GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 10 Aug 2016) – President Rodrigo R. Duterte, with due respect to the 16 million Filipinos who elected him, has approved and authorized the burial of the disgraced President Ferdinand E. Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Cemetery of Heroes) but his autocratic act is wrong. No amount of tough words and rationalizing can correct the wrong.
Mr. President, ordering that the disgraced President Marcos must lie with the heroes of the land just to fulfill your election promise to the Marcoses and the Ilocano voters is ramming the sentiments of the Marcoses and the Ilocanos against the sensibilities of the majority of the Filipinos including those who voted for you. It is autocracy bullying democracy.
Mr. President, as reported by the Philippine Daily Inquirer and The Philippine Star, you dismissed the impending protests with a dare to the would-be protesters, “Go ahead … they can demonstrate all they want. They can decide if it would be one month for as long as they do not deny public access to roads … I will grant you permit”. That frankness should be properly respected but it can be misunderstood as being bullyesque.
Mr. President, the Inquirer quoted you, “As a former soldier and former President of the Philippines, I see nothing wrong in having Marcos buried at Libingan ng mga Bayani,” with your assurance that the “burial at Libingan is provided by law”. The Star also quoted you in the same vein. That’s being most cavalier about a president’s betrayal of his country and people.
Whatever privilege and right under the law Mr. Marcos had, he forfeited by his betrayal. As a lawyer and former prosecutor, Mr. President, you must be aware of the principle of entitlement and default.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines stated the following after the list of those qualified to be buried at the Libingan: “However, those who have been dishonorably discharged from service, or personnel convicted of an offense involving moral turpitude, do not qualify for interment at the cemetery.” How does Mr. Marcos stand in view of this disqualifying clause? By inference, the disqualification applies to all.
Mr. President, as Inquirer also reported, your comment “on criticisms that Marcos was never a hero-soldier as claimed”, was that “it was the contrary” … that “seven sources would say he was a soldier while only one would dispute it”. That is taking for granted the intelligence of the opposition to your wishes and order.
It is your “comment”, not the “criticisms”, that “was to the contrary”. For the moment, only you say that Mr. Marcos was a “soldier-hero” against seven. As Rappler.com reported, your running mate, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano and your PDP-Laban president, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, don’t consider Mr. Marcos a hero; so do four House representatives. The National Historical Commission says Mr. Marcos’s “record as a World War II soldier is ‘fraught with myths, factual inconsistencies, and lies’.”
Mr. President, by your order, you are denying Mr. Marcos’ betrayal of his country and people. That is the core of the opposition to the burial of Mr. Marcos at the Libingan by the victims of martial law and their relatives, of the majority you have silenced and of the minority that you have not. At the moment no pleadings from the opposition can change your mind; nevertheless, let’s hear them hoping that you will listen.
Vice President Leonor Robredo (philstar.com, August 8, 2016): “We strongly oppose the decision to bury former President Ferdinand Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani.” She pleaded:
“How can we allow a hero’s burial for a man who has plundered our country and was responsible for the death and disappearance of many Filipinos? Those who have greatly committed crimes and moral turpitude to the Filipino people cannot be buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani.” The plunder was not a mere allegation. The government has already recovered some of the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses and their cronies.
“This decision will not bring unity to our country; it will only deepen the unhealed wounds of the survivors and family members of victims of the terrible years under [the] Marcos presidency.”
“Furthermore, his heirs continue to deny that these sins against our people happened. They continue to have no remorse and still prevent the return of the wealth that they stole.”
Senate President Protempore Franklin Drilon (philstar.com, August 8, 2016), asking President Duterte to reconsider Marcos burial: “At this point in the history of our country where Filipinos are starting to hope again, what our nation need is unity in order for our country to succeed socially, economically and politically. Hence, such a sensitive issue would not help but only divide our people and reopen the wounds of the past that up to now, were not completely healed.”
Senate President Aquiline Pimentel III, PDP-Laban president, and Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, Duterte’s running mate (Rappler.com, August 8, 2016), separately stated:
Pimentel: “If I were president, I would not allow it. I don’t consider him a hero. Ayun lang, di ako president. (But I am not president.) We will respect the decision of the President.”
