Published on November 22, 2016.
We should join the mass actions to protest the Marcos burial—especially the ones called for Nov. 25 and Nov. 30—because the times call for it. Our dignity as free Filipinos has been challenged, our sense of heroism, of honor even, has been gravely insulted; the democratic project itself is under threat. Allowing the dictator’s remains to be buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani, a national shrine, undermines the constitutional order.
We must show up in force in protest sites across the country.
We should protest the miscarriage of justice that is the Supreme Court decision in the Marcos burial cases. It is an abhorrent outcome not because it favors the Marcoses but because it is manifestly unjust; it disregards settled jurisprudence, minimizes the import of history, bends over backward to accommodate the incumbent President, and above all self-emasculates the judiciary, in order to favor the Marcoses. I have criticized the careless thinking and cowardly positions of Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta’s unfortunate majority opinion, but you don’t have to take my word for it. Associate Justice Benjamin Caguioa’s comprehensive rebuttal (every point of Peralta’s is dealt with, decisively) ends with the following deeply moving reflection.
We should also protest President Duterte’s blithe attempt to revise history. At the Apec summit in Peru, where he spent millions of taxpayer pesos for the privilege of being absent from key events, he explained his support for the burial as merely legalistic—he had no choice, he said—but then also tried to wipe history’s slate clean. “Whether or not [Marcos] performed worse or better, there’s no study, no movie about it, just the challenges and allegations of the other side,” the first lawyer-president since Marcos himself said. This is patently untrue, not only because of the 20 or so Supreme Court decisions or the Republic Acts recognizing Marcos’ perfidy, but also because in fact academic research and dozens of movies have shown or proven the Marcos regime as deeply antidemocratic.
We should protest the indecent haste, the characteristically Marcosian deception, with which the burial was conducted: in secrecy, using select units of the security services, before the Court decision became final. Burial in the Libingan is a public honor, not a scam or a scheme.
Not least, we should protest the fact of the burial itself. How, one may ask, can an ex-soldier’s burial at a military cemetery be a threat to democracy? Peralta’s intellectually dishonest argument tries to depict Marcos as less than the corrupt dictator he was. “Marcos should be viewed and judged in his totality as a person. While he was not all good, he was not pure evil either. Certainly, just a human who erred like us.”
This is how abuses of power are normalized, by fudging them as “error.” Marcos’ errors include dozens of fabricated medals, over 3,000 people killed, tens of thousands tortured, over 100,000 casualties in the Moro war he started, $25 billion in crushing debt—and, oh, the death of democracy. No, he certainly wasn’t like us. Most Filipinos do not wield absolute power or become absolutely corrupt. Whether as “hero” or as ex-soldier, he does not deserve to be honored.
So to the streets then, and yet again. Take all necessary precautions; learn to spot disinformation; do not treat the security services as monolithic (many good people who believe in democracy and are genuinely proud of our history continue to serve); encourage individual examples, but at the same time build communities of participation through institutions like schools and parishes and unions. The times call for it.