by Frances Damazo
September 18, 2016 is a day of reckoning.
For most of us, it will be a day of opening up deep seated wounds brought about by the man who is about to be called a hero as the current administration prepares to welcome Ferdinand Marcos’ remains at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes’ Cemetery).
What does it mean to the new generation—the young ones who were never touched by the horrors of Martial Law? What does this mean to the older ones—the victims, the killed, the silenced, the oppressed, and their families left with no closure.
Who is a hero?
Like Snow White, Marcos was kept in a glass coffin for 23 years in Batac, Ilocos Norte. Tourists who visit the dimly lit room in which he is being kept regard him with a mix of awe, curiosity, and fear. His family is now preparing his military burial, complete with a full bronze casket.
However, he cannot be buried in a heroes’ cemetery by virtue alone of being a past President, a soldier, a supposedly world war veteran. More than the accolades and the titles, the person to be buried there should possess certain attributes that make one a hero: decency and high moral standards, as some of them.
Does he deserve to be buried a hero just because of the number of infrastructures he has built? Or that Philippine economy was at its best during his term—the supposedly “Golden Era”? (both are subject to debates of course.)
What then can we say about the very man who embodied a crony oligarchy during his term? What about Marcos’ moral turpitude? Of the countless human rights violations (75,730 claims according to the Human Rights Victims Claims Board) and the ill-gotten wealth?
As a nation, what are we really willing to compromise? In this long and winding narrative, who is the real hero?
Germany has built a Holocaust museum to remind everyone of its painful past. Yet this country chooses to vindicate and glorify a vicious past.
How can there ever be forgiveness when there is no acknowledgement of the sins?
No less than Republic Act No. 10368 acknowledged that:
“…it is hereby declared the policy of the State to recognize the heroism and sacrifices of all Filipinos who were victims of summary execution, torture, enforced or involuntary disappearance and other gross human rights violations committed during the regime of former President Ferdinand E. Marcos covering the period from September 21, 1972 to February 25, 1986 and restore the victims’ honor and dignity. The State hereby acknowledges its moral and legal obligation to recognize and/or provide reparation to said victims and/or their families for the deaths, injuries, sufferings, deprivations and damages they suffered under the Marcos regime.
“Similarly, it is the obligation of the State to acknowledge the sufferings and damages inflicted upon persons whose properties or businesses were forcibly taken over, sequestered or used, or those whose professions were damaged and/or impaired, or those whose freedom of movement was restricted, and/or such other victims of the violations of the Bill of Rights.”
Martial Law was a dark period in our history. It is an oppressive regime.
We cannot move on. Burying Marcos—and a hero at that-is tantamount to burying the past atrocities committed and allowed in his time. Burying Marcos is disregarding the lessons of our history. How can families mourn their loved ones who disappeared because of forced disappearances? How can they mourn their dead without their bodies? Meanwhile, the dictator will be laid to rest in such a noble place. It is an insult and desecration to the bodies buried there and to their families, to be in the same place as this man.
Honor and Respect are earned and they aren’t given by virtue of one’s position. By allowing Marcos at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani is tainting our dignity as a people that fought dictatorship and restored democracy through collective effort.
What then can we do when the government tries to bury history—its deceptions and lies—in the hopes of being revised for the future generations? What happens when history itself becomes a thing of the past?
As long as people remember, his sins will never be buried along with his body.
Because “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”