Hero’s burial for an enemy of heroes?
A MONTH before he launched his candidacy for president in November 2015, Rodrigo Duterte declared that if he won the presidency, he would make three things happen: “I would stop corruption, stop criminality, and fix government.”
A month before he begins his term as the 16th president of the Philippines, Duterte has declared that as soon as he assumes office, he will allow a hero’s burial for the biggest perpetrator of corruption, the most notorious enabler of criminality, and the person who wrought the most devastating havoc in the government, all in our country’s history.
Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. claims that his father is entitled to a burial plot at the Libingan ng mga Bayani because the rules provide that former soldiers and former presidents are among those entitled to be buried there.
Let’s not be misled by the Marcoses’ overt claim and get blindsided by their covert intention. The Marcoses are not fighting for the right to a small burial plot. They are fighting to make the Philippines recognize Ferdinand Marcos as a hero.
The Marcoses can put up a huge memorial park in Ilocos Norte—even bigger than the 142-hectare Libingan ng mga Bayani—and dedicate it exclusively to the deceased dictator. But they don’t want that. The Marcoses want to squeeze the dictator’s remains into a 1-meter-by-2.44-meters plot at the Libingan ng mga Bayani because burial in that small plot will amount to state recognition that he is a national hero.
If they accomplish the burial of the dictator at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, the Marcoses will have succeeded in obligating the whole nation to recognize the dictator as one of its heroes. We must view this issue as a subversive attempt to impose on the Filipino people the acceptance of Marcos as a hero.
Wittingly or unwittingly, Duterte is approaching this issue purely as a question of a former official’s entitlement to a burial plot. The issue is not a mere burial plot, but what that burial plot represents. The issue concerns not only the right of a former president but also, and more fundamentally, the right of a nation to define who its heroes are.
Duterte said in an interview: “Marcos might not really be a hero—I accept that proposition, maybe. But certainly he was a soldier. In addition to being a president, he was a soldier.”
If every soldier or listed government official can demand burial entitlement at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, then we can have the likes of retired general Jovito Palparan, and other officials who have brought shame and suffering to our country, gain backdoor entry into our pantheon of heroes by simply securing a burial plot there.
Besides, even the regulations that govern the Libingan ng mga Bayani states that “those who were dishonorably separated, reverted or discharged from the service, and those who were convicted of an offense involving moral turpitude cannot be buried at the cemetery.”
The dictator was not criminally convicted because before any mortal judge could pronounce a verdict on his many sins, the Immortal Judge ended his life just three years after he was disgracefully ousted from power.
However, Marcos was “dishonorably separated” as Armed Forces commander in chief when the 1986 People Power Revolution “discharged [him] from the service.” It was not a single judge that dishonorably discharged him, but an entire nation. That renders him overwhelmingly unqualified to have a place of honor in our cemetery for heroes.
Marcos was not convicted of any “offense involving moral turpitude” because death sprinted to bestow swifter justice on him. But in a continuum of evidence where one end exalts a soldier-hero while the opposite end condemns an official tainted with moral turpitude, the pendulum swings swiftly to point to Marcos as the epitome of moral turpitude.
What are these proofs that show his moral turpitude?
In a case filed as early as 1986, a US court ruled that Marcos, through his estate, is liable to pay $2 billion in damages to 10,000 victims of human rights violations during his dictatorship.
The Philippine government has acknowledged that the Marcos regime committed horrific human rights violations because Congress passed a law establishing the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board to compensate victims of his regime, and 76,000 of these victims are having their claims processed to this date.
The Presidential Commission on Good Government has recovered P93 billion in ill-gotten wealth from Marcos and his cronies during the period 1986-2010. And there are 19 cases pending at the Sandiganbayan for the recovery of assets worth P32 billion that Marcos and his cronies illegally amassed during his dictatorship.
All these constitute overwhelming evidence of moral turpitude that disqualifies Marcos from claiming a place of honor at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
Nineteen kilometers north of the Libingan ng mga Bayani is another memorial for heroes—the Bantayog ng mga Bayani, which honors those who risked or sacrificed their lives during the Marcos regime. There are no graves in this second memorial. Many of the heroes honored there disappeared during the dictatorship, and their bodies rest in unmarked graves all over the country. There is only a “Wall of Remembrance” on which are etched the many names of those who “struggled valiantly against the unjust and repressive rule of Ferdinand Marcos.”
We must go back to the trenches and make Rodrigo Duterte realize that he will bestow a hero’s burial on the one person responsible for the martyrdom of many of our heroes.
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