Dancing with the Marcoses
A constellation of diverse forces appears to be converging in what could result in a critical mass of disapproval, outrage and unrest in our society as Rodrigo Duterte’s presidency collides with the Filipino people’s sentiments and views regarding the burial of Ferdinand Marcos’ remains in the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
Like a lightning rod, the Libingan issue has drawn spirited protests across the land that cut across all sectors: the poor, the middle class, the radical Left, even the elitist Makati business community. Hence, far from uniting and healing the Filipino people, the burial of the dictator’s remains in the Libingan, conducted with stealth and haste, has produced the unwanted effect of inflaming and further dividing Filipinos.
Mr. Duterte’s ill-fated decision to approve that burial, despite its highly questionable basis, will serve as a powerful defining symbol of his administration. Generations of Filipinos will judge and record it as an executive decision born of special accommodation to the Marcoses and insensitivity to the victims of terror and injustice; because thousands of lives—among the country’s best and brightest—were lost or ruined during that time, as the economy was systematically plundered by the Marcoses and their cronies.
The controversial burial, which attempts to whitewash a dark chapter in our history, has gifted Mr. Duterte’s enemies and critics with a lodestone with which to undermine his leadership. The political capital he has expended in defense of that burial cannot be quantified, but it is undeniably substantial based on the quality and magnitude of the protests. Paradoxically, the burial in the Libingan was totally unnecessary because it is well known that among Marcos’ last wishes was to be buried in Batac, beside his beloved mother.
The lingering spell that the Marcoses have cast on many, despite their unconscionable sins against the Filipino people, is not really unfathomable: Ferdinand Marcos was a brilliant, charismatic leader in the early years of his rule, and his first lady, Imelda, was an elegant and beautiful woman who could charm grizzled dictators like Mao Zedong, Fidel Castro, and Moammar Gadhafi. Together, they dazzled the world in a Philippine version of Camelot.
But even years before the Edsa revolt that forced the Marcoses to flee to Hawaii, the true extent of their years of massive and systematic looting of the country’s treasures, and terrible crimes against their own people, were already tallied and diligently documented. So there should no longer have been any doubt that the Libingan was not the suitable place for the discredited dictator’s remains. Mr. Duterte’s affinity with and continued support for the Marcoses are thus a mystifying drama that is bound to undermine his presidency and legacy.
The centrality of Mr. Duterte’s peace and order campaign is his war on the drug trade that he sees as an existential threat to our society. He reasons that his brutal means will prevent the Philippines from becoming another narcostate.
But by favoring the Marcoses—whose ill-gotten wealth remains vast and at their disposal—the President is widely perceived as the dominant player in the ongoing attempts to rehabilitate them, and return them to power. How then could he justify his vow to dismantle the country’s plutocracy when he is dancing with the Marcoses? How could he justify his campaign promise to destroy criminals when he openly allowed the Libingan burial and declared his support for Bongbong’s vice-presidential ascendancy? There is a clear contradiction between thought and action there.
Former president Fidel Ramos, Ombudsman Conchita Morales, and resigned National Historical Commission chair Maria Serena Diokno have courageously added their concerned voices against the Libingan burial and its tragic repercussions on the Filipinos’ very mind and soul.
But will Mr. Duterte heed their unsolicited advice?
Narciso Reyes Jr. ([email protected]) is an international book author and former diplomat. He lived in Beijing in 1978-81 as bureau chief of the Philippine News Agency.
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