By Bernadette Pamintuan
(Illustration by Angelique Tacata)
THEMIS, the goddess of good counsel, had definitely lost her judgment in the Philippine wing. Her blindfold had been too thick, too blinding, to even let her conscience see the eternal agony of those in the lighter scale on the balance in her hands. She allowed the Marcoses, the apologists, the powerful and the amnesiac to fill the heavier scale so that she too stumbles as she walks. The sword on her left was once used to oust a slaughterer, an autocrat. Ironically, it was now used to dig a special tomb for him.
It was on Nov. 8 when the Supreme Court allowed the burial of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (LNMB) with nine justices dismissing the petitions opposing the move, arguing that there is no such law prohibiting the act.
The Supreme Court also pointed out that President Rodrigo Duterte has the authority to order such given that he “acted within the bounds of the law and jurisprudence.” Also, according to the bylaws of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Marcos is still entitled to a spot in LNMB since he served as a commander-in-chief when he was president and was also a medal of valor awardee.
The verdict then gained public dissent especially from the victims of martial law. The Supreme Court had been their only hope in the midst of chaos during the last few months as they were expecting a well-judged decision. However, it had been clear that even the arbiter and supposed interpreter of the laws of the land was desensitized, tainted with historical revisionism, apathy and utter neglect.
The Heroes’ Cemetery, as the name itself suggests, is a place for departed heroes, military personnel, war veterans, Philippine presidents, National Artists and National Scientists. Established in 1947, it is a place to commemorate all Filipinos whose lives were offered for national freedom, political reform and cultural refinement. Former President Elpidio Quirino signed Republic Act 289 on June 16, 1948 to initiate the construction of a “national pantheon” for the patriots of the country. The said memorial’s fundamental objective is “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.”
Now, it may be contended that Marcos’ remains deserve to be interred beside Diosdado Macapagal, Artemio Ricarte, Blas Ople and Fe Del Mundo since he had been a Philippine president, making him eligible for the post. However, his role in the gruesome tortures and killings during the Martial Law expels him entirely from the roster of notable nationalists who were great men of virtuous principles. The law may have been unable to ban him in LNMB for all the suffering of those who fought for the revival of democracy, but his name will forever be etched in the memory of history as a brute who claimed more than 3,000 lives. We therefore ask SC; does he deserve the “emulation” of our grandchildren?
Those in the highest court, of all people, should be the ones to bear the weight of the dictatorship’s pain on their shoulders, thinking that their predecessors had significant roles in the 1986 restoration of democracy. Indeed, they are incapable to discern Marcos’ unworthiness of his current place in the cemetery. The thousands who died under his corrupt regime should be the ones to be buried alongside martyrs of the war. Their long-forgotten names should be carved on heroic stones and not that of the tyrant’s kindred.
“There are certain things that are better left for history—not this Court—to adjudge,” SC wrote in the conclusion of its decision. “In the meantime, the country must move on and let this issue rest.”
How can one possibly tell a martial law victim to simply move on, forget and let the issue rest if the wounds are still fresh? In fact, the present administration seems to open them more by being a replica of the beginnings of the martial law rule. How can a murderer deserve a better funeral when those desaparecidos did not even have a decent burial?
We who continue to fight against historical revisionism cry with the families of the 70,000 who sacrificed for the present generation. It continues to march with Reynaldo Lopez, Eduardo Buenaflor, Ronald Llamas and all those who strode at the front rows of EdSA in a war against corruption and injustice.
All Filipinos can now watch the boulder of historical blunder run fast across their faces. They would have to painfully push it up again, for all eternity, not because history repeats itself, but because they fail to learn from it.