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/ 12:38 AM May 27, 2016

The famous funeral oration in “Julius Caesar” begins with a practical distinction: “I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.” Shakespeare’s eloquent version of the Roman general Mark Antony uses the distinction as a convenience, to allow him, a potentially dangerous ally of the murdered dictator-in-the-making, to mourn his friend in public.

In the case of the controversial plan to inter the remains of an actual dictator, the late Ferdinand Edralin Marcos, at the Libingan ng mga Bayani or Heroes’ Cemetery, this distinction does not hold. To bury Marcos is to praise him.

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It is really quite as simple as that.

Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, the next President of the Philippines, says he will honor his campaign promise to Marcos’ family to allow the long-sought burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, on the grounds that the former president was “a soldier.” This is a deceptive and dangerous distinction, meant to rationalize an unjust, unpatriotic act.

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When the Marcos family requested permission to bring Marcos’ body back to the Philippines in 1992, the president at the time, Fidel V. Ramos, agreed but laid down three stipulations: that the body would be given the honors of a junior officer, that it would be buried immediately, and that the burial place would be in Marcos’ home province of Ilocos Norte. It has been 24 years since then, and the Marcoses continue to refuse to honor any of the three conditions.

(Last month, columnist Antonio Montalvan II, quoting a “close Marcos family friend,” argued that at least one of the conditions may have already been met: The Marcos body has secretly been buried.)

But the campaign to inter Marcos’ remains in a manner befitting a former president has never stopped, leading Vice President Jejomar Binay in 2011 to recommend burial “with full military honors,” and both Binay and Duterte in 2016 to pledge support on live national television for burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

It is true that, according to the pertinent Armed Forces of the Philippines regulation, “active and retired military personnel of the AFP” who have died may be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. Indeed, the great majority of the more than 45,000 dead who are buried at what was once called the Republic Memorial Cemetery are soldiers. This would seem to qualify Marcos, because despite having faked his medals and exaggerated his exploits, there is no dispute that he did once serve as a soldier.

But most of these ordinary soldiers died in combat, something not even the most sympathetic of Marcos supporters can claim for him. Marcos, on the other hand, died in disgrace in Hawaii. Perhaps his supporters will dispute that description, but what should we call that state of existence where you have been forced to flee your country by a nonviolent uprising, where you have been caught entering another country with hundreds of millions of dollars in cash and jewelry, where by the time you died you have already figured in the record books for world-class corruption?

But Marcos did not only disgrace the presidency that he held for 20 years; the scale and brazenness of the fraud he perpetrated—inventing tales of guerrilla derring-do, fabricating dozens of medals—is as well an insult to the men and women who serve in the military and makes a mockery of the ideals of that service: dedication to duty, love of country, honor, integrity. By pretending to have accomplished feats of heroism on the battlefield, all of which have been debunked, he has also disgraced the dignity of the common soldier.

The President-in-waiting suggests that the critics of Marcos, the enemies of martial law, must learn to “jettison their hate”—as though demanding accountability, asking for the Marcoses to show even a hint of remorse, working to recover the billions of dollars the family illegally acquired, were acts of hate. Duterte, a lawyer and former prosecutor, must know the difference between justice and hate.

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If he wants the healing of a nation still scarred by the terrors of martial rule, he must direct his attention not to the victims but to the victimizers. He must ask them to jettison their greed, make them understand that burying Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani is yet another act of thievery—this time, of the common soldier’s dignity, and the country’s honor.

Editors’ Note: It has been 24 years since the Ramos Administration allowed the remains of Ferdinand Marcos to enter the country, not 14 as originally stated. Our apologies. This version corrects that error. 

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TAGS: burial, Ferdinand Marcos, Libingan ng mga Bayani, Rodrigo Duterte
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