By Christian V. Esguerra, Norman Bordadora | Philippine Daily Inquirer
Once more with feeling: “Not under my watch.”
President Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday put an end to one of the thorniest issues that has confronted his administration when he told the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines that he would not sanction a hero’s burial for the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
“We have so many victims of the martial law years, who have not gotten even recognition formally from this government, from our government and they were victims,” Mr. Aquino said.
“They have not been accorded an apology, the compensation bill is still pending, and it would be really, I think, the height of injustice to render any honors to the person who was the direct mastermind of all their suffering,” he said.
In a wide-ranging interview with foreign correspondents, the President said to bury Marcos at Libingan ng mga Bayani in Makati City would mean disrespect for Filipinos who were buried there for their great contributions to the country.
“You cannot divorce what happened during the martial law years with the totality of his public life,” he said. “And it serves as a wrong message—demeans the honors given to others of a similar nature—to render the same to a person who has inflicted such suffering on our people after having promised to serve them.”
Mr. Aquino had earlier declined to decide on the issue after promising during the campaign for the presidency last year that he would not allow state honors for the dictator who jailed his father for nearly eight years and was assassinated during his watch.
Instead, he directed Vice President Jejomar Binay to study the proposal. In June, Binay recommended giving military honors to the late strongman in his home province in Ilocos Norte, where he should also be buried.
“I think I will have to communicate this to the Vice President, I apologize, he’s been doing the study on my behalf,” the President said of his decision opposing state honors for Marcos announced at the Focap news conference.
Reached for comment while on a visit to Puerto Princesa, Binay said: “The President has made a decision. That is his prerogative. We should respect that.”
Dictator’s son, daughter
The dictator’s namesake son, Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., angrily lashed out at the President’s decision, saying he “wasted a very good opportunity to unify the nation.”
In Laoag City, Governor Imee Marcos, the strongman’s eldest daughter, told reporters that the family would no longer press the issue. However, she said the family would ask Mr. Aquino if the province could give her father “state honors.”
Senator Marcos was noticeably seething when he faced reporters at the Senate floor where he spent more than five minutes criticizing Mr. Aquino before the afternoon session began.
He dismissed as a zarzuela (play-acting) the President’s instruction for Binay to study the issue.
“It turns out it was a futile exercise,” he said, adding in Filipino that Mr. Aquino was indecisive (pabago-bago ng salita).
“For me, he has wasted a very good opportunity to unify the nation. The job of the President is not to play partisan politics, but to unify the country and that is apparently not his tendency,” the senator said.
“He would like to continue whatever divisions we have in our country. He obviously does not want to heal those divisions. He wants to widen those divisions, which brings us to the conclusion that he’s not a natural leader.”
Waste of time
The senator appeared evasive when asked if among the conditions for the state burial was for his family to at least acknowledge the existence of human right violations under his father’s regime.
He said: “If you remember, my mother (former First Lady Imelda Marcos), when she first came to Congress, asked the human rights commission if there was any human right violation case against us and there was none.”
Marcos noted that besides the Binay recommendation, the House of Representatives also passed a resolution calling for a state burial for his father.
“I’m wondering why we wasted our time when (Mr. Aquino) didn’t intend to follow the recommendation, the study, the resolution. All of these didn’t seem to have any meaning to the President,” he said in Filipino.