Ileto’s rightward turn inevitable: Scholars, academics slam historian's essay

·2 min read
Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., the son of the late dictator, left, raises arms with Sara Duterte, the daughter of the current President Rodrigo Duterte, during their last campaign rally Saturday, May 7, 2022, in Parañaque City, Philippines. "Renowned historian" Reynaldo Ileto claimed in an essay that the 2022 Philippine elections was “an outcome of an ongoing clash of political narratives over the past 50 years.”. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila, File)

Several scholars and university professors criticized “renowned historian” Reynaldo Ileto’s essay published at the University of Melbourne.

In a tweet, Filipino scholar and Professor of History at the University of Washington, Dr. Vicente Rafael, said that Ileto’s essay “sidestepped” the brutality of both the Marcos Sr. and Duterte regime.

“The historian Rey Ileto goes all in on BBM just as he had with Duterte, side stepping the brutality and plunder under Marcos to recast him as an ‘independent’ nationalist defying the US, referring to lies in social media as ‘alternative narratives’,” Rafael said.

In a separate tweet, he then posted an article he wrote in 2014 linking Ileto’s earlier works to his rightward turn, effectively saying that this take from Ileto, although shocking, is not far-fetched.

Professor Ramon Guillermo of the University of the Philippines Diliman’s (UPD) Center for International Studies, who also once wrote a review of Ileto’s seminal work Pasyon and Revolution, said that a close reading of the book could clearly see Ileto’s tendency to an “authoritarian turn.”

“A careful reading of his fundamental work ‘Pasyon and Revolution’ (1979) will show his extremely tendentious representation of the Katipunan, which romanticizes a carefully curated and deliberately constructed image of the ‘folk’ completely detached from notions of ‘reason,’ ‘equality,’ and ‘rights’ (summarily disqualified as ‘Western’), leaves the author susceptible to all sorts of authoritarian temptations,” Guillermo said.

He then quoted his late mother, critic and cultural scholar Alice Guillermo, who wrote in her book “Covert Presence” that Ileto’s “ahistorical framework ill-suited to reckon with differences in political content and circumstances.”

Meanwhile, Professor Karlo Mikhail Mongaya of UPD’s Department of Filipino and Philippine Literatures said that what’s even more disappointing about Ileto’s essay “is the liberal use of historical distortions to forward his polemic.”

“Ileto rehashes Marcosian myths of martial rule as a ‘golden age,’ repackaging lies as ‘new information and ‘alternative readings.’ He problematically questions human rights abuses and plunder, and rebrands the Marcos as a “nationalist” strongman standing up to US policy,” Mongaya said in a tweet.

Marvin Joseph Ang is a news and creative writer who follows developments in politics, democracy, and popular culture. He advocates for a free press and national democracy. The views expressed are his own.

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