STATEMENT: An Open Letter to President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on the Marcos Burial at LNMB

Minahal nga Presidente Duterte,

We are Dabawenyos who are struggling with and problematizing the planned burial of Ferdinand Marcos Sr. at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (LNMB).

We are writing to you not only because of our long relationship with you as our former Mayor and Congressman, and our direct exposure to your leadership. Many of us voted for you last May 2016 elections; and even those who did not still want to engage you on this very important issue. More importantly, we are writing because we need to be heard on this matter, and Dabawenyos have always been engaged on matters of national concern.

We are struggling with the planned LNMB burial because of a growing sense of confusion mainly arising from our knowledge of and experiences with Marcos Sr.

Many in the Davao region suffered repression under his time—in one partial list alone over 100 individuals now deceased were killed or victimized for questioning Marcosian rule; countless more were harassed, illegally detained and tortured. The fiscal inequities, government neglect, graft and corruption, and resource drain from which Davao and the rest of Mindanao suffered were dramatized during the Marcos administration. Not only were these aspects of how Marcos plundered the nation, they were also part of the historical injustice of which you spoke during your first State of the Nation Address.

These Dabawenyos and their families who endured injustice, along with the estimated 3,257 killed, 35,000 tortured, 70,000 jailed and 737 missing in the rest of the country have yet to be fully honored for the sacrifices they made. Meanwhile Marcos Sr. and the Marcos family, who since 1986 have steadily been regaining power, influence and stature, and remain unapologetic and unrepentant, will gain from the exoneration that will occur sooner than later with a Marcos entombment at LNMB.

You were quoted as having said with respect to the issue during the election campaign, “it is time to move on, someone has got to give”.

The victims, survivors and their families have long made their sacrifices; they should not have to be subjected to further indignities, hurts and pains to appease only one family, and an elite one at that. Like your beloved mother Nanay Soling and other Dabawenyos who staunchly fought against the Marcos dictatorship, we would rather honor the victims, survivors and their families by standing with them.

We recall your vow to destroy the oligarchs in the Philippines whom you described as those who make money at the expense of the poor and peddle influence. Further privileging the Marcoses, who are themselves oligarchs and encouraged the full rapacity of the oligarchy during their time, is not consistent with this promise.

There are those who say that you are just honorably fulfilling a campaign promise. But a campaign promise to whom and for what? That you came out on top in Ilocos Norte with 103,394 votes will have to be contextualized within the larger reality that a total of 16 million Filipinos elected you on a comprehensive platform of, as you described it “malasakit. Tunay na pagbabago. Tinud-anay nga kausaban”.

It bears recalling that it is the Marcos family who has not fulfilled its agreement with then President Fidel V. Ramos for a quick burial of Marcos Sr in Ilocos Norte as part of the terms for allowing the return of his body from Hawaii in 1993.

We are disoriented about the rush with which the Marcos burial is being pursued. While we are familiar with your action-oriented leadership style, we also know that there are many other more compelling concerns and challenges that we face together in the first few months of your administration. Also, during the campaign you had described a process for resolving the issue: consult with martial law victims, submit the issue in a sort of consensus and then hold a plebiscite. At the very least, this process should be implemented.

We are problematizing the unintended and more disastrous consequences of an LNMB burial. Marcos Sr. is not only a former president and soldier, which others claim are enough for him to be buried there. He is also the symbol of massive injustices and the unreformed state of the Philippine justice system—of large-scale violence and systematic wrongdoing that continue to go unpunished.

For this unjust symbol to be knowingly and intentionally interred in a place laden with meanings of heroism is a form of doublespeak, and just plain wrong. Unfortunately, in this case burying Marcos in LNMB will not end it, if by “it” we mean confusion and discord over what we exalt and value by our actions and not just our words.

We are particularly concerned about what this would mean for our political culture and future.

Already, we are noting fanaticism for Marcos Sr among segments of our youth. While this might largely be explained by their experiences of alienation, and disenchantment with the many crises of our society, and the unmet challenge of effectively educating our people of the evils of authoritarian rule, this fanaticism would only be reinforced and fanned by a Marcos burial at the LNMB. It would also widen the divisions that you wanted to lay to rest in the first place.

In one of your campaign speeches you said “this is not about me. This is about the future of our children and the dignity of the Filipino people” which is a concern we share.

Instilling love of country and heroism among our children and the coming generations of Filipinos will be more difficult because even now we are hard-pressed to answer the blunt question raised by a young Dabawenya: “paano naging bayani ang isang diktador at magnanakaw?”

For indeed, how could we have easily given up on lofty ideals that inspire and are worthy of emulation which are supposed to be the spirit of an LNMB burial, and agreed to giving a free pass to a dictator, human rights violator, and plunderer under the minimalist and expedient criteria of soldier and former president?

We are convinced that the interment of Marcos Sr at the LNMB will do more harm than good not only for our people today, but for the Filipinos of the future, and is ill-advised.

We appeal to you to not unwittingly contribute to the agenda of the political rehabilitation and reinstatement of the Marcoses, and the tacit toleration of authoritarianism and repression.

On his deathbed Ferdinand Marcos Sr. expressed his desire to be buried beside his mother. Let us honor the wish of the departed and have him buried in their family crypt in Batac. He would not be the only former president of the Republic who is not buried at LNMB.

Ang among panawagan: ilubong si Marcos sa Libingan ng mga Marcos sa Batac!

Matinahuron,

KONSYENSYA DABAW (Hugpong Dabawenyo para LNMBatac)