Echaves: Wannabe heroes

THEN as well as now, this issue of burying the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani continues to polarize people.

One would think that the only operative word here is the last word, “Bayani” meaning “hero.” My simple take on the issue is “What in ‘bayani’ do the proponents not understand?”

It’s not as simple as that, however, when the President of the Philippines insists that Marcos is qualified as former president and soldier. Such was among his campaign promises, he says, though naughty ones are quick to ask, how much did it take to convince him to run, and for the Marcoses to support him?

If Duterte thought this burial decision would stay under the radar, he miserably erred. Look at the increasing number of oppositionists, including Senate President “Koko” Pimentel and former running mate, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano.

He forgets that many of the Martial Law victims, widows and orphans are still around, and their pains cannot, must not be ignored.

Attempts at compromise, some bordering on sarcasm, point to changing the name into Libingan ng mga Sundalo. But that would diminish the honor of the rightly deserving heroes.

So let’s replay the responses of military historian Dr. Ricardo Trota Jose in a 2011 interview with journalist Raissa Robles on the same topic.

Dr. Jose: “All right, he was a soldier and a president. He had some moments of heroism. The problem is, this does not outweigh the impact that his Martial Law period did. You don’t gauge a hero simply because of what he did during the war. You have to look at the totality.”

“You may be a World War II hero but you squander your life afterward and you cause more ruin and harm afterward…”

Robles: “Marcos loyalists always argue he’s a hero because he built numerous hospitals, buildings, roads and bridges.”

Dr. Jose: “Yes, but at what cost? What did we do to pay for that? How much are we still paying today? How much are we in debt? Was it worth crushing free speech and expression of opinion to achieve that?....

Dr. Jose on who should decide who is hero: “It’s not something done through popularity. I think there should be key basics for one to be classified as a hero. When you talk about Rizal or Bonifacio, what do you use to measure them as heroes? The key basics are nationalism, selflessness, patriotism, courage, and really working for the Filipino people without any selfish motives. Being a real patriot. Placing country above self.”

Robles: “Did Marcos not do that?”

Dr. Jose: “Did he do that during Martial Law? When he declared Martial Law, was that really for the country or for self-preservation?”

After two three-year terms, Marcos wanted more. Declaring Martial Law in 1972 grabbed him 14 years more.

Within those hijacked years, he padlocked all mainstream media and allowed only the government media to spin tales about the benefits of Martial Law.

He closed down Congress, suspended the courts, shut up the opposition and played divide-and-rule with his business cronies and trusted military generals.

Nothing heroic. No wonder when presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella was asked how Marcos would be buried--as a president or as a soldier--answered, “He will be buried,” and then hurriedly left the presscon..

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