By Aurea Calica | The Philippine Star
MANILA, Philippines - There will be no state honors for the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos under the Aquino administration if and when his family finally decides to bury him.
President Aquino made this clear yesterday, saying it would be “the height of injustice” to martial law victims to have the late strongman accorded state honors.
Aquino earlier ruled out a burial for Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
“We have so many victims of the martial law years who have not gotten even a recognition formally from the government and they were victims. 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,” Aquino told a gathering of local and foreign newsmen at the Mandarin Oriental hotel yesterday.
Marcos’ senator son and namesake lambasted Aquino for the decision, saying “the President has wasted a very good opportunity to unify the nation.” The chief of staff of former first lady Imelda Marcos said the senator has been designated family spokesman on the issue. Mrs. Marcos is reportedly confined in an undisclosed hospital.
Aquino had tasked Vice President Jejomar Binay to study calls by the family and supporters of the late strongman that he be buried with honors at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. They said Marcos deserved a hero’s burial at the Libingan because he had been a war hero and a president.
Marcos’ supporters revived calls for him to be buried at the Libingan after former military chief Angelo Reyes, who committed suicide last February at the height of a Senate investigation into military corruption, was interred at the cemetery.
Binay recommended military honors for Marcos but not a state funeral or hero’s burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. He also said the Marcoses had agreed to bury the late president in their hometown in Batac, Ilocos Norte but this was denied by the Marcos family.
“With regards to the Marcos burial, you know, in all honesty – and I think I will have to communicate this to the Vice President, I apologize, he’s been doing the study on my behalf; he had a recommendation – and it was recently called to my attention again. So I think I will not, I am sanctioning – not under my watch – a (state) burial for the late President Marcos,” Aquino said.
“And I think you cannot divorce what happened during the martial law years with the totality of his public life. And it serves as a wrong message – demeans the honors given to others of a similar nature – to render the same to a person that has inflicted such suffering on our people after having promised to serve them,” Aquino said.
The President’s father was Marcos’s arch political enemy.
A military court during the Marcos regime sentenced Aquino’s late father and namesake to death by musketry for rebellion. After years in incarceration, the elder Aquino was allowed by Marcos to undergo a heart operation in the US where he eventually chose to remain in exile. His assassination upon his return to the Philippines in 1983 by soldiers triggered almost daily protest actions that led to the 1986 people power revolution that toppled the dictatorship.
Marcos died three years later in exile in Hawaii. His body is on display in a glass coffin in his hometown in Batac.
“We will have to respect him. That is our President. We just have to respect him. As our President, we must respect his decision,” Binay told reporters. “It is the prerogative of the President and we must all accept, respect and support his decision.”
Commission on Human Rights chair Loretta Ann Rosales, who figured prominently in the anti-Marcos struggle, lauded Aquino’s decision.
“Although he became a president of the country, he was a dictator and he had never been a good president because he plundered the nation. His dictatorship destroyed the country’s economy,” Rosales said of Marcos.
“He cannot qualify for full military honors because his military medals are fake. No less than the US and the late former congressman Boni (Bonifacio) Gillego, a war veteran himself, had proven that Marcos’ alleged medals are fake,” Rosales said.
She said the Marcos family should show respect to the late dictator by burying him silently in Ilocos Norte.
“I hope the Marcos family would do what they ought to do. Bury him silently, with dignity, in Ilocos Norte. You cannot give him military honors. For one to be given full military honors, for a former president for that matter, you have to be a good president first. He has never been a good president and his alleged war medals are fake,” Rosales reiterated.
Sen. Marcos said Aquino had taken them for a ride with his earlier directive to Binay to look into calls for a state burial for the late dictator.
“It is very hard to deal in good faith with somebody who does not have one word on the subject. It turns out that all of these discussions and debates were nothing more than a zarzuela,” Marcos told Senate reporters.
He recalled that the President had even promised voters in Northern Luzon – the bailiwick of the Marcoses – to have an open mind on the issue.
“That is why for me he has wasted a very good opportunity to unify the nation. The work of the President is not to play partisan politics but to unite the nation and that is apparently not his tendency,” Marcos said.
“He would like to continue what divisions we have in our country. He obviously does not want to heal those divisions. He wants to widen those divisions, which just brings us to the conclusion that he is not a natural leader,” he added.
“I am very disappointed that we cannot count on our President to have one word. I cannot count on our President to exercise and exhibit leadership, unifying our country,” Marcos said.
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, who had been a defense minister under Marcos, took a calmer stance on the issue.
“You have to understand that that is a very sensitive issue as far as the two families are concerned and I would understand the feelings of the President, he is the son of the man who was slain and I think we have to understand him and respect his feelings,” Enrile said.
“You know that’s a natural reaction of a son who loves his father. You cannot take that away. That will linger on,” he added.
Marcos loyalist lawyer Oliver Lozano said he accepts Aquino’s decision with sadness.
“We disagree but we respect the decision of President Aquino,” Lozano told The STAR in a telephone interview.
He said giving Marcos a hero’s burial is one of the duties of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to one of its own.
Lozano said the Marcos family can afford a decent and honorable burial for the former president, even without help from the AFP.
“We do not want to appear mendicant if the government will refuse to provide the military honors,” Lozano said.
He had earlier proposed a mountain tomb for Marcos in Batac or in any place in Ilocos Norte.
“A mountain tomb or shrine will also feature a chapel where visitors can pray, and a museum which will showcase memorabilia, and the blueprint of the former president to make the Philippines a great nation,” he said.
He claimed that more than 200 congressmen had declared Marcos a hero, in a resolution. He also cited the AFP’s inclusion of Marcos in its list of distinguished members.
Another Marcos loyalist said the New People’s Army, and not Marcos, should apologize to the people.
“A communist takeover was on our doorstep when President Marcos declared martial law. For heaven’s sake, they should stop peddling lies like what they did in the Plaza Miranda bombing. No less than former senator Jovito Salonga wrote in his book that the Plaza Miranda bombing was a handiwork of the NPA and not Mr. Marcos,” Cherry Cobarrubias told The STAR. Cobarrubias chairs the True Marcos Loyalist movement.
“It was not Marcos who tortured, if they were indeed tortured, but the military. It was not Mr. Marcos who arrested them, but the military,” she said.
Cobarrubias said Marcos declared martial law “precisely to preserve and protect democracy against the communists.”
“The so-called Marcos victims are not victims of martial law. They are leftists, communists. They should be the one to apologize to the people. Their bosses are still there. They are the ones who should apologize, not only to Mr. Marcos, but to the Filipino people. They are not the victims. Mr. Marcos is their victim. Mr. Marcos only did his work as the president to protect the Philippines from a communist takeover,” she said.
“Marcos is the true icon of democracy for declaring martial law,” Cobarrubias said.
Best interest of Phl
The AFP said it respects the President’s decision and expressed confidence it would benefit the country.
“We respect the decision of the President not to allow a state burial for the late President Marcos. We fully trust the wisdom of his decision which is for the best interest of the Filipino people,” AFP spokesman Col. Arnulfo Burgos Jr. said.
But a source, who requested anonymity, said military rules entitle former presidents and soldiers to burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
The Marcos family said the late president was a World War II veteran and was part of guerrilla forces that fought the Japanese colonizers.
Marcos claimed to have received around 300 war medals including the US Congressional Medal of Honor. But the claim was questioned in a series of articles published by the We Forum newspaper in 1982.