A GROUP of human rights activists, lawyers, and students called on President Rodrigo Duterte yesterday to change his stand on burying the late president Ferdinand Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
They gathered in Cebu City’s Plaza Independencia for a citizens’ assembly, an event done simultaneously in Metro Manila and Davao City, among other places.
Marissa Puche, a values advocate, said that the President should not dismiss the stand of “millions of people” who are against his decision to bury Marcos in the cemetery reserved for heroes and public servants.
“Respect for the dead is also respect for the other people who were given injustice by Marcos himself. It is also respect for the living. We have sentiments about the whole thing. You cannot attain peace if you respect only one family and disregard all the other Filipinos,” she said.
“President Duterte should acknowledge that we Filipinos are bigger than just one family. If he truly wants peace, he should be able to accept the fact that there are many, many more Filipinos, more than the 16 million who voted for him, who actually do not agree with him on this particular thing,” she added.
The 1948 law that created the National Pantheon (Republic Act 289) states that the burials there should “perpetuate the memory of all the Presidents of the Philippines, national heroes and patriots for the inspiration and emulation of this generation and generations still unborn.”
Under rules set by the Armed Forces, which runs the cemetery, Marcos may qualify on the grounds of being a former soldier and former president.
But those opposing his burial there have pointed out that his ouster in the 1986 People Power uprising, after 14 years of Martial Law, is sufficient ground to prevent a hero’s burial for the late dictator.
Atty. Cathy Alvarez, lead organizer of yesterday’s event in Cebu and professor of history at the University of the Philippines, said Marcos does not deserve to be buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
“Wa ta niingon nga di ta mosugot ilubong siya. Pero mas maayo kung ilubong siya didto sa Ilocos. Ang klaro, dili sa Libingan. Naa’y tawo nisakripisyo sa ilang kinabuhi aron naa ta’y kagawasan. Naa’y mga martyr. Di siya usa nila (We’re not saying he shouldn’t be buried. But it would be better to bury him in Ilocos, not in the Libingan ng mga Bayani. People have given their lives in order for us to be free. People have been martyred. Marcos wasn’t one of them),” she said.
The gathering in Plaza Independencia yesterday took place in front of the Martial Law marker that had been unveiled in September 2012 as a way of honoring Cebuano martyrs who died in the fight against Martial Law.
Lawyer Democrito Barcenas, a Martial Law detainee who was later appointed vice governor of Cebu after 1986, said that Marcos should not be buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani, considering the thousands of Filipinos who were arrested, salvaged, tortured, and killed even without any proof of their supposed offense.
“Ato ning babagan ug maayo ug unta mausab pa ang huna-huna ni President Duterte (We will oppose this, and it would be good if President Duterte changes his mind),” he said.
The Coalition Against the Marcos Burial in Libingan ng mga Bayani, for their part, said that Marcos wouldn’t qualify to be buried there under the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ guidelines.
The guideline states that “personnel who were dishonorably separated/reverted/discharged from the service; and personnel who were convicted by final judgment of an offense involving moral turpitude” are disqualified.
The group described Marcos as “no hero, but a dictator and a plunderer.”
“President Duterte has promised change during his campaign. But if change based on social justice is truly to be achieved, it cannot be by honoring wrongdoing and burying the past. We are appealing to the President to put a permanent stop to the proposed burial of Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani,” they said.
Yesterday’s event was also attended by members of Sanlakas, Akbayan, Free Legal Assistance Group-Cebu, Anti-Bongbong Marcos Coalition, human rights victim claimants, and students’ organizations.