The Manila Times : Inauguration of new president at the National Museum is an off-putting idea

By Yen Makabenta | The Manila Times

First word

THIS is only one citizen's opinion.

I do not know whether the National Museum is already the personal choice of President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. as the site for his inauguration. Neither is it known whether the museum is the selection of a transition team, which evidently arrogated to itself the decision over the venue and the conduct of the inaugural ceremony.

All the public knows and all I know about the National Museum extravaganza is the information shared by a cryptic press statement released to the media by the prospective head of the Presidential Management Staff (PMS), former House representative Zenaida Angping.

PMS press release

Ms. Angping's press release announced that President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. will have his inauguration at the National Museum in Manila on June 30.

Angping said the Marcos team had formed an inaugural committee, which had already inspected the National Museum and found it "a suitable venue" for his oath-taking.

"[Both the] building and its surrounding areas match our requirements for President-elect Marcos' inauguration. Preparations are already in full swing to ensure that it will be ready by then," she said.

The National Museum used to be the old Legislative Building until 1973 when Marcos Sr. abolished Congress and padlocked the building after he declared martial law. After the Senate and House of Representatives moved to separate locations, the Legislative Building became the permanent home of the National Museum under a 1998 law.

Angping explained the reason for choosing the National Museum over the Quirino Grandstand, whose surrounding grounds are still being used as the site of Covid-19 field hospitals.

She said they wanted to avoid disrupting the medical care of the Covid-19 patients.

Meanwhile, Vice President-elect Sara Duterte-Carpio, Marcos Jr.'s running mate, will take her oath of office in her hometown, Davao City, on June 19, said her spokesperson Christina Frasco.

Holding her inauguration on June 19 will give Duterte-Carpio the chance to attend the Marcos Jr. inauguration in Manila, said Frasco, the mayor of Liloan, Cebu, who is the president-elect's choice for tourism secretary.

Historic and traditional site

The press notice shared but glossed over the information that for decades the Quirino Grandstand at the Rizal Park has served as the venue for presidential inaugurations.

This was where the first President Marcos took his oath of office on Dec. 30, 1965, and again on Dec. 30, 1969, after his reelection.

Most of the country's postwar presidents were inaugurated at what was known as the Independence Grandstand — Manuel Roxas, Elpidio Quirino (after whom the grandstand would later be renamed), Ramon Magsaysay, Carlos P. Garcia, Diosdado Macapagal, Ferdinand Marcos, Fidel V. Ramos and Benigno Aquino 3rd.

Roxas was the first Philippine president to be inaugurated at the grandstand. His inauguration on July 4, 1946, as the first postwar president followed after his inauguration at the Legislative Building on May 28 that year as the country's last Commonwealth president.

Manuel L. Quezon and Jose P. Laurel were also sworn into office at the Legislative Building, which housed the legislature from the American colonial era. Under the presidencies of Corazon Aquino and Fidel Ramos, the Senate occupied the Legislative Building until 1998.

Emilio Aguinaldo, the president of the First Philippine Republic, and Joseph Ejercito Estrada were both inaugurated at the Barasoain Church in Malolos, Bulacan.

Sergio Osmeña, a wartime president like Quezon, had his inauguration in Washington, D.C.

Presidents Corazon Aquino and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo were inaugurated at the Club Filipino in Greenhills, San Juan City and Our Lady of EDSA Shrine, Mandaluyong, respectively.

President Duterte's inaugural was held in Malacañang, with a limited number of guests.

In 2010, President Benigno Aquino 3rd refused to be sworn into office by Chief Justice Renato Corona; he chose instead retired associate justice Conchita Carpio-Morales to swear him into office. By this act, Aquino was making a political statement; he would shortly make known his full objective by launching a campaign to unseat Corona from the Supreme Court.

The location of the coming Marcos Jr. inaugural at the National Museum is as disconcerting and disruptive as Aquino's decision to bypass Corona and subsequently unseat him. It merits more than an innocuous press release.

Unfortunate connotations

The National Museum as inaugural site carries unfortunate connotations that will probably gladden those Marcos haters who want to see BBM leave the presidency quickly.

Marcos Jr. is not something or someone who is ready or fit to be curated for exhibition in a museum.

His ascent to the presidency after 36 years of exile, and his unprecedented victory in the recent election are events in a historic saga. They should be celebrated, not embalmed.

If anyone needs curating, it is the complete story of Ferdinand Edralin Marcos' life and presidency, which the Yellow cult and the Liberal Party sought to demonize and hide behind a false narrative of venality and abuse of human rights. The full story of martial law in the Philippines needs to be told. It's not historical revisionism to ferret out that story; it is rectifying a mistake.

The proposed museum inaugural is inappropriate for another reason.

Both Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Sara Duterte-Carpio represent generational change in the nation's politics and history.

Rizal Park is the most appropriate venue for their inauguration because the park, where the national hero Jose Rizal's statue stands and his remains interred, is an immemorial site of our people's struggle for nationhood. Here Bagumbayan was born, here Rizal, Gomburza and countless others were executed and martyred during our long night of subjugation.

No site in the archipelago could be more fitting for the investiture of Marcos Jr. and Duterte-Carpio than the soil of Bagumbayan.

If, as many believe, national renewal and regeneration will follow upon the accession of Marcos Jr. to leadership of our crisis-stricken nation, look back at what happened during the grueling three-month election campaign. They spoke of unity for national recovery far more effectively than they spoke the language of politics. They spoke against division among our people and religions, while their rival incessantly talked of discord and dissension.

It will be unfortunate if both Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Sara Duterte-Carpio will take their oaths of office away from traditional and hallowed ground. This is an oversight that should be corrected.

We need a place for the living, not a museum, in order to properly consecrate our hopes and our lives to the future.