Martial Law victims hope that president-elect Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to allow the burial of former president Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani is not an effort to mend the late dictator’s reputation.
Bonifacio Ilagan, vice-chairperson of the human rights group Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA), said the Libingan ng mga Bayani is supposed to be for persons considered as heroes.
“Walang pamantayan na puwedeng lusutan ang diktador na si Marcos para siya ay kilalaning bayani. Napakalaki ng kanyang kasalanan – krimen pa nga, kung tutuusin – sa sambayanang Pilipino,” Ilagan said. (There is no standard that could be cited where the dictator Marcos can be recognized a hero. His sins – crimes, in fact – against the Filipino people are too great.)
Bonifacio and his sister Rizalina were youth activists when Martial Law was declared in 1972.
He was tortured and imprisoned while his sister was abducted by Marcos’ Philippine Constabulary in the 1970s.
Rizalina remains missing to this day.
Ilagan was reacting to Duterte’s declaration that he will let the late dictator be buried at the Libingan because he was a soldier.
“Pineke rin ng diktador na si Marcos ang kanyang kung ilang medalya kuno,” Ilagan said. (The dictator Marcos also faked his supposed medals.)
Ilagan cited the late colonel and Bicolano representative Bonifacio Gillego’s research that exposed Marcos’ medals from the second World War as fakes.
Duterte’s campaign promise
Duterte said he only intends to initiate “healing” and “erase among our people one (cause of) hatred.”
The president-elect previously announced his decision while campaigning in the Ilocos region, Marcos’ home province.
Marcos’ son, Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr, welcomed the Duterte’s statement, calling it “a kind, rightful and healing gesture.”
In a press briefing last May 23, Duterte said he already decided on the matter.
Duterte told human rights victims opposing his decision that financial compensation is already available to them.
“Nandiyan na yung…kuwan (compensation). Kubrahin niyo na,” Duterte said. (The compensation funds are ready. Claim them already.)
But Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights chairperson Marie Hilao-Enriquez, another human rights violation victim under Martial Law, belied Duterte’s statement.
Enriquez said the Human Rights Claims Board, the mechanism formed under Republic Act 10368 to process application for reparation claims, is not yet ready to dispense the funds.
“Instead, it is the members of the Human Rights Claims Board who are benefitting from the funds,” Enriquez said.
“They are being paid Php31,000 a month each from our monies for doing nothing,” she said.
Enriquez was jailed while her sister Liliosa Hilao was the first political prisoner who died in prison under the Marcos government.
“Hindi porke naging sundalo at presidente ay ililibing na sa Libingan ng mga Bayani. Wala pa ngang napaparusahan sa mga kasalanan ng kanyang administrasyon,” Enriquez said. (It should not automatically qualify anyone who was a soldier and a president to be buried at the Libangan. In the first place, no one has yet been made accountable for the crimes of his government.)
Should not be honored in any way
Jose Ma. Sison, another prominent martial law victim is not bothered too much by Duterte’s decision, however.
Differing from fellow victims, Sison said that Marcos’ burial at the Libingan is “not a big deal.”
The Communist Party of the Philippines founder was jailed in seclusion and was among the longest held political prisoner under the Marcos regime.
“Personally, I do not think it is a big deal for Marcos to be buried in a cemetery for soldiers of the reactionary government. The soldiers of the oppressive and exploitative classes deserve to be buried in the same place, whatever it is called,” Sison said in an emailed statement.
Sison understands that the name “Libingan ng mga Bayani” does cause people to react, as it makes people think of actual heroes, as opposed to Marcos.
“The fascist dictator who should not be honored in any way,” Sison said.
Sison, however, added that he hopes that Duterte does not do anything more than bury the remains of the dictator.
“I hope that president-elect Duterte is not rehabilitating the memory of Marcos and starting the reversal of such good decisions of the reactionary government such as seeking the return of the Marcos loot stolen from the people and the honoring and compensation of the Marcos victims of human rights violations,” he said. (Abril Layad B. Ayroso)