The Supreme Court (SC) made history last Tuesday, November 8, after voting 9-5 to dismiss all petitions challenging the burial of Ferdinand Marcos in the Libingan Ng Mga Bayani (LNMB), thus allowing the former president and dictator’s remains to be moved to the highly regarded cemetery.
The LaSallian stands with the thousands of voices of martial law victims which have been ignored and brushed aside by the SC in condemning this decision. Through their vote, the highest court of the country effectively disregarded the outcry of these victims, who have actively been fighting against Marcos’ portrayal as a hero even before President Duterte first raised the issue.
As a former president, an argument can be made that Marcos has the legal right to be buried in the LNMB. However, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) regulation states that “personnel convicted by final judgement of an offense involving moral turpitude” are no longer qualified for interment. Moral turpitude is a legal concept which refers to the “conduct that is considered contrary to community standards of justice, honesty, or good morals.” The SC’s proposition that Marcos was not convicted of such crimes is a spit in the face to the tens of thousands of Filipinos who suffered numerous human rights violations under his horrifying regime.
The SC’s adherence solely to the legal technicalities and not the national trauma caused by the martial law is a completely myopic view on the injustices and abuses experienced by the martial law victims. The Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines itself verifies that there were over 34,000 torture victims and 3,240 extrajudicial killings during those dark days.
More than anything, it becomes the duty of Lasallian students and all Filipino citizens to carry the memory of Ferdinand Marcos. Beyond wearing black shirts, noise barrages, and candle lighting ceremonies, it is imperative that we keep this image of Marcos—the true Marcos—alive. Not Marcos the hero, but Marcos the man responsible for thousands of lives and families broken and torn apart.
While legal technicalities allow the man to be buried in the LNMB, it becomes every Filipino’s responsibility to remind the country’s future that this does not make the man a hero. After all, what is painful is not the plot of land the former president’s remains lie in, but the ideology behind it. If legal formalities can move the dictator’s remains to a place called the Heroes’ Cemetery, it is our duty to fight historical revisionism and unceasingly remind people that he is anything but.
This is especially relevant considering that for the victims still waiting for an apology and adequate compensation, the burial represents the country’s habit to forget the atrocities incurred during these dark times. Due to lack of proper education, different counternarratives about the Marcos regime have spread, with supporters asserting that the Philippines’ experienced its golden years during martial law, bragging about the numerous infrastructures built over the 20 years.
Beyond the numerous human rights violations, however, they err in acknowledging the decreasing GDP, multiplying debt, stagnating industries, famine, and deteriorating work conditions. It was during the Marcos regime that the Philippines, one of the most developed economies in the region during the 1960s, became the sick man of Asia.
Martial law will never be reduced to just a “thingy” or something that Filipinos, especially the victims, can simply move on from. Most importantly, branding a dictator as a hero, all in the name of so-called “healing process,” “unity,” and “closure” does nothing but insult and wound even more the families and victims affected by the horrendous acts during martial law.