Marcos at Libingan ng mga Bayani

Imelda Marcos kissing the glass coffin of the preserved and decorated corpse of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Paoay, Ilocos, Norte, Philippines.

In a recent article from the Philippine Daily Inquirer after the second Presidential Debates, I read Duterte’s reasons why he is in favor for the late dictator President Ferdinand Marcos to be interred at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

Among them, I would like to dispute the following:

  1. Because the Ilocanos consider Ferdinand Marcos as a hero and that somehow “someone’s gotta give” about the issue.
  2. That the burial of President Marcos will allow the nation to heal.

Setting aside Duterte’s braggadocio and opinions which always try to be sincere to be typical of a no non-sense crime fighter, both statements came out inherently flawed. First, not all Ilocanos consider Ferdinand Marcos as a hero. President Fidel Ramos is Ilocano and has worked closely with the President Marcos and has had the powers to inter the former president at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, but he did not. To consider Marcos a hero and to oppose the crimes committed by his person and his regime, simply do not jibe. And we need a president to continue prosecuting the Marcoses for the irreversible crimes they have committed to the Filipino people.

Over the years there has been a reassessment or, some say, a revisionist tide, favoring the accomplishments of the Marcos regime as reflected by ill-informed individuals who have the propensity to display their ignorance on social media. Historians may have a more sober opinion, but none of them if they still have some self-respect will dispute the human rights violations, the wrecking of the Philippine economy, and the Marcos family’s ill-gotten wealth. All of those are in court records. The only reason, why the Marcoses are not in jail is because the government is negotiating for them to return the ill-gotten wealth and in many of the cases, the family members are not the primary respondents.

It is in the natural interest of the Marcos family to have President Ferdinand Marcos buried in the Libingan to diminish the negative image brought on by their their convictions. But let us not be deceived, they are convicted thieves. (as recorded in that New York Times article). The interest therefore is not simply to fight for what one former president deserves but what would be etched in our national memory.

Why Duterte wants to give the place of honor to Ferdinand Marcos is telling of his stance against corruption and traditional politics. That he would rather have the victims of human rights abuses to give in (in other words to compromise) to the ulterior motives of the Marcoses proves he has less regard for the overwhelming will of the people, as enduringly manifested  when they marched through EDSA in February 1986. The late “strongman” extended his term unlawfully, faked his military records to gain a medal of valor (the highest military honor of the republic), and amassed for himself billions of dollars of offshore and escrow accounts. Imelda Marcos’s shopping spree in Saks Fifth Avenue, the legendary collection of shoes, and unbelievable art collection (Titian, Rembrandt, Monet, and Delacroix are among the works still kept in her possession) have earned her a dictionary entry for a kind of vanity so unspeakable it can only be compared to hers. Marcos was kicked out of the country for many reasons, not the least of them because the people think, they have brought shame to the Filipino nation.

Duterte takes a more alarming tone in this statement:

“I said we need to unite this country. Then I would submit it, a sort of a consensus and then a plebiscite. Then I will decide what is best for this country.”

While it seems only just of him to subject such decisions to public vote, he forgot or does not care at all about the cost of deciding where to bury one dead man. It has costed New Zealand roughly seventeen million dollars to decide via plebiscite if they wanted to adopt a new design for their flag. One can only imagine, how much it would cost the Filipinos to settle an issue of less importance. Duterte toys with the idea of democracy as if it works as simply as putting a bullet through one’s head. You cannot draw your gun every time someone disagrees with your “judgement”. Duterte fails to mention, that our republic has installed a system for deciding things like this: through the two houses of congress. Why go through a plebiscite right away and why not let our solons propose it on the senate floor if this issue is a concern of the people? The statement shows a lack of understanding on how democracy works and a bloated image of one’s self righteousness “I will decide what’s best for this country.” Let us remember that Duterte’s mandate, if he wins and if ever, we are to believe the surveys will only come from 25% of the entire population. Duterte’s decisions might echo the sentiments of the majority of Ilocanos or his rabid supporters but it does not prove that what he commands is necessarily what’s best for the nation.

