Editor's note: This article is part of the Kami debate series on whether the late President Ferdinand Marcos should be buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani. This is the rebuttal of the negative side represented by Niko Aguilar against the affirmative side's article Why it is our responsibility to bury Ferdinand Marcos in “Libingan ng mga Bayani”. Kami.com.ph does not necessarily share the views of the author.
This debate has to be assessed in totality, and in a nuanced perspective. Negative side acknowledges that Ferdinand Marcos, indeed, was an exceptional Ilocano, a bar topnotcher despite his detention, and a man who spoke to the public without any manuscripts. These, however, unfortunately, are not the valid standards that will automatically give him the privilege to be buried in the commemorative grounds of heroes who fought for the nation and its people: the Libingan ng Mga Bayani.
The issue on Marcos burial should go beyond the issue of legality, it’s also an issue of propriety. Is it proper then, to put a dictator who caused the killing, torture, disappearance and detention of almost a hundred thousand of activists struggling for social change; who put the Philippines into a huge debt, just because he “built infrastructure projects”? More than just the rhetoric that “he deserves it because he was a solider or a president”, it should be noted the LMB is a commemorative and symbolic ground of heroism, and heroism doesn’t mean being a plunderer, and a dictator who will instantly kill political opponents.
While it’s an issue of propriety I will still rebut the legal argument that my opponent launched. Marcos’ involvement in the Guerrilla warfare during the World War II is still a myth that it yet to be proven. While I concede that Marcos built different infrastructure projects during his regime, it should not be taken into a vacuum. It should be weighed with Marcos’ human rights violations, plunder cases and political abuses during the Martial Law regime. Lastly, I would argue that Marcos’ burial would further become a divisive tactic, and will not end historical judgment to the late dictator.
On Marcos being a guerilla fighter
In an article written in 1986, archived in the New York Times website entitled, “Marcos’s Wartime Role Discredited in US Files”, reports say that the US Army concluded that Marcos’s leadership in a guerilla resistance unit was “fraudulent and absurd”. In the archives of the Army, there was evidence proving that he led the guerilla group named “Maharlika” in 1942-1944 during the Japanese Occupation. The US Government, in 1986 had the attempt to let Marcos speak about these findings (or the lack thereof) about his claims on his involvement during the Guerilla Warfare, but he declined to respond. According to the Article, after the war, Marcos tried to appeal for recognition of the “Maharlika” unit, but was denied because his claims were distorted, exaggerated, fraudulent, contradictory and absurd.
While the contention of Marcos’s wartime role is still unanswered, it cannot be used as a justification of his burial at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani. Documents are needed, and the burden of proof still relies on the Marcoses in order to credit this justification.
The Marcos Regime
Becoming a president does not automatically entail heroism. My opponent argues that in his presidency, he built many infrastructure projects. Firstly, these infrastructure projects did not transcend economic benefits to the people during that time. According to SWS, the highest recorded poverty rate in the Philippines is 74%, which was reported in April 1983. According NSCB, poverty rate spiked highest at 44% in June 1985.
Secondly, these infrastructure projects were used as instruments to legitimize the rule. Gerard Lico, as cited by one of my favorite History professors in UP Baguio, Mr. Mathew Luga writes, “(the infrastructure projects are) Massive loaned investments in buildings were to project to the international community an impressive myth of “overnight industrialization,” rendering an illusion of fast-paced progress in the country.”, but resulting to:
Yes, he was never convicted of any crime, because he died before any criminal case against him could be decided upon. Still, courts from Singapore, Switzerland and the United States already proved that the Marcos family accumulated ill-gotten wealth. Even our own Supreme Court in a 2003 case already ruled that the family has amassed illicit assets, saying that “[t]he Marcoses had dollar deposits amounting to US $356 million representing the balance of the Swiss accounts of the five foundations, an amount way, way beyond their aggregate legitimate income of only US$304,372.43 during their incumbency as government officials..” Enough evidence already proves Marcos to be a plunderer—in no less than four courts from different countries— how enough is enough to conclude that he is a plunderer and still allow him to be buried into the commemorative grounds of our national heroes?
AFPR G 161 374 also provided that “ [t]he remains of the following shall not be interred in the Libingan ng mga Bayani: a. Personnel who were dishonorably separated/reverted/discharged from the service.” This was what happened in 1986: Marcos was “dishonorably separated/reverted/discharged from service” by the people who joined EDSA I. While it may be conceded that the post EDSA I situation is not the democratic haven we envisioned after a dictatorial rule, it was a legitimate show of dissent, of unity of opposition against a tyrannical rule in our history. It was a start of democratic transition, and a show of power of collective action to separate/revert/discharge a dictator from his power.
