A Heroes’ Cemetery and Martial Law

Corporate Watch
Amelia H. C. Ylagan

Posted on August 15, 2016

General Douglas MacArthur lamented that the heroism of soldiers was soon forgotten in the reality of things that are now. At the Libingan ng mga Bayani, in the remaining slice of the once-vast Fort Andres Bonifacio of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the tired arch over the entrance to the Heroes’ Cemetery plaintively echoes MacArthur’s praise of soldiers: “I do not know the dignity of their births but I do know the glory of their deaths.”

To die in glory elicits in the mind a spectrum of admirable deeds performed in life that are “worth emulating,” as Section 1 of Republic Act No. 289, otherwise known as “An Act Providing for the Construction of a National Pantheon for Presidents of the Philippines, National Heroes and Patriots of the Country” is quite clear in its purpose -- “for the inspiration and emulation of this generation and of generations still unborn.” The sacred place is the burial ground for honorable men and women only, according to Atty. Mel Sta. Maria (Interaksyon, 08.09.2016)

And so why is Ferdinand Marcos, ousted dictator under Martial Law (1972-1986) to be buried in the Libingan ng Mga Bayani? President Rodrigo Duterte has by himself decided that Marcos’s supposed dying wish in his exile in Hawaii, even after being deposed as President-dictator and effectively dishonorably discharged as Commander-in-Chief of the Martial Law military forces will be honored.

That the military in his control turned against him as definitive judgment on the morality and unsustainability of martial law says that Marcos was no longer Commander-in-Chief on Feb. 23, 1986, when the Armed Forces of the Philippines joined the EDSA Revolution that ousted Marcos and his collaborators. Logically, Marcos was not President either anymore, removed directly by the people for cause, by the three-day EDSA People Power Revolution that ended on Feb. 26 1986, when Marcos finally asked US Senator Paul Laxalt to facilitate his asylum to Hawaii. Marcos and his family were in voluntary exile in the US for three years, until he passed away in 1989.

Asylum for a deposed dictator can only mean admission of wrong-doing. Flight is guilt, it is said. Marcos, an extremely intelligent man (Philippine Bar qualifying exams grade: an unprecedented, never equaled 98.01%) knew it was over for him. White flag up -- surrender.

Seven years after she and her husband Ferdinand were booted out of the country, Imelda Marcos was found guilty of corruption and sentenced to 18 to 24 years in prison. (Ferdinand had been dead four years, and the charges on him died with him.) The sentence included her permanent disqualification from public office. More than 100 other corruption charges in Philippine courts involved $350 million allegedly held by the Marcoses in Swiss banks, which the Swiss federal tribunal ruled in December 1990 would be returned to Manila only if a Philippine court convicted Mrs. Marcos in a fair trial. The Government estimates the Marcos family’s wealth to be $5 billion. (New York Times 09.24.1993)

Former Senator Jovito Salonga, who once led the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), sought to recover the wealth accrued by the Marcoses and their cronies, said: “This conviction will convey the message to the outside world that we are now beginning to take these cases seriously, that there are some of us that cannot be bought or influenced, that we know the difference between right and wrong.” (Ibid.)

But, after five years of appeals, the Supreme Court overturned the corruption conviction of Imelda Marcos, saving her from a possible 12-year jail term in the only case in which she has been found guilty of graft during the rule of her husband, Ferdinand (New York Times 10.07.1998). The Supreme Court said Mrs. Marcos did not personally sign anything and that the court that convicted Mrs. Marcos had violated due process, with unscheduled and informal discussions outside its offices (Ibid.).

About P170 billion of ill-gotten wealth (assets, monies, and properties) had already been recovered by the PCGG and the country is still trying to recover millions, if not billions, more (InterAksyon, op. cit. 08.09.2016). Concurring with Mel Sta. Maria: “this theft can be considered the grandest larceny in Philippine history” (Ibid.) -- indeed, how can anyone say there was no crime committed against the Filipino people?

In 1995, 10,000 Filipinos victims/surviving relatives won a US class-suit claim on the estate of Ferdinand Marcos for torture, execution, and disappearances during Martial Law (The Scotsman/Wikipedia retrieved -11-19. 2007). Historian Alfred McCoy cites 3,257 extrajudicial killings, 35,000 torture victims, and 70,000 incarcerated during the Marcos years (“Closer than Brothers: Manhood at the Philippine Military Academy” and “Dark Legacy”). The newspaper Bulatlat places the number of victims of arbitrary arrest and detention at 120,000 (indybay.org 10.95.2007). Former Navy Captain Dan Vizmanos, activist/protester in martial law laments how former activists seem to now have “acute amnesia” about the crimes in the 20-year reign of the Marcoses (InterAksyon 09.21.2013)

And this acute amnesia for many of those who were old enough during martial law, and the complete oblivion for those too young, or born after, will let hard-talking President Duterte bury Ferdinand Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani. “Even if he (Ferdinand Marcos) didn’t receive the (war) medals, correct, but that is the record of another country. Why would I, in making a decision, refer to the records of another country? We have long ceased to be a vassal state of the United States,” Duterte said (Rappler, 08.12.2016). The National Historical Commission of the Philippines said that Marcos’s alleged medals were “dubious in their authenticity and not in the records of the US” (Rappler, 08.09.2016).

Since the campaign period prior to the May national elections, now Vice-President Leni Robredo has objected to the burial of Marcos at the Libingan because of “the plunder, crimes and abuses attributed to Marcos during his decades-long regime,” as she believed “the interment of Marcos ‘will not bring unity to the country’ as President Rodrigo Duterte, who made the Marcos burial a campaign promise, believes” (The Philippine Star 08.06.2016).

With campaign promises not meant to be broken, one wonders what would be the operating parameters within which to make these promises happen? Like the runaway statistics on extrajudicial killings justified in the obsessive anti-drug campaign: how come no due process is deigned on the rubber-slippered homeless, the hundreds suspected to be drug pushers, and killed at sight by police empowered by immunity from suits? They are guilty before proven innocent. And here is Marcos to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani: presumed innocent in the absence of a tight legal conviction.

When Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno questioned President Duterte about his naming several judges as being involved with the illegal drug trade, he threatened in a speech before troops in Southern Mindanao: “If this will continue and if you will try to stop me, then fine. Would you rather I declare martial law?” (Aljazeera.com 08.10.2016)

At the Libingan ng mga Bayani, Ferdinand E. Marcos, ousted dictator, will be buried on or about Sept. 18, on a date as proximate as possible to the anniversary of his declaration of Martial Law on Sept. 21, 1972.

Amelia H. C. Ylagan is a Doctor of Business Administration from the University of the Philippines.