Duterte perhaps sees himself too much in the image and likeness of the late dictator, so widely admired for his own personal mythology that he sees the need to foreshadow his own actions in light of his treatment of a fellow despot. The point he is trying to send across is that while Marcos may have been a deplorable human rights violator like him, he deserves a heroes burial anyway. The argument that he is for unity and healing is preposterous without a call for justice. Duterte needs to acknowledge that even if Marcos was a great man in the eyes of the majority (which he is not), even the cry for justice of one is enough to withhold honors at the national pantheon.

The process of memorializing our dead greats at the Libingan ng mga Bayani follows a strict protocol patterned after the US conduct of a state funeral to guide our politicians so they can go beyond their personal inclinations. Not all presidents have been granted a state funeral and not everyone apparently have been given a place at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. While it is true that Marcos is dead and cannot do much harm if he were buried there, what this implies for our nation’s culture infested with impunity will be catastrophic. Mr. Duterte’s view of the nation is skewed because of his lack of understanding of the spirits that propel its existence, chief among them are the spirits of the 1896 revolution, and of EDSA people power which continue to define the political landscape up to this moment. In 1896 and in EDSA of 1986, the so-called heroes who have potentially committed an injustice to their comrades have not been honored nationally.

Contrary to his opinion, opting to bury a disputable late president in his hometown has been the favored and more unifying option. Let’s compare the insistence of the Marcos family and politicos like Rodrigo Duterte to the fate of President Emilio Aguinaldo, revolutionary hero and first president of the republic. (one who actually engaged his enemies and not invented them for backpay). Consider this:

On May 9, 1962, the US House of Representatives rejected Philippine claims for an additional $73 million payment for the destruction wrought by American forces in World War II. In retaliation, President Diosdado Macapagal changed the celebration of Independence Day from July 4 to June 12. Aguinaldo regarded this as the greatest victory of the Revolution of 1896. He rose from his sickbed to attend the celebration of independence 64 years after he declared it.

Macapagal recalled, “While we were seated at the grandstand during the ceremonies, General Aguinaldo thanked me again for the rectification of an erroneous historical practice and then asked: ‘When will there be an Aguinaldo monument at the Luneta like that of Rizal?’  Macapagal could not answer the question. The next generation might have the answer.”

(reposted from this website by Arnaldo Dumindin in verbatim)

Why was Emilio Aguinaldo not allowed such honor? We can surmise that it was Aguinaldo’s personal responsibility in the execution of Katipunan Supremo Andres Bonifacio and the assassination of General Antonio Luna. Unless, questions of his involvement are squarely resolved in the courts of justice and in public opinion, it will be an uneasy move to have Emilio Aguinaldo buried in the same manner as Rizal (who is buried in the capitol). Aguinaldo, who is a revered personality in Cavite, then and now, would have to be content with where he is. All of the other candidates have no qualms burying Marcos in his own shrine (he already has one) but not at the expense of a government he has already taken so much from.

Like Aguinaldo, unless Marcos is cleared of any responsibility from the killings of what would have been our natural cycle of leaders, his interment at the Libingan will only cause further divisiveness. I will invoke the names of the following heroes: Benigno Aquino, Jr., Edgar Jopson, and Evelio Javier.

I would like Rodrigo Duterte to tell the Filipino outright that the deaths of our heroes Aquino, Jopson, and Javier should be sacrificed for the sake of the late dictators burial at the Libingan.

While Aquino’s death is still the stuff of conspiracy theories, the very fact that one strongman cannot guarantee the safety of a former Senator, much more his fraternity brother, will put to question the kind of ‘heroism’ that Marcos displayed while he sat as President. It is not clear who gave the marching orders but the involvement of the military in the assassination has long been established. For a president with an unparalleled command of the military, as a true hero, would he have done something to prevent the murder of a Senator, his fraternity brod, a good man?

