By Mara Cepeda
President Rodrigo Duterte says the Aquinos and their supporters should have passed a law banning a hero’s burial for the late strongman when they were still in power
MANILA, Philippines – It’s not an issue about whether one is a hero or not but upholding the “law.”
President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday reiterated his argument that the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos deserves to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani because he is a soldier and a former president.
In allowing the transfer of Marcos’ remains from Ilocos to the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes’ Cemetery), Duterte said he is not arguing whether or not the former dictator is a hero “in the true sense of the word.” (READ: #AnimatED: Marcos, Duterte and burying our history)
“Even if he is not a hero, he was a soldier. Even if he didn’t receive the medals, correct, but that is the record of another country. Why would I, in making a decision, refer to the records of another country? We have long ceased to be a vassal state of the United States (US). Tapos na ‘yan (That’s over). It’s history,” said Duterte on Thursday, August 11, at a press conference in Davao City.
“Ang Pilipinas (The Philippines) is you need only to be a president and a solider. Nobody is debating about heroes here. Assuming it to be true na wala siyang medalya (that he does not have medals) or not validated by an American record does not mean that he is not qualified to be buried there. So what’s the objection?” he added.
The US holds all official World War II records related to the Philippines, which was part of the United States Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) during the last war.
The National Historical Commission of the Philippines, which opposed a hero’s burial for Marcos, noted that US military files showed that the late dictator’s stint as a World War II soldier was “fraught with myths, factual inconsistencies, and lies.”
Still, the Department of National Defense said that as per the rules of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Marcos can be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani because he was a former president, soldier, defense secretary, and war veteran.
“I would like to say forget about the medals. Just focus on whether he is a Filipino. He fought for his country, and he’s once upon a time a president. That’s the law! We cannot go out of the law….Nobody is questioning about his [being] a hero [or not]. I am not dwelling on his exploits,” said Duterte.
The government’s announcement of its preparations to give Marcos a hero’s burial on September 18 sparked public outrage offline and online.
Lawmakers, historians, and martial law victims and their relatives argued that the killings, torture, disappearances, corruption, and media oppression that perpetuated under Marcos’ 21-year rule make him unfit to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
Duterte, however, said he would allow Filipinos to stage protests against Marcos’ burial.
‘Why didn’t critics pass law banning Marcos at Libingan?’
On Thursday, Duterte said Marcos’ critics should have passed a law banning his burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
He singled out the members of the Aquino family.
“Alam mo kasi, kung ginusto nila – and they were already in power at the time, itong mga yellow – dapat nagpasa sila ng batas na hindi puwedeng ilibing si Marcos when the guy was already in Guam in exile. They should have passed a law prohibiting Marcos if ever he comes home dead to be buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani….But nothing has been done. Bakit kinalimutan ang elementary procedure na ‘yan?” said Duterte.
(You know, if they had wanted it – and they were already in power at the time, the yellows – they should passed a law when Marcos was still in Guam that if ever he would return to the country dead, he cannot be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani… But nothing has been done. Why was this elementary procedure forgotten?)
The late senator Benigno Aquino Jr fought the Marcos dictatorship, leading to his assassination. His wife former president Corazon Aquino became the symbol of the 1986 People Power Revolution that toppled Marcos out of office.
“Yellow” became the signature color of the late president Corazon Aquino, and all those opposed to the Marcos dictatorship. It later became the color representing the political party of former President Benigno Aquino III, the Liberal Party.
Duterte said that if he prohibits Marcos’ burial, he would be disobeying the “law,” apparently referring to the AFP guidelines which AFP Chief General Ricardo Visaya had used to justify the plan.
“I am a president and I’ve sworn my duty to follow the law, not to follow the sentiments of a political side of the other side of the fence,” he said.
Contrary to Duterte’s views
Some of the President’s staunchest allies, however, disagree with him, including Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, Duterte’s running mate.
“I support the President but I do not agree that Marcos should be given a hero’s burial…I hope that it (Marcos’ burial) will provide closure, but it is not the kind of closure I agree with…The Marcos family is making an effort to revise history,” Cayetano told ANC’s Headstart on Friday morning.
Vice President Leni Robredo also said that “Marcos is no hero.” She is currently facing an electoral protest filed against her by the late strongman’s son, former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, whom she beat by a hairline in the 2016 polls.
Senator Grace Poe, meanwhile, told ANC on Thursday that Republic Act 10368 or the “Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013” supersedes the AFP rules. (READ: History and law go against Marcos burial at Libingan ng mga Bayani)
The law was passed to recognize the heroism and sacrifices of all Filipinos who were victims of summary execution, torture, enforced or involuntary disappearance, and other gross human rights violations from September 21, 1972, to February 25, 1986.