Heroes

When Gilbert ‘Gibo’ Teodoro, Jr. visited Capiz 6 years ago during an election sortie, I watched with amazement and not a small degree of amusement as people from all walks of life lined the streets and hung out of windows just to catch a glimpse of the guy as he passed.

I remember I was stuck in traffic at the time, waiting for his convoy to pass before I could go back to my office. But unlike other times, the mood of the people around me was not one of frustration at having to wait for another self important VIP to pass. Surprisingly, there was instead a palpable air of excitement. Unlike other visits, this one felt more like a celebrity was coming instead of just another politician.

As his convoy approached, those feelings intensified and a buzz came over the crowd. Spontaneous cheers and sporadic chants of “Gibo! Gibo!” could be heard in the distance, steadily coming closer as the cars carrying him and his supporters approached the place where I was. And unlike other political gatherings I have been in, this one was spontaneous and unfeigned.

It was an experience I have never had before in any political rally and have not seen since. It was as if his mere presence elicited a sense of hope and optimism in a people exhausted of corruption and bad news, beaten and broken from decades of oppression and bad governance, a people in desperate need of a hero.

He did not win that election and the final embers of hope in my breast died along with his political career. I still believe that he was our best hope for a better future, a man who was larger than life but had his feet firmly rooted on the ground, someone I could look up to and respect. He did not seek power for power’s sake but accepted it as his duty and responsibility to a people who trusted him to do what was right for them. He was equally comfortable in the halls of Congress as he was wading in the floodwaters brought by Ondoy or flying a plane to deliver relief goods to an isolated island. Somehow, you knew that he did things because he had a heart and not because he sought attention.

Now, more than ever, we need men like him to lead us and guide us and care for us and restore our faith in humanity. We need someone who does not lust for power but rather accepts it when it is thrust upon him and who relinquishes it readily when the need has passed. We need someone with empathy who will listen and can understand the plight of even the lowliest among us and not turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the problems plaguing the nation. We need someone who will look out for everyone’s welfare and not just those of a chosen few.

We need someone who will unite us into one nation again and make us proud of our country once more.

Now, more than ever, we need heroes.

 

Should Marcos be allowed burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani?

Section 1 of Republic Act 289 states:
“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 generations still unborn, there shall be constructed a National Pantheon which shall be the burial place of their mortal remains.”
There is no argument that the late Ferdinand Edralin Marcos was a former president of the republic of the Philippines. In fact, he was the longest reigning president of this country, holding that position for more than 20 years since 1965, until he was deposed in a popular but bloodless revolution in February of 1986.
However, his qualification to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani stops there.
Ferdinand E. Marcos was neither a hero nor a patriot.
The late president Marcos claimed to have been awarded a total of 33 medals for his courageous actions during World War II, leading a guerilla force known as the “Ang Mga Maharlika” in countless armed clashes, sabotage, and intelligence gathering missions against the occupying Japanese Imperial Army, making him this nation’s most decorated war hero.
However, these claims have never been recognized by the United States Veterans Administration and were later proven fraudulent by researchers John Sharkey of the Washington Post, Jeff Gerth and Joel Brinkley of the New York Times, and historian and scholar Dr. Alfred McCoy. Even the US Army stationed in Pangasinan, where most of his exploits allegedly occurred, denied that they issued any medals to Marcos. Marcos was a mere Civil Affairs officer of the 14th Infantry of the Philippine Army and was never a combatant.
More importantly, the late Ferdinand Edralin Marcos was not one that this generation and generations to come should ever emulate.
His atrocious record of extrajudicial killings, torture, and illegal detentions still haunts this country thirty years after he fled the country in shame. There were 3,257 recorded victims of extrajudicial killings, more than 35,000 tortured, and 70,000 illegally detained for speaking up against his rule. To this day, the mere mention of Martial Law sends shivers down the spine of those old enough to have lived through those dark times, prompting fervent cries of “Never Again!” from souls beaten down by his tyrranical rule.
Martial Law was the darkest time in the history of this nation, where dissent was met with death, protest by torture, and where speaking up meant that you would disappear without a trace. There are still desaparecidos still unfound even after all this time, their families forever wondering about their fates, but mostly resigned to the idea that they are no longer counted as among the living.
His rule also left the country in economic shambles.
From being counted as one of the strongest economies in Asia in the 1970s, the Philippines became its poor relation when Marcos was finally removed from power in 1986. He and his cronies plundered the coffers of the country like no one had before him, taking loot an estimated US$10 billion of the people’s money. The country was left in debt to the tune of $25 billion when he was deposed, leaving future generations to pay for his excesses and those of his cronies.
Allowing the mortal remains of the late Ferdinand Edralin Marcos to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani would not be beneficial for three reasons:
  1. It would be bad for morale – contrary to the claims that allowing him to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani would allow the nation to move on from its past, this will in fact exonerate him from the evils that he has done. Moving on requires that there be a healing of the wounds, forgiveness after an apology, absolution after restitution. His heirs have never admitted to any wrongdoing and not a single one has spent a day in prison.
  2. It would be an insult to those who suffered under his rule – allowing a hero’s  burial to the one ultimately responsible for the deaths of thousands tortured and killed during his regime, not to mention the suffering and agony of their families and those families whose sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters are still missing to this day would be the gravest insult.
  3. It would require a rewriting of our history and of the law – a hero’s burial would require the retcon of what Martial Law really was, making of it a benevolent step forward instead of a leap backwards into medieval times where life was cheap and easily extinguished. It would also require the amendment of the law creating the Libingan ng mga Bayani, to allow even those who did evil to be buried there.
Now, more than ever, this country needs heroes; men they can look up to and emulate, men who can make this country’s citizens proud of it once more, men who can lead this nation to greatness, men who fathers and mothers can point to and tell their children “that is what I want you to be when you grow up”, men built of stern moral fiber, incorruptible and with integrity.
And for all he was, Ferdinand Edralin Marcos was no hero.