Echaves: Conversations

MANY moons ago at UP High School Cebu here in Lahug, graduation time meant identifying the leadership awardee in the graduating batch.

On occasions when no one emerged as the irrefutable leader, we expanded the choices to include leadership potential, meaning that a student need not have a formal position in the student council or clubs and other co-curricular activities. If peers looked up to him/her for guidance, emulation and inspiration, he/she was in.

While aware of the sponsor-specified qualifications for the award, we stressed as well the intent of the award.

Triggering these memories is the issue of whether the late dictator Ferdinand Edralin Marcos deserves to be buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani (LMB).

Section 1 of Republic Act (RA) 289 authorized the construction of a national pantheon for presidents of the Philippines, national heroes and patriots of the country.

The purpose of such act is “to perpetuate the memory of all Presidents of the Philippines, national heroes and patriots for the inspiration and emulation of this generation and of generations still unborn.”

President Duterte’s and Marcos loyalists’ argument that the late dictator’s burial in the LMB is justified by his having been president of this country belabors the issue.

Even if they were to stick to the letter of the law, their argument does not hold. He declared martial rule, did he not? He perpetuated his reign beyond his allowed maximum of six years, did he not?

As overstaying president, he entered into onerous loans because of which the country’s debts ballooned into billions of dollars, did he not? As he perpetuated himself, he showed the ugly face of the New Society, did he not?

And as crimes and excesses of his sub-alterns went unabated, the list of victims of senseless killings and desaparecidos grew longer and untraceable, did it not?

Until today, long after his death in Hawaii, after his return to Paoay, and after his wife’s and children’s return to power, the Marcoses still have to return all of their ill-gotten wealth, don’t they?

Then, there’s RA 10368 granting reparation to the victims and/or their families for the torture, deaths, injuries, sufferings, summary executions, involuntary disappearances, deprivations, damages and other gross human rights violations during the Marcos martial rule regime from Sept. 21, 1972 to Feb. 25, 1986.

For all the havoc and ruin Marcos caused and is undesirably notorious for, how is he exactly a symbol of inspiration and emulation for generations here and beyond?

By the letter of RA 10368, Marcos was a dark figure in our country’s history. By the spirit of RA 289, he is neither an inspiring nor emulatory figure. Why else is there much protest?

While Duterte opted to choose evidence to suit his narrative, the two RAs are not necessary contradictions. No wonder President Duterte now sounds conciliatory. It was a campaign promise, he said. Did it sound like “End of conversation!”?

The law allows it, he said. I’ll give them (the protesters) a month to protest, he said.

Now, he’s willing to abide by the decision of the Supreme Court. End of conversation?

(lelani.echavez@gmail.com)
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