The proposal of Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III for a separate cemetery for historic Filipinos is incredibly sophomoric and ill–conceived.
His proposed measure will immediately crash and burn the moment the senator is asked to define or tries to define what or who is “a historic Filipino.”
We understand that he is trying to address an important issue in filing Senate Bill 1246, which is entitled, “An Act segregating parcels of land within the Libingan ng Mga Bayani allocated for the remains of Filipino historical figures to be known as the Libingan ng mga Makasaysayang Pilipino.”
This solution does not meet the need for an availing answer to the conundrum bared by the contention over the burial of President Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingang ng mga Bayani (LNMB)—that we do not have today a designated place for burial of presidents and other national figures, and that the law for this has not been implemented.
Senator Pimentel’s bill will not solve the problem. It will just lead to a new semantic squabble.
We think the better approach is still the old law, which mandated the construction of a national pantheon where the remains of all presidents of the Philippines, national heroes and patriots would be interred to perpetuate their memory.
In 1948, The Philippine Congress passed a law, Republic Act 248, which mandated such a National Pantheon.
But as the Supreme Court observed in its decision on the Marcos burial, the law was not fully implemented and was sidetracked by other initiatives.
The High Court said:
“R.A. No. 289 authorized the construction of a National Pantheon as the burial place of the mortal remains of all the Presidents of the Philippines, national heroes and patriots.
“President Elpidio R. Quirino approved the site of the National Pantheon at East Avenue, Quezon City. On December 23, 1953, he issued Proclamation No. 431 to formally ‘withdraw from sale or settlement and reserve as a site for the construction of the National Pantheon’ a certain parcel of land located in Quezon City.”
“However, on July 5, 1954, President Magsaysay issued Proclamation No. 42 revoking Proclamation Nos. 422 and 431, both series of 1953, and reserving the parcels of land embraced therein for national park purposes to be known as Quezon Memorial Park….
“Petitioners are mistaken in their supposition that the LNMB and the National Pantheon are one and the same. The LNMB is distinct and separate from the burial place envisioned in R.A. No 289.
“The parcel of land subject matter of President Quirino’s Proclamation No. 431, which was later on revoked by President Magsaysay’s Proclamation No. 42, is different from that covered by Marcos’ Proclamation No. 208.
“The National Pantheon does not exist at present. To date, the Congress has deemed it wise not to appropriate any funds for its construction or the creation of the Board on National Pantheon.”
This gets us nowhere near a pantheon. Congressional action is required.
We think the better approach today is still to take up the mandate of RA 248 to build a national pantheon.
Today, when national coffers can better afford the establishment of such a national shrine, Congress should take the time and the effort to appropriate the funds for it. Today, with President Duterte as chief executive and commander in chief, the Republic can better meet this high responsibility.