The virulent campaign and protest of the Yellows and the Reds to stop the burial of President Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (LMB) has descended to downright lunacy.
Now that Marcos has been interred there in simple rites and with appropriate honors on Friday, November 19, anti-Marcos troops are regrouping and recharging their batteries for a new fight – the exhumation of the Marcos remains.
I thought I had written my last word on this controversy, when I wrote last August 16 the column, “Marcos’ burial at Libingan is an act of civilization.” (Times, August 16, 2016).
I explored there the theme that the country needed this interment more than President Marcos and his family, because it is a debt of justice and a mirror of the people and the nation we are. We needed him properly and respectfully interred, so we can become a country that works.
Quiet dignity and civility
The Marcos interment on Friday was expertly carried out with quiet dignity and solemnity, with the Armed Forces rendering him full military honors and the Marcos family in attendance.
It transpired as it should have, with neither crowds of supporters nor haters around to cause a ruckus and disfigure the event. Marcos, whom I personally remember as an austere, disciplined and thoughtful leader would have approved of the way his official burial was efficiently carried out.
In a perceptive piece on civil rights and civility, the writer Ellen Goodman wrote memorably: “Civil rights protect individuals. Civility protects the community. Individuals plead their own case in the courts. Who leads the case for community?”
The speed and secrecy with which the interment was executed caught both Marcos critics and supporters off-guard. Both were planning to attend the event: one to desecrate Marcos’ memory, and the other to pay fitting tribute to him.
But it was not to be. The Marcos family and key government-military officials correctly judged that a very public funeral, with the media in full attendance would be nerve-wracking and unmanageable, because the Marcos protesters, principally the Reds and the Yellows, were determined to cause as much disruption as possible. And Marcos supporters, in turn, would also be determined to hold their ground and protect their space.
A standoff, maybe even violence, was in prospect. And it was thoughtfully avoided.
Gritting their teeth, vowing to exhume
Strangely, for an event that the Marcos family has been preparing for and had envisioned since Marcos’ death in 1989, and which the Supreme Court has legitimated with its decision to deny all petitions to void or delay the interment at Libingan, the anti-Marcos camp claimed that the Marcoses disarmed them of their right to protest by not informing them beforehand (but why on earth should they be informed?). They declared that Marcos was buried by stealth, and on the sly, like “a thief in the night.” They claimed that the usually endless judicial process of postpone, delay and appeal, had not yet been exhausted, only to be told that no motion for reconsideration had been filed with the Supreme Court.
It was in these circumstances that the anti-Marcos camp has come up with their final threat and stratagem — to seek a court-ordered exhumation of Marcos’ remains.
First off the gate with his mouth was Sen. Francis Pangilinan, the nominal president of the Liberal Party. He immediately called for the exhumation of Marcos’ remains and their transfer to another place.
Said he: “He may have been buried there but this does not mean he will remain buried there. Because as long as there are people fighting against abuse and dictatorship, we will push that his remains be transferred. We will work tirelessly to undo this monumental injustice.”
Rep. Edcel Lagman, who was among the petitioners against a hero’s burial for Marcos, says their next move is to file a motion to exhume the remains.
He said they would try to determine whether the remains interred at Libingan was really the body of Marcos.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, never one to miss a chance to be quoted in the media, has lent his name to the exhumation initiative. He told the media that the high court can still rule to undo the interment. He held out the far-fetched hope that the SC’s temporary restraining order may still be in force, with Marcos already entombed.
Marcos is in the heart
The problem that the Reds and the Yellows and the politicians must confront is an existential one.
They may say what they wish to disparage and diminish Marcos’ memory. But to paraphrase what the writer Carlos Bulosan said, “Marcos is in the heart” of most Filipinos. He is ever in our thoughts these days.
I suspect that if a serious survey were to be conducted today, the overwhelming majority of our people would favor his interment at the Libingan. They would own to an abiding loyalty and admiration for Marcos that they do not accord to our other presidents. Marcos, I dare say, would come second to President Duterte in favorability rating with Filipinos today.
Exhuming Marcos’ remains is a Sisyphean venture. As in the myth, it would be like pushing a boulder up a mountain, only to see it roll back down once you get to the summit.
Exhume Ferdinand Marcos’ remains? You might as well say that the challenge is to take him out from our hearts.
For that is, I believe, where the man really and truly is.
Exhumation is a task for fools. It is like that old fantasy of the Yellow Cult, getting Cory Aquino canonized as a saint of the Roman Catholic Church.