The outrage at the memory
When nine justices of the Supreme Court voted two days ago in favor of the burial in the Libingan ng mga Bayani of the 27-year-old remains of the fallen dictator Ferdinand Marcos which were brought back from abroad in 1993, they insulted the memory of those who died fighting tyranny. They spat on the wounds of the tortured, they mocked the mothers whose sons and daughters disappeared in the night.
They belittled the efforts of those who spread out their bodies before thundering military tanks during the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolt that saw the fall of the tyrant. The justices who voted yes to the dictator’s burial in hallowed grounds for heroes chose to forget his reign of terror, they chose to belittle the freedom won for them by tens of thousands who fought, suffered and died.
They voted according to the law and their conscience. So did the five justices who voted no.
In 1992, when word spread that Marcos’ remains would be brought back to the country (Fidel Ramos was president then) and that the late dictator might be given honors, victims of martial rule protested. Still, the Marcoses succeeded in bringing back his body to his hometown in Ilocos Norte, where its wax likeness has been exposed for viewing all these years.
I interviewed victims of martial rule in 1992, and here were their sentiments then:
Princess Nemenzo: “At first I could not imagine Marcos coming back after we kicked him out. Later, I thought, we should have allowed him to come back while he was still alive so he could be made to answer for his crimes and face the wrath of the people.
“Honor somebody who dishonored his country, massacred and looted his people? That would be a mockery. Marcos has carved a niche as the most corrupt and brutal of all. He should be quietly buried. Not in the Libingan ng mga Bayani. Why should he deserve that? His wartime exploits are even doubtful.”
Antonio Lacaba: “We cannot forgive that kind of person. Does Marcos deserve the honors? Go to the barrios, go to those who suffered. Ask them.”
Wilfredo Quijano, detained for almost 10 years: “Give him honors? I cannot even think of that because he victimized so many people. I was one of them. I was in high school when I became an activist. The military arrested me during a raid of a house in Butuan. In Camp Alagar soldiers mauled us, beat us with a piece of wood. We were made to drink urine. I don’t know whose urine it was. I took a sip and pretended to swallow it. We were interrogated, sabay suntok (and punched at the same time). I spent my 17th birthday in prison.”
Paula Romero, widowed mother of Henry Romero, a newspaperman who later joined the Ministry of Agrarian Reform (Henry is among the desaparecidos, the disappeared): “One day, they took him. After a week in detention, he was allowed home visits but accompanied by guards. I visited him every week even though I was not strong. I brought him food, pillows, a mosquito net. One day when I was sick, his guard named Villanueva came and told me, ‘Ang anak ninyo, wala na (Your son is gone).
“I searched for my son in camps in Pampanga and Tarlac. I consulted a fortune teller who said Henry was alive. Since he was no longer around to support me, I borrowed money to put up a sari-sari store.
“Naubusan na ako ng luha. Para akong nabibitin sa isang pisi, hindi ako makalapag. (I have run out of tears. It’s as if I am hanging suspended on a string and I cannot come down.) Should Marcos be given honors? I have nothing to say.” (She wipes away a tear.)
I have interviewed many victims these past many years—that is, after the dictator fled into exile—but I had also interviewed a good number during the martial law years. Thousands of stories will hopefully be archived in the soon-to-rise Memorial Museum and Library (as provided for in Republic Act No. 10368).
That we may NEVER FORGET.
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