I may have mellowed with age, but there are certain moral positions that just cannot be shaken by the passage of time. One of these is that held against the burial of someone like Ferdinand Marcos in Libingan ng mga Bayani.
Still, President Duterte insists on it by the slimmest refuge under the law that gives former presidents the right to be buried there. This has only brought back to light the atrocities and abuses of Marcos’ martial-law dictatorship, not to mention the sorry state he left the country in after he had plundered it.
Duterte argues further and equally flimsily that Marcos was also a soldier, as if soldiery is identical with heroism. That has brought out even more embarrassments for Duterte and other Marcos idolaters, not to say for Marcos and his family themselves—embarrassments that center around his claims, certified false, to heroism, specifically of being the leader of a guerrilla unit that fought in the Battle of Besang Pass in the last war.
It was all in his imagination, yet he asked for medals and honors for it. Such shame had already been swept under the rug, but has now resurfaced on Duterte’s and Marcos’s family’s insistence on the patently undeserved honor of laying his remains—if anything really still remained of them—in the neighborhood of heroes.
It all looks like a final desperate attempt to bury one of our history’s ugliest truths—at the risk of stinking up a hallowed neighborhood!
There are, indeed, so many questions begging for answers. I only wish those who have access to the president, like reporters, would or could ask them. But their jobs, I see, have suddenly become harder in this regime; the president, after all, could be both intimidating and crudely endearing.
I’d like to know, for instance, why the president, as he himself has said, is staking his very life, honor and presidency on this one distasteful mission. I’d like to know, too, what, if anything, could make him change his mind.
After all, he has done so for Vice President Leni Robredo, the rival herself of Marcos’s son, Bongbong, for that position. Initially refusing to give Leni a Cabinet position lest Bongbong’s feelings be hurt, he relented in the end and gave her not just any position but one close to her heart.
Duterte also showed a similar softening when he apologized to the chief justice, Ma. Lourdes Sereno, after he had reacted badly to a letter from her reminding him of the democratic separation of powers. He had threatened to declare martial law if she got in his way.
But on the Marcos burial he seems to be hanging tough. It has been implied that all this could have been settled once and for all had then President Noynoy acted on his Vice President Jejomar Binay’s suggestion that Marcos be buried in his hometown Batac, Ilocos Norte.
Perhaps, Noynoy, like many other people apparently in the know, had presumed that the real Marcos was already buried there and that what was on display for viewing was but a handsome wax likeness. If that were true, the burial at Libingan may well be the Marcoses’ ultimate joke on the Filipino people.
My friend writer Nelson Navarro has a firsthand account that may shine light on the issue in a piece called “Marcos: corpse or doll?”
“Our media group with Marcos friends flew on PAL to Honolulu the day after Marcos died. I was a columnist for Malaya. We were in the terrace of the Makiki house with a panoramic view of Waikiki and Diamond Head. The casket was wheeled into the living room. The family went in to see the remains. Then we followed—Jullie Daza, Justice [Enrique] Fernando, Lolong Lazaro, Sol Vanzi and me. Huge crowd. I peered into the coffin and felt sad. His face was shrunken, and the pain he suffered evident under the makeup. The body was a mere shell and the barong was padded to give more body to him. I felt sadness, not joy at all.
“Death is the great leveler. All before that is vanity. I had no idea that this drama would last almost 30 years. Back then we waited about a week, going up to Makiki every day waiting for President Cory to allow the return. No such luck. So he was buried ‘temporarily’ in the Valley of the Temples. We were all there—Blas Ople, Mel Mathay, Kokoy [Romualdez], Danding [Cojuangco], and Jake Macasaet [Malaya publisher].
“A few years later under Ramos I went to Batac for another wake and funeral that went awry. I was in line after the family and close friends with Armida Siguion Reyna going into the darkened crypt with Beethoven playing. I looked into the glass coffin. I was stunned. I saw the exact opposite of the Makiki remains. It looked like Christopher Reeve’s Superman. It was obviously made of wax, like in Madame Tussaud’s House of Wax.
“‘Ang guapo ni sir!’ gasped Armida loudly to Irene. ‘Really,’ she retorted in an impassive British tone. That bizarre scene I captured so vividly in my mind.”
How many more tangled webs will the Marcoses, who remain unremorseful and with much of their loot intact, weave to continue to deceive the Filipino people? More importantly, to what lengths will President Duterte go to serve his idol—at our expense?
My husband himself waits for one relevant question asked— not whether there are non-heroes in the Libingan, but rather whether there are any plunderers, torturers, murderers and fakes buried there.