“Burying the dictator in the Libingan ng mga Bayani will not heal our wounded country.”
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – Even as President Duterte said the burial of the ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani (LNMB) is meant “to heal” the nation, his decision only opened an old wound, one that has to do with bringing the tyrant and his family to face punishment for their crimes against the people.
Outside the Supreme Court gate today, Aug. 31, that gaping wound divided demonstrators into two groups: those who oppose the LNMB burial, and those who support it. The demonstrations were held as the high court heard the oral arguments for the six petitions filed opposing the Marcos burial.
But the groups may as well be divided according to what they hold to be truths: victims and activists who say that Marcos was one of the most corrupt despot in the world who plundered the nation’s coffers and committed crimes against humanity, and the Marcoses and supporters who dismiss all these as lies.
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) and the Campaign against the Return of the Marcoses in Malacañang (Carmma) led martial law activists and other progressive groups to show support for the petitions against the Marcos burial in LNMB, which, they said, completes his family’s return to Malacañang – the consequence of the failure of post-martial law administrations to bring the Marcoses to justice.
“Along with the dictator’s remains, the Marcos family also wants to bury the memory of the crimes of martial law. They want to bury the lessons of history, specially the atrocities committed by the dictator. In burying the truth about Marcos. They hope that their family will rise again to occupy the highest post of the land,” said Renato Reyes Jr., Bayan secretary general.
Danny Dela Fuente, spokesperson of the Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (Selda), and one of the petitioners, said the Marcoses and their supporters have “refused to move on” because they long to return to power. The late dictator’s son and namesake, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. lost the vice presidency by a small margin to Leni Robredo in the recent elections.
“The Marcos family and their cronies could not move on from the fact that the Filipino people toppled the Marcos dictatorship due to its puppetry to the US, massive plunder of public funds, oppression of already impoverished Filipinos, and human rights abuses. The Marcos family could not move on from the fact that even the US Hawaii court found Marcos guilty of human rights abuses on 9,539 counts,” he said.
Dela Fuente said the Marcoses even refuse to accept Republic Act 10368, the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013, which gives financial compensation to martial law victims, using the $10 billion recovered Marcos ill-gotten wealth.
Arrested, tortured, killed
Several national leaders of progressive groups, such as Elmer “Bong” Labog, chairperson of the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), attested to how they became victims of the Marcos dictatorship as youth activists.
Labog was a 17-year-old freshman at the University of the Philippines Los Baños and a member of the Samahan ng Demokratikong Kabataan (SDK) when he and scores of other student activists were “invited” by Marcos to Malacañang on Sept. 23, 1972.
“PC (Philippine Constabulary) men came to the campus in truckloads, and brought us instead to Camp Vicente Lim,” he told Bulatlat, where they were tortured and detained for a year. Another massive arrest came in 1982, when hundreds of trade union leaders were arrested, including KMU leaders Crispin Beltran and Bert Olalia.
Before the oral arguments started, one of the petitioners, Trinidad Herrera-Repuno spoke at the program outside the SC gate and recalled how soldiers tortured her by electrocution, with wires tied to her thumb, and later to her nipples.
Dr. Beng Rivera-Reyes, secretary general of the Health Alliance for Democracy recalled how her Uncle Claudio was killed by soldiers as he went out at dawn to bring the carabao to pasture in their village in Capaz, Tarlac in 1979.
“It was a very quiet funeral, no one was speaking,” Reyes recalled, then only five years old. It was common to hear about other villagers getting killed, arrested or disappeared. After Marcos was ousted, she realized how such were meant to spread fear and repress the people.
But arrests, torture, killings and disappearances continue after martial law, said Evan Hernandez of Hustisya, whose daughter Beng was killed by paramilitary men and soldiers in 2002.
“Marcos started it all,” she said. “And now he will be buried a hero?”
‘Mabuhay ang Martial law’
“You communists, listen up. If Marcos did not declare martial law, we would all be communists now. You were arrested because you were communists!” said a woman’s voice on a loud speaker on the side of the “loyalists.”
Among the Marcos loyalist groups were the foundation, Friends of Imelda R. Marcos, or FIRM-24 K. Its members came in uniform red shirts, from as far as Angono, Rizal province and Laguna. Several women in their sixties told Bulatlat that they are “Imelda supporters,” who have been meeting regularly in Luneta, Manila for the past 11 years. Other groups carried the initials “BBM,” such as the Buong Bansa Magkaisa.
The Marcos loyalists danced and flashed the “V” sign, as they played blaring music accompanied by live drums. The activists played the song “Makibaka, huwag matakot” on their own sound system.
“Marcos, Hitler, diktador, tuta!” chanted the activists.
“Marcos, Marcos pa rin,” chanted back the “loyalists.” One even shouted “Mabuhay ang (Long live) martial law!”
The scene was almost reminiscent of the time after the Marcos ouster, as their supporters tried to rally themselves to pave the way to bring the dictator and his family back to the country.
“Burying the dictator in the LNMB will not heal our wounded country,” said a joint statement by the Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan, Institute of Social Order, and John J. Carroll Institute on Church and Social Issues. The groups said it “buries peace by erasing the memory o the violence that his regime inflicted on our nation.”