SO everything that we fought for during the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos and the 1986 Edsa People Power uprising is up for forgetting come Sept. 18? That's only what, three decades after? Does this prove the beef that Filipinos have a notoriously short memory? Will Sept. 18 be included in the lengthening list of “Only in Da Pilipins” joke? Can the political pendulum swing back to the center?
The Marcoses plan to bury the embalmed body of the former dictator at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Taguig City on Sept. 18. The body, enclosed in a glass crypt in the hometown of the Marcoses in Batac, Ilocos Norte, has been on display there since it was brought back to the country from Hawaii in 1993. The Marcoses fled to Hawaii at the height of the uprising and the dictator died there in 1989.
If the plan pushes through, history as we know it will be turned upside down. The Libingan ng mga Bayani is for heroes. The former dictator is everything a hero is not. He presided over the unprecedented exploitation and oppression of the Filipino people from 1972 to 1986. That was the bleakest period this country went through post-World War II. Burying him with heroes is thus a painful irony.
I think about that and rage immediately builds up inside me. I think about that longer and I feel like exploding. What I do is tune everything out, divert my attention to other things and prod myself to accept reality, no matter how painful. I only did this one other time: during my second in the ‘80s. In solitary confinement, I realized there was nothing I could do except to go with the flow.
But this kind of reality did not happen overnight. It came in increments. The first increment came when Fidel Ramos succeeded Corazon Aquino in 1992 and approved the return of the Marcoses and the body of the former dictator to the country. That allowed the Marcoses to, piece by piece, rebuild their political power and reacquire political influence and maintain their economic standing.
The rebuilding of political power culminated this May, when the former dictator's son and namesake, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. almost won the post of vice president, pushed aside only by Leni Robredo, who won by the skin of her teeth. That was also the culmination of the spread of revisionist history that painted a different picture of Martial Law and the dictatorship.
The final increment came with the win by Rodrigo Duterte as president last May. He was the only one among the presidential candidates that openly stated his intention to allow the burial of Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. He won by a big margin over Mar Roxas, the bet of former president Benigno Aquino III, son of former senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. who was assassinated by Marcos minions in 1983 and whose death marked the beginning of the end of Marcos's rule.
Has the Filipino majority given the imprimatur for the burial of the former dictator at the Libingan ng mga Bayani? I don't think so because Duterte won by a mere plurality. Meaning that the majority—those who voted for Roxas, Grace Poe, Jejomar Binay and Miriam Defensor-Santiago—weren't for him or what he stood for. Besides, his vow to fight criminality and not his stance on Marcos's burial was what primarily propelled him to victory.
That's why while I am resigned to whatever the reality will offer on Marcos's burial, I retain the hope that the majority will gather the courage to prevent this greatest of all insults from hitting this country in the gut.
(firstname.lastname@example.org/ twitter: @khanwens)