Ramos split with Duterte widens
President Duterte returned from the Asia-Pacific Cooperation (Apec) Summit in Lima, Peru, sailing into a storm of protests sparked by the reburial of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the cemetery for heroes with full military honors, which he allowed.
The reburial has ignited the worst political unrest the Duterte administration has faced since it took office last June. It has reopened festering wounds from the abuses of the Marcos tyranny, and plunged the country into a turmoil that threatens to unseat President Duterte who has barely completed its first six months.
It is unfortunate that the protests were triggered by the Marcos family’s devious attempts to rehabilitate the dictator from national disgrace, among them, the reburial of his remains in the cemetery for heroes, with the complicity of the Duterte administration.
The controversy has blown up into a crisis of confidence for the administration as former president Fidel Ramos joined the groundswell of popular outrage over the sneaky and secretive reburial of Marcos. Last Monday, as the President flew in from the Apec forum, Ramos unleashed a devastating criticism of the reburial, warning Mr. Duterte and his administration that because of the “sneaky” burial, they were “losing support,” and “losing friends.”
It also signaled the widening gap between Mr. Duterte and Ramos who had resigned his assignment as special envoy to China to assist Duterte’s so-called “nationalist independent foreign policy.”
The President has declared the Philippines’ “separation” from the United States, tilting it toward an alignment with China and Russia.
Ramos denounced the Marcos reburial as “an insult to veterans” and a trivialization of the sacrifices of uniformed men. “Why did the sneaky burial happen without you knowing too much about it? Ramos asked in a media briefing. “Because there was advance planning, call it connivance, led by the Marcos family, together with some local police and Armed Forces of the Philippines officials.”
In his warning, Ramos also criticized Marcos’ daughter Imee, for telling him that he himself apologize for the martial law atrocities because he was the chief of the Philippine Constabulary then. Ramos said he had atoned for his shortfalls by leading the Edsa People Power that toppled the Marcos regime. “I hope you people remember your history. My apology was more than an apology,” Ramos said, recalling that he risked his life in breaking away from Marcos in 1986, “in the Christian tradition you confess and then you atone.”
He also rejected Imee’s claim that she and her siblings were still young during the martial law years, noting she was one year older than his eldest daughter who was 18 at the time, and was national president of Kabataang Barangay during martial law.
Asked what should be done now, Ramos said, “The ball is now with the Supreme Court.” Relatives of martial law victims are taking to the streets in protest of the burial and have petitioned the Court for the exhumation of Marcos’ body. They claim that they were not given enough time to appeal the Court’s ruling upholding Mr. Duterte’s decision to authorize the burial.
With these developments, a new round of buck-passing has begun. The ball is in the hands of Mr. Duterte who is now in the horns of a treacherous dilemma. He asked the nation to bear with his decision. He said that while “there was really a wound in the country, but for those who cannot really forgive, that’s the hard part. You just have to live with your grief, and that grief is hate. That is the problem.” He pointed out that there are “only two legal criteria for one to qualify for a Libingan burial and Marcos fits in both—as soldier and/or president.”
To the question of whether Marcos was a hero, he replied that this was a case of “a word against their word.” With these, Mr. Duterte put the case for judgment by the unruly street protesters.
Let Mr. Duterte, and his top officials as well, be warned of the unforgiving wrath of a people who feel betrayed by their leaders.
Amando Doronila was a regular columnist of the Inquirer from 1994 to May 2016.
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