Going Quietly Into The Night

by Juan L. Mercado

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”.

(Email: juanlmercado@gmail.com)

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