Cayetano: He granted Marcos “had heroic moments during his life. But we do not consider it totality heroic because of the things that happened in martial law. Unless we change the name [of Libingan ng mga Bayani] to Cemetery of Heroes and Dictators, then we would not have problems.”
As staunch supporters, Pimentel and Cayetano alike respect the decision of Duterte. That they have openly came out shows they are sincerely against the burial although it is just a polite, timid, subdued expression of disagreement.
In the House of Representatives (Rappler.com, PM, August 08, 2016) four out of almost 300 lawmakers stood up against Duterte.
Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin: “Burying Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani is tantamount to burying the numerous atrocities he committed under his authoritarian regime.”
He urged the Duterte administration to review the decision as it may send a “wrong signal” concerning social justice. “The burial issue is a governance issue as this concerns how we judge the Marcos government. It has been proven that Marcos led a corrupt, brutal, and dictatorial rule that impoverished our people and nation.”
Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate: Marcos’ remains should stay in Batac, Ilocos Norte. “We should not allow the unrepentant Marcoses to use the burial issue in advancing their revisionist lies on the blood-drenched legacy of the dictator. No amount of embellishment can whitewash the plunder, terror, and grave human rights violations perpetrated during the reign of Marcos, a dictator and certainly not a bayani (hero)!”
Ifugao Representative Teddy Brawner Baguilat Jr: He has a brother, a cousin and an uncle buried at the Libingan. He said they are all heroes who fought not only war to free the country but also corruption. He could not reconcile with the thought of how Marcos would make all the heroes turn in their graves.
He laments: “Now we’re burying a dictator who plundered our economy, who made corruption a lifestyle. We’re giving full military honors to a president who suppressed freedoms, jailed, and tortured those who fought our freedoms, allowed killing of human rights defender and activists. We seem to equate moving on with forgetting the evils of martial law and extolling those who perpetuated it. Sad.”
Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman: He was set to deliver a privilege speech against the transfer of Marcos’ remains on Tuesday, August 9.
Mr. President, the opposition from the Vice President, three senators two of them your staunch supporters and four lawmakers from the House reported above, as well as from the victims of martial law and their relatives who you’ve dared to demonstrate may be summarized briefly: plunder, corruption, violation of human rights and suppression of freedom – a historic betrayal by a president of the country and people he had sworn to protect.
Your purposes in ordering the burial of Mr. Marcos at the Libingan are (1) to give him the honor due to him as a soldier-hero and President; and, (2) to unite the country so that we could move on. They sound noble but are fallacies. You either don’t see or refuse to see the fallacies because seeing could make you reconsider your election promise to the Marcoses and the Ilocano voters.
In your State of the Nation Address, you said, obviously to emphasize your fight against corruption, breach of law, etc: “Lest I be misunderstood, let me say clearly, that those who betrayed the people’s trust shall not go unpunished and they will have their day in Court. And if the evidence warrants, they will have their day of reckoning too.”
Yet, you are honoring the most corrupt president in our history with burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
You also said, obviously to justify your drug war: “Human rights must work to uplift human dignity. But human rights cannot be used as a shield or an excuse to destroy the country – your country and my country.”
You are right. Drug dehumanizes, destroying human dignity. It destroys the country. Drug lords and their traffickers when apprehended invoke their human rights to subvert justice and to continue their trade that destroys the country.
Mr. Marcos’ human rights violations had nothing to do with drugs. But he had thousands tortured, killed or caused to disappear. As president, his violations of human rights were historic betrayal of the country and people he was sworn to protect.
Yet, you are honoring the worst violator of human rights among presidents with burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
Mr. President, no one else but only you can rectify your contradictions.
Incidentally, before finally editing this article early this morning, we scanned the Inquirer and other media on-line for latest related development. In the Inquirer story, “Rody wants issue buried but it just refuses to die”, more lawmakers and groups are gearing up to seriously challenge up to the Supreme Court Marcos’ burial at the Libingan. Let’s watch events in the next four weeks. In Pilipino, Abangan![Author’s Note: Mind da News, the alternate of COMMENT, is a comment on current news. The author may be contacted at [email protected].]