By BENJIE OLIVEROS
When pressed about why he is allowing the burial of the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani despite the numerous protests, President Duterte justified his decision by saying: “He was a president and a soldier. Simple.”
Well and good if the matter is as simple as that. If Marcos were any other president or any other soldier, there could be no argument about allowing his or her burial at Libingan ng Bayani. After all, that cemetery has been reserved for them, and any soldier or veteran, whether a private or a general, has the privilege of being buried there, if the soldier or his or her family so wishes. I suppose the same is true for dead presidents.
But the case of the late president Marcos is far more complicated than what President Duterte makes it appear to be. By declaring martial law and usurping all power to himself, the late dictator Marcos plunged the nation in one of the, if not the darkest period in the country’s history.
Thousands of people, in the prime of their lives, were victimized: killed, forcibly disappeared, tortured, imprisoned, and forcibly displaced. Gross violations of human rights under the Marcos dictatorship are not myths or urban legends; these have been proven multiple times by the testimonies of the living victims and the relatives of the dead and the disappeared. Even the Federal District Court of Hawaii found, beyond reasonable doubt, that indeed the late dictator Marcos and his minions violated the rights of thousands of Filipinos. The Federal court awarded $1.9 billion in damages to the victims and their relatives.
Burying Marcos with full honors not only would rub salt to the wounds of the victims and their relatives, it would disregard the fact that thousands were victimized and worse, it practically would justify these violations.
Added to this, the callous act of burying Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani would deny the fact that the Marcos dictatorship plunged the country into deep political, economic, and social crisis. The country experienced an oil crisis, rice crisis, sugar crisis, dollar crisis, among others.
The late dictator’s son boasts of the infrastructure projects under Marcos, without revealing that these buried the country into debt, which the nation has been paying up to now. He boasts of the Marcos family’s version of unity, while ignoring the fact that the late dictator used the full machinery of the state to create an atmosphere of fear in the hope of eradicating all forms of opposition to its rule. The Marcos family boasts of eliminating the stranglehold of oligarchs on the economy, but centralized all wealth and established a monopoly of strategic, profitable businesses in the country.
The historical significance and political implications of the burial of the dictator Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani are not lost on the Marcos family. This is why they have been spending to preserve his remains for almost three decades already. They have the money to construct a mansion to bury his remains. They could even buy a whole memorial park to bury him there.
But they chose to wait. And burying the remains of the late dictator Marcos with full military honors would just as well be the launching pad for the return of the Marcos family to Malacañang through the son Bongbong.
While justifying his decision to allow the burial of Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani with what appears to be simple logic and legalities, the historical significance and political implications of this decision are likewise not lost on the Duterte administration. For one, President Duterte has, several times, publicly acknowledged his friendship with the Marcos family. He boasted that his father served under Marcos. During his campaign, Duterte declared that if he wins and then fails to complete his term, he would be more than willing to leave the reins of government to Bongbong. President Duterte has also declared that he would appoint Bongbong to a Cabinet position once the prohibition on losing candidates expires.
Just last Tuesday, in a tirade against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, President Duterte asked her if she would rather that he declares martial law, because of his perception that Chief Justice Sereno was blocking his anti-drug campaign by issuing a letter advising judges named by the president in his list of government officials allegedly involved in the illegal drugs trade not to surrender without a warrant. Was the mention of declaring martial law a mere rhetorical question?
Last week, August 3, in a speech, President Duterte declared that his administration intends to destroy oligarchs then singled out businessman Roberto Ongpin. Is he emulating the purported campaign against oligarchs by the late dictator Marcos?
What about Duterte’s controversial anti-drugs campaign that has claimed the lives of hundreds of poor Filipinos, totally disregarding the principles of due process and human rights? Does this not reflect the mindset and ways of the late dictator Marcos?
Let us just hope that this is just a case of overreaction, and that the similarities between what Marcos did and what Duterte has been doing and appears to be intending to do stops here. But still, the historical significance and political implications of the burial of Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, with full honors, should not be lost on the Filipino people. After all, it is the people who shape history.