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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.