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There’s The Rub

Apologies

/ 10:33 PM October 25, 2011

Bongbong Marcos had an interesting reply to Edwin Lacierda’s barb about his family needing to apologize to the country first before they could even think to bury Ferdinand in the Libingan ng mga Bayani. Why them only? Why not everyone who committed human rights abuses against the people? Why not the Aquinos too?

“[Lacierda] plays favoritism. (He cares about) the victims during martial law but does not care (about) the victims during Cory’s time…(such as) the farmers who perished in the infamous Mendiola massacre. That’s not fair. They should be treated the same way. Who will apologize to them?”

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He added: “What about the Japanese collaborators who fought on the side of the ruthless Imperial Army that cruelly tortured, sadistically inflicted pain, and mercilessly killed Filipinos? Has anybody apologized to the families of those that lost their lives, were raped, tortured, etc. by the Japanese with the aid of Filipino collaborators?

“Can Mr. Lacierda give suggestions on who should apologize and compensate them? The President wields the power and is obviously not inclined to unify the country.”

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I agree in part with Bongbong: By all means let everyone who committed human rights abuses against the country apologize to it too. Including the Aquinos for the Mendiola massacre. I railed against the Cory government for that incident then, and I continue to rail against the Cory government for that incident now. Cory herself might not have ordered the farmers shot, she had no small amount of lieutenants who had gunpowder for brains, not least of them then WPD chief Alfredo Lim, but she was the President, she was the commander in chief.

Whatever the provocation, however the ranks of the marchers have been infiltrated by subversives, maximum tolerance remains the basic policy of any democratic government. Particularly where faced by the poorest of the poor, the wretched-est of the wretched. Particularly where their grievance is valid, where their panawagan is legitimate. You do not fire at them, you do not shoot at them, you do not kill them. The dead at Mendiola were not saboteurs and provocateurs, they were farmers.

Jose Diokno was so disgusted by what happened he promptly resigned his post as head of the Human Rights Commission. That was his way of apologizing to the country.

Just as well we could always hound the relatives of those who collaborated with the Japanese to apologize to a country they helped torture. Especially those who not only did not get punished—the Americans called for an abrupt end to the collaboration trials when they saw how the elite was being hugely debilitated by them at a time when the Huks were knocking at the gates of power—they got rewarded with rehabilitated political careers.

But there’s a world of difference between what the Marcoses have to apologize for and what these others do. In Cory’s case in particular, it’s not just that she committed a vastly smaller scale of transgression compared to Ferdinand, it’s that she more than made up for it in healing a deeply wounded land. However the democracy she restored to this country was imperfect, it was still a democracy, as different from tyranny as night is to day, as opposite to dictatorship as hope is to despair. Cory was a true hero. Whatever her mistakes were, whatever her failings were, they were dwarfed by her heroic deeds. More than any president, she’s the one who deserves a place in the Philippine Valhalla.

From the other end, you’re almost tempted to say that by the sheer scale alone of his crimes, Marcos went beyond what he did to what he was. Chief of those crimes was declaring martial law. Chief of those crimes was stealing freedom. Chief of them was stealing hope. That was the original sin from which other sins sprung. That was the original human rights abuse from which the other human rights abuses sprung. There is nothing to compare with it, not even the collaboration of the collaborators with the Japanese during World War II.

But of course the Marcoses should apologize to the country, whether or not that is a prelude to even considering burying Ferdinand in the Libingan ng mga Bayani. It is a matter of justice. The last thing they should be is belligerent, the first is shamefaced. They should apologize for decimating this country’s best and brightest, who were the activists who raised a hand against tyranny and paid dearly for it. They should apologize for bleeding this country dry, razing its forests, despoiling its land, making its children strangers in their own home. They should apologize not just for arresting people but for arresting time, or setting time backward, turning a country whose possibilities once rivaled only Japan to one whose prospects now rival only Burma.

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They should apologize for existing. Or for still being there after all they have done.

P-Noy does wield the power, and nothing shows better his inclination to unify the country than his refusal to allow Ferdinand Marcos to be buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani. That was what he decreed a couple of weeks ago, which was really something he should have done from the start, thereby sparing himself and his country a world of trouble. A president does not unify his country by uniting with those who abused it, who despoiled it, who made life a living hell for its people. A government does not unite the country by uniting with the collaborators, the crooks, the tyrants of the past—or the families that have profited from them, or the groups that continue to represent them.

A president unites his country by uniting with his people. A government unites its country by punishing those who oppressed the people and giving redress to the people.

Or at least harassing the shameless to apologize.

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TAGS: Bongbong Marcos, Cory Aquino, featured columns, Ferdinand Marcos, Japanese collaborators, jose diokno, martial law, mendiola massacre, opinion, rights abuses
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