Peace talks and the Marcos burial
General Santos City—Much has been said about the legality and the questions of “suitability” of the burial of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ remains in the Libingan ng mga Bayani. After the multicolored protests and the political firestorm that jolted the country, it’s time we threw another substantial question for the Duterte administration to deal with: the ramifications of the Marcos burial on its peace processes with the Left and the Bangsamoro.
President Duterte has the reputation of being “friends” with the Left. Back in his day as mayor of Davao City, he displayed this closeness by supporting its causes which he considered pro-poor. When he became president, he gave members of the Left the opportunity to join his Cabinet and serve as his alter egos. In a video message at a forum held last June 8 at Ateneo de Davao University, Jose Ma. Sison, founding chair of the Communist Party of the Philippines, expressed optimism over the prospects of putting closure to the longest-running communist insurgency in Asia under the Duterte administration.
As for the Bangsamoro, the President’s grandmother was a full-blooded Maranao. And he himself hails from Mindanao, so he is seen by many as someone who understands their grievances and is capable of putting an end to the conflict in the region. With such credentials, he could fashion an inclusive framework to protect the rights of the diverse stakeholders in Mindanao for durable peace to work for everyone.
Ironically, the President’s outward pronouncements of support for the Marcos burial in the Libingan, declared with a legalistic stance, seem to blur all prospects of reconciliation and forgiveness on the side of the Bangsamoro and the members of the CPP-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front.
For one, Marcos was considered the No. 1 recruiter of communist insurgents when he declared martial law. From 2,000 members in 1972, the insurgents’ membership ballooned to 20,000 in 1986. The dictator did so by instituting the monopoly of the oligarchs (aka Marcos cronies) of state resources, repressing freedom of expression, normalizing corruption, and sanctioning the killing, torture and rape of many Filipinos. And many of the communist insurgents were among the 100,000 human rights victims of martial law.
For another, the Moro secessionist movement in Mindanao began during the Marcos regime. The revelation of the covert “Project Merdeka” which resulted in the “Jabidah massacre” (or the killing of 68 young Muslims on Corregidor in March 1968) pushed Nur Misuari, a young profes sor at the University of the Philippines at the time, to form the Moro National Liberation Front in 1969. The killings and violence that followed against the Bangsamoro during martial law were just staggering. One infamous incident was the Malisbong massacre perpetrated by the military on the dictator’s orders in Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat, on Sept. 24, 1974, in which 1,500 unarmed Moro men were killed inside the Tacbil Mosque, while the women were raped.
The obvious closeness and loyalty of the President to the Marcos family despite the cry for justice and reparation among the many victims of martial law raise questions about his sincerity to institute the genuine change that he seemed to personify when he ran for the presidency.
But how can we move on and put closure to the wounds of the past when we keep extolling the legacies of the man who inflicted those wounds in the first place? How do we move forward and engage in legitimate peace processes if the government that will pursue these processes is turning a blind eye to the atrocities and excesses of Ferdinand Marcos and his family?
The President loves talking about historical injustice. Why doesn’t he apply the same to the legacy of the man whose remains he allowed to be buried in the cemetery for heroes?
Jesse Angelo L. Altez (email@example.com) is a Mindanao-based academic and development worker.
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