Is Marcos a hero?
As of this writing, President Duterte is standing pat on his decision to allow the transfer of the remains of former president Ferdinand Marcos (FM) to the Libingan ng mga Bayani in September, ostensibly to live up to his promise given to the Marcos family and the voters of the Ilocos region. His spokesperson has even declared that the overwhelming election victory of Mr. Duterte is an affirmation that the Filipino public supports the promise he made. But one could dismiss this argument as too much of a stretch, considering that there were various other reasons for his election. One could also argue that he won by a plurality and not a majority, and thus the majority of the nation does not necessarily affirm such a promise.
There are various dictionary definitions of a hero. One defines a hero as “a person noted for courageous acts or nobility of character.” Another, as “a man who exhibits extraordinary bravery, firmness, fortitude or greatness of soul, in any course of action, or in connection with any pursuit, work, or enterprise.” A hero is thus one that we would want our citizens to emulate as a role model. Would FM fall under these two common definitions of a hero?
To answer this question, we need to first establish the facts as to the kind of person and president FM was, given that there is much misinformation circulating, particularly in the internet. Some facts are undisputable because these have been clearly established and verified by independent researches and court records. These include the unexplained killings and disappearances, the massive plunder of government funds and resources, and the crony capitalism that bled the country dry. It is also a fact that at around the same time that FM ruled with absolute authority over the Philippines, similar autocratic governments were ruling in South Korea, Taiwan,
Singapore and Indonesia. Except for Indonesia, which was as plagued with corruption as the Philippines, the authoritarian leaders of these countries used their powers to move their countries forward, transforming them into advanced economies. In our case, the damage inflicted by FM on the nation continues to hound us to this very day and will continue to do so for many years to come. The billions of US dollars plundered by FM could have been used to develop our infrastructure and basic industries and promote social progress that would have transformed the Philippines into a developed country as well.
Surely, based on established facts, FM does not meet the dictionary definition of a hero. Unless, of course, our values are truly so distorted that we would want to emulate someone who was selfish, corrupt, and indifferent to the suffering of the poor.
Allowing FM to be buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani would create a stigma that all Filipinos around the world would carry, as citizens of the only country who accorded hero status to a dictator who plundered the country blind, curtailed basic freedoms, and trampled on basic human rights.
A positive development is the announcement of President Duterte that though he is committed to have the remains of FM transferred to the heroes’ cemetery for the simple reason that he was a former soldier and a former president, he is nevertheless going to abide by the decision of the Supreme Court where three petitions opposing his plan have been filed. Thus, all is not lost. A decision of the high court upholding any of the petitions would be best, for it would provide Mr. Duterte a good excuse for not being able to honor his promise. And it would not result in a distortion of history.
The Libingan ng mga Bayani was built pursuant to Republic Act No. 289 (An Act Providing for the Construction of a National Pantheon for Presidents of the Philippines, National Heroes and Patriots of the Country). Section 1 provides the intent of the law: “To perpetuate the memory of all Presidents of the Philippines, national heroes and patriots for the inspiration and emulation of this generation and of generations still unborn, there shall be constructed a National Pantheon which shall be the burial place of their remains.”
Some of the petitioners point out that the law “only allows the burial of a president or soldier worthy of public inspiration and emulation” and that “the burial of Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani simply mocks and taunts Section 1 of RA 289.”
They further argue that the burial would contradict RA 10368, which recognizes the massive human rights violations during martial law under the FM regime and gives the government the moral and legal obligation to recognize such violations and provide reparation to victims. According to the other petitioners, the planned burial would be contrary to public policy; they cite historical records on the abuses and plunder committed during the FM dictatorship.
As a layman interpreting the provisions of the laws cited, one could only hope and pray that the Supreme Court, which is not bound by any campaign promises made by President Duterte, would uphold the petitions and save the country from humiliation.
David L. Balangue ([email protected]) chairs the National Citizens Movement for Free Elections and the Philippine Center for Population and Development Inc.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.