that our democratic ideals, institutions and practices are being undermined by political forces that aim to have more control.”
“It may not be a surprise if the current DepEd secretary will not do anything for now,” Maria Ela L. Atienza, a political science professor at the University of the Philippines, said in a text message.
Different groups and political players want to change history books to paint the dictatorship in a better light, she said.
“There are also political elites and petty bureaucrats who want to win favors from the current leadership and they think changing modules may be one way,” she added, noting that there are also groups standing up against attempts to distort history. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza and Matthew Carl L. Montecillo