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Brouhaha over Marcos burial

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Why is it that all of a sudden, a renewed attempt is being pursued to bury the remains of the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes’ Cemetery)? Indeed, the brouhaha over the burial of his remains at the Libingan has ignited a maelstrom of controversy that is dividing the country once again.

The latest call for his burial at the Libingan reached fever pitch when the strongman’s only son, Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., requested President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III to accord his father a hero’s state funeral at the Libingan.  But what was eerily surreal was he made his call while the country was preparing to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the EDSA People Power Revolution that toppled his father from power in 1986. 

Recently, Amando Doronilla, a respected columnist, wrote, “The call provoked a deeply divisive public debate, aggravated by the fact that Marcos Jr. rubbed salt on festering wounds when he made the insensitive proposal in the run-up to the national celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Edsa People Power Revolution that toppled the dictatorship, drove Marcos, his family and cohorts to flee for their lives to Honolulu, Hawaii, (and enjoy their loot thereafter)…”

While Noynoy did not reject Bongbong’s proposal outright, he asked Vice President Jejomar Binay to decide on the matter citing the need to distance himself from the issue due to his “personal bias,” which could be construed that he is against the proposal. 

Evidently, ingrained in the Aquino psyche is the belief that it was Marcos who ordered the assassination of Noynoy’s father, the late Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., on August 21, 1983 at the tarmac of the Manila International Airport as he was stepping down the flight of steps from the plane that brought him back from exile in the United States.

It was the beginning of the end of the conjugal Marcos dictatorship.

*People power revolution

On the fateful day of February 25, 1986, Marcos was ousted from power in a four-day “people power” revolution when more than two million Filipinos answered the “call to arms” of the late Cardinal Jaime Sin and converged on Epifanio delos Santos Avenue (EDSA) in front of Camp Crame to support a small band of military rebels led by then-Secretary of Defense Juan Ponce Enrile and then-Vice Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Fidel V. Ramos. 

Thus began the reign of Cory Aquino, Ninoy’s widow and Noynoy’s mother, who emerged as the president of a revolutionary government.  The following year, a new constitution was passed in a referendum, which is what is being used to this day.

Last year, Noynoy was swept to the presidency on the crest of a popular anti-corruption movement. His first promise during the campaign was to recover the “Marcos loot.”  However, after he was declared the winner of the election, his first announcement was that he had reconciled with the Marcoses after receiving a congratulatory text message from newly elected Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos. 

Noynoy’s pronouncement of  “reconciliation” with the Marcoses may have sent the wrong signal to the Marcoses, which may have prompted Bongbong to boldly propose that his father be buried at the Libingan.

*House resolution

On March 23, 2011, Rep. Salvador Escudero III, who served as Agriculture Minister during the Marcos regime, gathered the signatures of 216 congressmen in support of a resolution urging Noynoy to allow the burial of Marcos at the Libingan.  Of the 216 signatories, more than one half belongs to opposition parties, to wit: Lakas-Kampi-CMD – 91; Nationalist People’s Coalition – 29; and Nacionalista Party - 21.

In my opinion, the 216 congressmen signed the non-binding resolution out of respect for elder Escudero, whose son, Francis, is a member of the Senate.  It’s one of those things that lawmakers understandably extend to each other – “I sign your resolution this time, you sign mine next time” – without uttering a word.  It’s quid pro quo in its simplest form.

*Survey

In a recent survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations (SWS), 50% of the respondents said Marcos was “worthy” to be buried at the Libingan while 49% said he was “unworthy” of burial at the Libingan.  However, of the 50% who said Marcos was “worthy” of burial at the Libingan, 30% said he should be “buried with official honors” while 20% said he should be given “private burial only.” In other words, more than two-thirds of the respondents believe that that Marcos was not a hero.  And isn’t the Libingan a hallowed place reserved for heroes only? And neither is it intended for private burials.

But it was one of my readers, Bert Celera, who put the issue in perspective, to wit: “Wikipedia defines a hero as: A hero (heroine for females), in Greek mythology and folklore, was originally a demigod, their cult being one of the most distinctive features of ancient Greek religion.  Later, hero (male) and heroine (female) came to refer to characters who, in the face of danger and adversity or from a position of weakness, display courage and the will for self-sacrifice—that is, heroism—for some greater good of all humanity. This definition originally referred to martial courage or excellence but extended to more general moral excellence.”

Celera then asked, “Did Marcos sacrifice himself for the good of all Filipino?” His own answer was: “No, instead he corrupted everything and robbed us blind. He is not definitely a hero and cannot be qualified to be buried in that hallowed ground of the Libingan ng Mga Bayani. If the Ilocanos loved him so much that they recognized them as their hero, then let them make a Libingan Ng Mga Bayani in Ilocos and bury Marcos there!”

Celera’s idea to bury Marcos in Ilocos was not new. Back in 2008, Marcos’ widow and now-Rep. Imelda R. Marcos considered burying her deceased husband in a 50-hectare area up in the mountain near the village of San Pedro, Batac, Ilocos Norte.  She called it a “paradise” and said that it would be suitable for an eco-park tourism area.  

*Alternative burial sites

Recently, it was reported in the news that Imee said that the Marcos family was considering alternative sites.  Indeed, as far back as 2005, Imee had been trying to convince her mother, Imelda, to bury her late husband in a simple ceremony in Ilocos Norte instead of campaigning for him to be buried as a hero at the Libingan. 

A burial in Ilocos Norte would certainly put a closure to an issue that has been lingering and “haunting” the nation for more than two decades.  Superstitious Filipinos believe that the ghost of a deceased who’s not given proper burial would roam the earth until his or her remains were laid to rest.

It’s about time the Marcos family bury their deceased patriarch in a place where the Ilocanos -- who love and revere him as their most venerable “Apo” -- would honor him.  He deserved no less.

On the other hand, a burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani would only inflame the emotions of a large number of Filipinos who may have forgiven Marcos in an act of Christian compassion but will never forget the atrocities he committed during the darkest days of our history. 

It can then be said: If forgive we must, then forget we should not lest history will repeat itself.

By Perry Diaz




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