A reminder of the evils of martial law
Trust the Pinoys’ quick wit to deal with the Marcos burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (LNMB). Yesterday morning, it was Libingan ng mga Bayani at ni Marcos, or “LBM” (a reference to the “explosive diarrhea” feared by all Filipinos). Google maps were reportedly edited to read “Libingan ng mga Bayani at isang magnanakaw.” I checked—the site still appears as LNMB.
What’s in a name? Shakespeare reminds us that a rose by any other name will still smell as sweet. But LNMB is a name that really means a lot.
We would not be in this mess if LNMB were named the “Fort Bonifacio Memorial Cemetery.” Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III has drafted a bill designating the area where Marcos is now buried as the “Libingan ng Makasaysayang Pilipino,” a great solution but too late. We may have drafted and ratified an anti-Marcos Constitution in 1986 to make martial law more difficult to declare and maintain; but the framers forgot to bar Marcos’ burial in LNMB, just as the 1847 Swiss Constitution banned Jesuits from Switzerland—until it was lifted in 1973 after a referendum.
In its lengthy decision, the Supreme Court rightly stuck to the letter of the law instead of moving into the “spirit of the law.” I wonder why everyone blames the Court for “allowing” Marcos’ burial at LNMB when the person who should take the flak is President Duterte, the commander in chief who ordered the burial.
As a historian I was drawn to the story of LNMB: It began in 1948 with Republic Act No. 289 providing for the establishment of a “National Pantheon for Presidents of the Philippines, National Heroes and Patriots of the Country,” and the creation of a board that would. . . supervise construction of uniform monuments, mausoleums or tombs; cause to be interred therein the mortal remains of all presidents of the Philippines, national heroes and patriots.
In 1953 President Quirino issued a proclamation reserving a site in East Avenue, Quezon City, for the Pantheon. In 1954, President Magsaysay reserved the site for the Quezon Memorial Park. Like many Philippine laws, RA 289 was not implemented for lack of funds; and it was said that presidents and heroes were already buried anyway in some other cemeteries.
Before RA 289, a Republic Memorial Cemetery was established in May 1947 as the resting place of Filipino military personnel who died in World War II. It was to this cemetery, in what was then known as Fort William McKinley, that Magsaysay, in October 1954, ordered the transfer and reinterment of all the war dead in Bataan Memorial Cemetery and other places. He also issued Proclamation No. 86 changing the name of Republic Memorial Cemetery to LNMB to memorialize “the cause for which our soldiers have died…[and to] truly express the nation’s esteem and reverence for her war dead.” In 1957 President Garcia issued Proclamation No. 423 reserving the land for LNMB.
In May 1967 President Marcos placed LNMB under the Department of National Defense rather than the National Shrines Commission. In 1972, soon after the declaration of martial law, he placed LNMB under the education department. In 1973, he placed it under the Philippine Veteran Affairs Office (PVAO). In 1977, LNMB was formally given to the Department of National Defense, under the PVAO through the Military Shrines Service, an arrangement the Aquino Administrative Code of 1987 maintained.
In 1986 and again in 1998, the AFP Military Regulations drew up a list of people eligible for burial in LNMB: among them, Medal of Valor awardees, presidents or AFP commanders in chiefs, and other deceased persons whose interment or reinternment has been approved by the commander in chief. Excluded are the dishonorably discharged, or those convicted by final judgement of an offense involving moral turpitude.
Unfortunately under the present rules Ferdinand Marcos is eligible for an LNMB burial. Let’s take this as an opportunity to remind the youth about the evils of martial law so that it may not happen again.
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