The anniversary of EDSA is commemorated every year lest we forget the dark years under the Martial Law, and to celebrate our nation’s victory in clamoring for the restoration of democracy through a peaceful revolution. This year on February 25th, the Philippines celebrated the 30th anniversary of the EDSA revolution, in honor of a time when the country banded together and fought for its freedom against a dictator who had taken democracy away from the people. Less than six months later, President Rodrigo Duterte has expressed his plans of giving that dictator, Ferdinand Marcos, a hero’s burial.
This has sparked outrage among Filipinos across the country, and rightly so, partially because President Duterte’s reasoning for the burial itself seem flawed at best. Nevermind that those buried at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani (LNMB) are supposed to inspire and be emulated by this generation and of generations still unborn. Duterte claims that Marcos deserves a burial in the LNMB, not because the latter is a hero, but because he is a former soldier, while also saying the burial will address ‘division’ among the Filipinos.
However, Marcos’ military achievements and background seem to wither under closer inspection. In fact, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines explains that “grave doubts expressed in the military records about Mr. Marcos’s actions and character as a soldier do not provide sound, unassailable basis for the recognition of a soldier who deserves to be buried at the LNMB.” Furthermore, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) regulation states that “personnel who were dishonorably separated/reverted/discharged from the service, and personnel who were convicted by final judgment of an offense involving moral turpitude” are not qualified to be interred in the LNMB. And yet, Marcos’ interment at the LNMB hangs heavy and inescapable under the current administration, although the 20-day status quo ante order on the Marcos burial does offer renewed hope that the move is ultimately scrapped, with oral arguments set to resume tomorrow, August 30.
Duterte’s argument about addressing division lacks even more basis. Various rallies and movements, as well as testimonies from families and friends of Martial Law victims, show that more than anything, Marcos’ burial in the LNMB will not be the equivalent of addressing or healing old wounds, but is an act of savagely reopening them with a dash of salt for good measure. The fact that Duterte holds on to his warped narrative of harmony and unity, while responding to any valid criticism with threat of Martial Law, begs the question of whether he is truly doing this with the benefit of the Philippines in mind. We are a country that has once suffered under the shackles of dictatorship under Martial Law, and our president responds to criticisms and detractors by threatening Martial Law.
Duterte’s flawed reasoning is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of reasons why Marcos should be a person unsung and looked down upon, not celebrated and honored. The Official Gazette estimates over 75,000 persons who had filed claims as victims of human rights violations during Martial Law; about 70,000 detained for being enemies of the state; about 34,000 tortured through confinement, isolation, beating, electric shock, rape, or molestation; about 3,000 victims of extrajudicial killings; and about 400 disappearances between 1965 and 1986. Add to these numbers P400 billion worth of foreign debt and P170 billion worth of recovered funds from Marcos’ and his cronies’ ill-gotten wealth—these are the real reasons why Marcos is no hero.
Why should any of these numbers be forgotten or moved on from? They paint a picture of a darker time for our country, and if we are to honor our country’s history and those who perished during this period, it is a time that should never be forgotten or erased from memory. Why must we give Marcos a hero’s burial, when we fought against his dictatorship and opposed his suppression of freedom 30 years ago? Why must we honor opposing opinions now, but forget that opposing opinions during Martial Law meant detainment, torture, or worse? Why is a man responsible for so much pain and misery given a hero’s burial when those on the streets deemed guilty are immediately written off without fair trial or due process? Duterte’s blatant inconsistency is hard to ignore.
The Martial Law victims, their friends and families, and, indeed, the entire Filipino people deserve better. Whether they get it or not, what is clear is that Marcos’ burial in the LNMB, should it push through, will be nothing more than a mockery of and an insult to justice in a country that supposedly champions democracy and freedom.