In the end, history proved the intractable barrier to the 22-year effort by Imelda and family to bury Ferdinand Marcos among the country’s heroes.
President Benigno Aquino III thumbed down a Libingan Ng Mga Bayani interment for the late dictator at his Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines interview.
“Victims of the martial law years…have not been accorded an apology”, the President said. “The compensation bill is still pending. And it’d be the height of injustice to render honors to the person who was the direct mastermind of all their suffering.
To bury Marcos at Libingan sends the wrong message for the future, he added. It meant “disrespect for Filipinos buried there for their contributions to the country.
Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. lashed out at the President’s decision. Aquino was pabago-bago ng salita or “indecisive”, Bongbong fumed. He “wasted a very good opportunity to unify the nation.”
“Was one condition for state burial acknowledgement, by the Marcos family, of human rights violation during their stay in power?, Inquirer asked. Junior ducked. “My mother asked the Human Rights Commission if there was any case against us,” he replied. “And there was none.”
The President’s decision offers a useful window of opportunity to recap this bitter squabble. There is no substitute for facts:
Fact: On 5 June 1997, the Supreme Court confirmed that “no estate taxes were filed by the Marcos spouses for 1982 to 1986”. Neither did they submit income tax returns 1982 to 1985 . (Does history repeat itself? Rep. Mikey Arroyo and wife now face that same rap.)
Marcos tax deficiency added up to P23.2 million. That did not include Ferdinand Jr’s P18.5 million debt. Reconsideration appeals were “denied with finality” on 13 January 1997.
Fact: In July 1985, University of South Wales professor Alfred McCoy, doing research at the US National Archvies, “came across US Army records that discredited Ferdinand Marcos claims to heroism in World War II.” The records became the basis for a New York Times series, by Syemour Hersh, that debunked Marcos war medals.
Follow-up articles, by Jeff Gerth and Joel Brminkley, in New York Times, revealed US Army records stating: Services given by Marcos and 23 others, to the 1st Cavalry Division in 1945, were “of limited military value.”
“At no time did the Army recognize that any unit, designating itself as Maharlika, ever existed as a guerrilla force in the years of Japanese occupation 1942 to 1945,” the daily added.
“The immensity of Mr Marcos claim that Maharlika served the entire Luzon was absurd,” reviewing officer, Captain Elbert Curtis wrote. The US shredded Marcos’ claims for Maharlika.
Fact: Three years after Marcos clamped on martial law, Amnesty International issued a report that stated: “The Philippines has been transformed, from a country with a remarkable constitutional tradition, to a system where star chamber methods have been used, on so wide a scale as to literally torture evidence into existence.”
In its 1981 follow up report, Amnesty stated it found “a Philippine gulag of safe houses where members of the Armed Forces had been responsible for acts of unusual brutality. Over 1,500 were murdered and thousands arbitrarily detained.”
Fact: On July 15, 2003, our Supreme Court forfeited $836 million stashed in shell foundations abroad. For these accounts, Marcos used the alias of “William Saunders” and Imelda signed as “Jane Ryan.”
Fact: Marcos reserved a plot for himself in the 142-Libingan Ng Mga Bayani cemetery, says AFP’s Grave Service Unit. People Power drove Marcos into Hawaiian exile before he could use his sepulcher.
Following death from lupus, Marcos’ body is displayed in an air-conditioned mausoleum in Batac, resembling cadavers of Mao Zedong in Tiananmen Square and Vladimir Lenin in Moscow’s Red Square. “Fuschia, bougainvillea, white sampaguitas and asters ring the Ilocos Norte tomb, Inquirer notes. “There are no yellow flowers.”
Fact: As mint-new president, Joseph Estrada agreed to a Libingan funeral. The firestorm of protest staggered Erap. He never tried again
Fact: Among Filipino heroes are Lorenzo Tanada, Joaquin “Chino” Roces, Senator Jose Diokno or Benigno and Corazon Aquino. Neither they, nor their families, demanded burial at Libingan.
“They understood what the Marcoses never grasped: that integrity and nobility of spirit — not honor guards — consecrate a burial ground in truth. El sitio nada importa, Jose Rizal points out in his Ultimo Adios. Modest graves do not devalue a man’s inner worth. By the same token, 24-gun salutes do not redress poverty of the spirit.
So, will Marcos now go quietly into the night?
No, says Sun Star’s Bong Wenceslao. The machinery that will prop up Ferdinand Jr.’s bid for the presidency, in 2016, is composed of people idolizing, rightly or wrongly, the former strongman.
“His memory will be better recalled if his body isn’t buried yet. “Our only consolation is that from now until 2016, when PNoy ends his term, the victims of Marcos’s rule are now respected”.