For some reason, I had hoped I would get over the idea of Ferdinand Marcos being buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. After all, the people I would call my heroes are not buried there, and one gathers that given the law that says presidents have a right to be buried there, the name itself must be a misnomer.
After all, not all presidents are heroes. In fact, it is important that we know to question our leaders’ heroism, consistently and constantly, especially when you’re faced with one who has a hero complex.
The biggest fraud
President Duterte has said that Marcos deserves to be buried in LNMB because he was a former President and a soldier who fought in the war. Either fact allows for this burial.
No one argues that he was a soldier, and maybe he was not dishonorably discharged, but his Commanding Officer, Col. Romulo Manrique, as well as the US Army itself, have put his honor as a soldier into question.
“According to US Army records, the Maharlika unit (of Marcos) that existed during the war never consisted of more than 100 or so men, and its military activities were ‘of very little value.’ An extensive investigation of the US Army in 1948 concluded that Marcos’s claim to have led a unit of this size was not only ‘fraudulent’ but a “’malicious criminal act.’” (Raymond Bonner, 1987)
Sergio Osmeña Jr., in 1965, told the Philippine Free Press “Those who actually fought at Bessang Pass say that they had never seen Mr. Marcos there or his whereabouts. There are those who attest to the fact that Mr. Marcos was during all that time at Luna, La Union, attending to military cases as a judge advocate.” (Primitivo Mijares 1976 via Jarius Bondoc 2011)
Col. Romulo Manrique: “I consider Marcos to be the greatest impostor that World War II has ever produced. He is a master of hoaxes. All those medals of Marcos – all 32 of them, are fake. As his commanding officer in Mt. Province when he served under the 14th Infantry, I can certify that he was never engaged in any combat during the time he was in my unit. But he claimed medals for his tour of duty … I never recommended him for any medals.” (Col. Boni Gillego, manuscript, 1982)
President Duterte says Marcos was a soldier, and in that early morning Q&A with the press on August 7, dismissed data against Marcos’ war record as “paninira.”
But when President Duterte does that, he does not only put into question historians who have put in the work to reveal an ex-President for what he truly was, he also puts into question Marcos’ military superiors, Col. Manrique and Capt. Vicente Rivera.
Sure, Marcos was a soldier. But whatever claims to heroism there may be are cancelled out by historical data and research that tells you he fictionalized his own war record. He was a fraud, a hoax.
And when someone like him is buried at the LNMB, do we not look down on the bravery of soldiers who did fight for the nation?
All those real soldiers buried there would be turning in their graves.
Question of history
And this is the thing about the LNMB: it is a shrine of heroism.
Yes, it’s clear what the law says. But what it does not capture is the value of the LNMB as a historical shrine, one that stands for the many heroes who have fought wars for the nation, of our National Artists and Scientists who have advanced the cause of the nation through their work.
The LNMB in itself is a mapping of our history, and it stands as a reminder of real history, the kind that is not falsified, the kind that is not written by one man so that he might go down in history as a hero. This is what Marcos did. This is what his family continues to do.
Sure, it has been 30 years. And yes, we have had five other Presidents since Marcos. But the poverty and hunger, the inequality and feudalism, the reign of oligarchs, patronage politics and cronyism – the things that President Duterte stands strongly against – all these were enabled by the Marcos regime.
The Marcoses lived off the backs of the people. They lived extravagantly and ostentatiously – all well-documented – while so many were hungry and poor. They kept their friends close, and built such strong connections with cronies by being generous with them, giving them money, property, favors, and creating the strongest political dynasties in the country in the process.
If President Duterte cared to acknowledge history, he would find that, in fact, regardless of his family’s loyalty to the Marcoses, on the ground and in reality, Marcos enabled everything that the President hates in the present: the corruption and patronage politics, the poverty and need.
Not just the law
I understand that the President is falling back on the law, and what it says about who can be buried at the LNMB.
But I refuse to believe that it is only the law on which we must base this decision. That is because there is historical data that proves otherwise. There is the importance of national shrines, and how these must not be corrupted by one whose heroism has been questioned, whose reign as President was a reign of terror and fear, violence and death, corruption and poverty.
President Duterte himself, in the less than 100 days that we have had him as President, has declared often: I take sole responsibility. I take responsibility.
Marcos never took responsibility for anything. And his wife and children continue to deny responsibility for what happened during Martial Law, for the aftermath of the Marcos dictatorship that has brought us to this state as a nation.
In fact, his family has continued to rewrite history, and this burial at LMNB is the greatest ending they can imagine for the fiction of Marcosian greatness. After leaving a nation in debt, with a trail of millions of dollars spent on grandiose living while the Philippines became poorer by the year, as the number of those killed, jailed, tortured, grew, 30 years after the people toppled the dictatorship, 30 years after EDSA1986, this dictator will be buried a hero.
Beyond the law, we are letting the Marcoses rewrite our history as a nation here. Beyond the law, Mr. President, we are telling our children and our children’s children, that those who steal from the national coffers, those who are corrupt, those who enabled smuggling, those who made the poor poorer, those who oppressed farmers, those under whose leadership many were killed, tortured, raped, disappeared, we are telling our children that he can be called a hero.
You hate drugs, President Duterte. I hate the worst drug of all: that one that the Marcoses continue to feed our nation about Ferdinand Marcos being a hero.