Rodrigo Duterte should also reconsider, for the sake of Edgar Jopson who worked and died in his beloved Davao City as a mass worker in the underground during Martial Law. Edjop who was a mild social democrat turned radical in the face of a ruthless dictatorship. An Atenean, born to a well-to-do family, he served the cause of the revolution in Mindanao at the expense of his own bourgeoisie comfort.

In 1981, with a P180,000 prize on his head, making him then one of the most wanted persons in the country, Jopson simply went on with his work; he went to Mindanao, learning and writing, developing insights into the unique characteristics that shaped the region’s history and present situation. On September 20, 1982, he was captured during a military raid in Davao City, shot while trying to escape, taken alive, brought to the military camp and interrogated. He refused to “cooperate” and was summarily executed the following day. He was 34 years old.

Tell us Rody, what is so heroic about forcing the hopeful and idealistic student activists to radicalize? What is so heroic about his summary execution? His murder?

Evelio Javier, who was elected governor of Antique at the age of 29, served as Corazon Aquino’s campaign manager in 1986. At the time of his death, Javier represented the new face and future of democracy, when gentlemen of his intellect, and integrity would rule over the nation.

But five days after the snap presidential elections in 1986, Javier was shot dead by hooded men in broad daylight and less than 100 meters away from the provincial capitol where election returns were being canvassed and tallied. The first volley wounded Javier but the assassins were able to corner and finish him off some distance away.

What kind of hero is Marcos who cannot even prevent his men to stand down and let the people excercise their freedom to choose their leaders? What kind of hero, allows the murder of Javier and many others under his watch?

The general rule of thumb in heroes burials is that you do not have to ask for it. If the people really consider you their hero, then there’s no use lobbying or begging for it. I would suppose, even Marcos himself would not have stuck his neck out for a plot in the Libingan. That’s just not his style. With the kind of imagination that made a Mt. Rushmore out of the La Union ramparts, he must’ve imagined entire parks even cities named and built in his honor. But Alas! There were bigger heroes than Marcos during those times who deserve the honor of being buried in our national pantheon, of being named high schools for, cities, and parks. Mr. Marcos, with whatever good he has done, would be last on the list with these giants.

Nakakahiya naman sa kanila! That we waste so much time and resources for Mr. Marcos. To think that only a week before the second presidential debates the revered statesman, Jovito Salonga was laid to rest in his hometown in Pasig. And he was a real hero of World War II, with an indisputable record as a prisoner-of-war and member of the resistance. Why can’t he be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani?

Who will benefit from disturbing intering Apo Macoy at Libingan ? Who are the suckers who will say yes to a demand like this just because historical revisionism overwhelms them? That even a former president like Marcos does not necessarily get a state funeral and burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, makes our national pantheon even more prestigious. If only our true heroes can have an opinion if they can lie beside a former dictator.

Finally, what’s up with the Marcos family displaying his waxed corpse inside a glass coffin? It seems so bizarre nowadays you would think it was a trivia straight out of Ripley’s Believe it or not.  Even the majority of Russia want Lenin, still remembered with reverence all over the world, buried than chemically preserved. One can not speak for the dead but I’m sure not Lenin or Marcos, would give a rats arse wherever may their earthly body will finally rest in peace. Yes, Marcos deserves a heroes burial for those who consider him a hero, so let’s ask his widow and not the Filipino people to do that for him.#

Links (Further readings):

The article being discussed:

New York Times article on the conviction of Imelda Marcos for corruption published in 1993.

Manifesto of Ateneo Professors against the historical revisions regarding the Marcos regime

Guidelines and protocols on state funerals and burials at the Libingan ng mga Bayani

Great articles and photos on the Philippine American War where the account of Aguinaldo asking for a burial like one accorded to Jose Rizal is mentioned.

Profile of Edgar Jopson at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani

Profile of Evelio Javier at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani

When the Mt. Rushmore at La Union was blasted

News article on Jovito Salonga, true hero and former Senate President was laid to rest in his hometown in Pasig.

On Majority of Russians wanting Lenin to be buried


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