THE proposal to declare the birthday of the late president Ferdinand Marcos a holiday in and for Ilocos Norte has once again surfaced an issue that refuses to die: Marcos himself. The name Marcos after all stands for everything that it is supposed to mean as believed by both supporters and non-supporters alike. For some it is the name of a twenty-year dictatorship and human rights violations. For others it is the name of a 'could have been the salvation' of this country.

Many would say that the current debate is due to the rewriting or revisionism of history. I used to believe in this a few years ago. But it seems that I have to revise my position and speak instead of a history that was not properly written and has now been adulterated for various propaganda. The main arguments of those who are in favor of declaring Marcos a hero are the same recycled propositions. Then that grand closing argument: who are we to judge, we should forget instead and move on.

I agree that none of us knows the fate of Marcos in the realm of the afterlife. After all, not even the pope has the power nor guts to "officially" send anyone to hell. The fate of the late dictator is known to God alone as is the destiny of all unbaptized children in Limbo.

But the question is not about the salvation of Marcos and neither is it about the sins of his enemies. The issue is the "pragmatic value" of making him a hero even at least for a certain sector or fraction of Philippine society. That some Filipinos admire him is a given. But it is one thing to acknowledge the admiration of some, it is another thing to anoint him for public veneration. The so-called heroes we venerate are the measure of our collective value-system. What kind of qualities are found in him that is worth the holiday?

Senator Tito Sotto argued that because the bill is of local application, there should not be much fuzz and objection from the end of the Senate. The good senator was quoted a few days ago: "[i]f it is nationwide, baka magkakaroon ng objection yan, medyo mahihirapan 'yan. For us, it is not a matter of whether we are going to support it or not. Usually, bills of local application breeze through the Senate unless one or two objects." Other supporters of the bill think in the same way as Sotto does. A friend told me that September 9 is a holiday for Cebuanos being Osmena day. Why then should there be no Marcos day at least for Ilocanos?

But I think the issue is not just about the recognition of regional biases. It is true that former President Osmena may not be that relevant to all Filipinos but in balancing the equation it must also be made clear that he was not involved in any serious moral and public issue. He was not forced to leave the presidency and neither are there surviving complainants and claimants against him for human rights violations. By allowing a certain portion of the country to publicly celebrate Marcos' birthday, the net effect would be an initial recognition of that footnoted fabrication of his heroism.

We need to reflect deeper though. Why are there people who continue to love Marcos? In any society there are always those who associate themselves with the losers. At some point liberal democracy won; it was symbolized by Edsa and its key players. But there were those who believed that they did not benefit from it. I grew up hearing the line "the kilo of rice was cheaper during the time of Marcos." Apparently, this sounds very simplistic because rice was free prior to Marcos that was when no government existed.

Many people could not fathom the connection between freedom and economic growth. Sad to say there are people who in struggling for their dreams would use an abandoned past as a symbolism of their resistance against an abhorred system. So now the yellow liberals are associated with the ruling elite and Marcos as the failed Jesus Christ of the poor. This tries to sound convincing but is sadly neurotic.

But are we to believe that just because Cory Aquino did not usher in the "reign of God" after her camp ousted Marcos that a continuation of the dictatorship past 1986 would have made the country better? This is a question that cannot be answered in any way. All is speculative. For a history that never was -- one person's speculation is as good as the other. We are then honoring this dead person on the basis of the prevailing discourse of the State, of what those in power would like us to believe of what is right and true.