In addition, Section I of Republic Act No. 289, provides for the construction of the LNMB “to perpetuate the memory of all the Presidents of the Philippines, national heroes and patriots for the inspiration and emulation of this generation and of generation still unborn.” I don’t see someone who allowed his citizens to die because of their opposition to him, someone who was proven to steal public funds for his own interest, and whose lineage actively revisions and lacks remorse on the human rights violations that their rule committed.
On Justifying the Implementation of Martial Law
This is an unfounded excuse to defend him. Yes, the declaration of Martial Law was constitutional under the constitution he furnished for himself, but nowhere in the 1935 Constitution, and even in Proclamation 1081 itself, is there a provision that grants authority to the AFP to torture suspected criminals. Even Article IV, Section 20, of the 1973 Constitution expressly states that, “[n]o force, violence, threat, intimidation, or any other means which vitiates the free will shall be used against [any person].”
Secondly, Manuel Yan, the AFP Chief of Staff 1968-1972 said in an oral interview that Martial law was not needed that time. He remarks,
“Kakaunti lang ang conflict sa Mindanao noon. Hindi naman malala ang sitwasyon diyan sa New People’s Army na kayang sugpuin naman ng ating armed forces through small unit actions only…Tayo ay nagtatag ng units of the Armed Forces against demonstrations. Tayo ay bumili ng anti-riot equipment to be able to quell this student unrest peacefully…Hindi Kailangan ng Martial Law”.
Secondly, affirmative may argue that there was a growing communist threat in the country. This was true, but Martial Law exacerbated it. According to sources, Marcos and martial law were NPA’s biggest recruiter, where numbers rose from 1,028 armed guerillas, to 22,000 after he fled away from Malacanang. NPAs believe that change cannot come through election and electoral reform, especially the massive cheating incidence during the 1969 and succeeding elections under his regime. How can you expect someone to believe in state rhetoric? People radicalized because of his rule, and turned to armed struggle as a solution to overthrow the system.
And If he really did what he was supposed to do, he should have ensured that the rights of all citizens, including those accused of rebellion or insurrection, are protected according to the very constitution that he crafted himself. Instead, he let the number of human rights violations to reach the thousands. Truth be told, he did not do what needed to be done. At best this was an arbitrary move, but at worst, a move for his own political gain- to suspend the elections and prolong his stay in power.
On the 2011 Joint Resolution
Yes, he was never convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude. But the decided cases of ill-gotten wealth are enough evidence to conclude that he is not worth a hero’s burial. Such court decisions here and abroad are based on clear evidence and are merely not a form of “political move.”
To bury Marcos in the LMB is to distort the very sense of heroism founded upon our collective national past of heroes who fought for liberation, not for the demise of our people. To give him a hero’s burial is to acknowledge that someone can be a plunderer and a human rights violator and still be called a hero in the end. And allowing this contradiction of propriety is too much of a cost just to “reiterate our sense of humanity and respect for the dead.”
The national discourse regarding Martial law is already happening, and we do not need “To bury Marcos at the Libingan [just] to invite discussions on what the man really was, human as he is”. The LNMB is a place to commemorate heroes, not a space to debate about controversial people.
Yes, Marcos cannot defend himself, but more especially to those who died without fairness and justice during Martial Law; who died and still questioning why they were tortured and killed by the regime. They, too cannot rest peacefully, or at least their relatives who are still searching for justice, if we praise the man who turned a blind eye to their deaths, and whose son lacks remorse on it.
Marcos deserves burial, yes. They can do it anytime, but a hero’s burial is improper. We are not ‘monsters’ for forbidding such act. It’s an attempt, not as big as an act of justice to those who were killed, tortured and disappeared during his regime. It’s an act telling to our future that being a plunderer and a human rights violator is not heroic even if you build hundreds of infrastructure projects that did not even benefit entirely the whole population.
We judge a dead man by the legacy that he left. Marcos left a nation that has barely recovered from the political, social and economic injustices of his regime. We do not need more blood nor hate. We just have to refuse a dead man his hero’s burial because he does not deserve it.
Yes, history and historical judgment will always be divisive, and people will always choose a side of the fence. But to move on, forget the other side and bury him at the LMNB just to break this divisiveness is injustice. No, history is not written by the victors. The dialectic of the victor-defeated, oppressor-oppressed is too thin. History is written by common people- of the contemporaneous, of the eyewitness. History is never propaganda; it is grounded on historical reality. History is ours- of the nation who suffered under the Man’s regime. Let us not forget. We will never bury the man in the LNMB because clearly, he does not deserve it.
READ NEGATIVE'S OPENING REMARKS: Why a nation which fought a dictator should not bury Marcos in “Libingan ng mga Bayani”
READ THE WHOLE DEBATE: DEBATE: Should late President Marcos be buried in the Heroes’ Cemetery?