"Disgusting" and "revolting" are the two adjectives that immediately came to mind as I read the February 18 issue of the Philippine Star carrying a statement from Ferdinand Marcos Jr. that his late father, the former dictator, ought to be buried in the Libingan Ng Mga Bayani (Heroes Cemetery). What triggered the younger Marcos’ demand was the burial in the same Libingan of recently deceased, by suicide, former AFP chief Gen. Angelo Reyes.
If Reyes merits the honor of a hero’s burial why not his father? he argues. He then elaborates that the deposed older Marcos was a “war hero” and the country’s “longest serving president”.
Marcos Jr. may think that all of his countrymen are either complete amnesiacs or are totally impervious to the facts and would blindly accept his contentions.
Well, let’s take a look at his rationale.
War hero? Here’s what the January 25, 1986 report from the Los Angeles Times had to say disputing Marcos’ claim to heroism:
‘The reports, based on U.S. Army records uncovered by historian Alfred W. McCoy, said the Army repeatedly denied requests for postwar recognition of Marcos's purported guerrilla group, describing his claims as "fraudulent" and "absurd."
In Washington on Friday, a State Department official said that "the public record speaks for itself," and there are "no grounds to second guess the findings of military officers who reviewed the case 40 years ago."’
The Philippine Star report also reinforced Marcos Jr.’s assertions citing supporting statements by senators Ponce-Enrile and Honasan perpetuating the “fraudulent” and “absurd” claims.
Abhorrent as the heroism claims may be what really must rub the nation like salt is the justification that Marcos Sr. be given a hero’s burial because he was the “longest serving president”. Excuse me? How did his term last 20 years? Oh, yes, he did so by usurping all powers on September 21, 1972. And thereafter went on an orgy of plunder and enrichment for his family and friends in a scale neither seen nor equaled in the 20th century.
And while his regime was already characterized by violence perpetrated against “enemies” both perceived and real pre 1972, this was raised to unequaled proportions after he took absolute power. Opposition leaders, journalists and even students were summarily rounded up and jailed. Opposition leaders like Eugenio Lopez Jr., Sergio Osmena III and Benigno Aquino Jr. all went on hunger strikes to call world attention to their plight. Others, less famous, languished and were subject to torture and all kinds of depravities, meriting visits and negative reports from Amnesty International. Murders numbered in the thousands, by some counts, and disappearances of people who had offended the regime or even some of its lesser lights had become commonplace. “Salvaging” was a cruel moniker used to describe the killing of many. He robbed the country of its wealth, and scarred his nation’s soul with his murderous brutality. He deserves a place for scorn, not veneration.
After the dictator died in 1989, his wife Imelda had the shameless temerity to ask that he be buried at the Libingan ; there was palpable national convulsion to the very thought! The sins of Ferdinand Marcos, his family and his friends, can not and should not be forgotten. Time may jade people’s memories and atrocities may wane in its intensity and viciousness, but surely we cannot desecrate further the memories and sacrifices of the thousands who met cruel and unjust fates by now treating the perpetrator of their torment and agonies to a hero’s burial.
And what really is upsetting about the Philippine Star report is that this newspaper that once upon a time had a great journalist the late Max Soliven at its helm, seems to have printed en toto what reads very much like a press release from the Marcos p.r. office. No mention of the fact that the claims to heroism were strongly questioned and that the longevity of his “term of office” was the result of the abrogation of the country’s constitution and its democratic traditions. And oh, yes. Max was one of the very first people hauled to jail when Marcos declared martial law. He, and the thousands of victims, not Marcos, are the heroes. Too bad Max has gone to his reward; had he been alive the Marcos press release would not have found print in his venerated newspaper; at least not without the inclusion of data and facts that definitively contradicted the spurious claims.