Unless it falls through, a “massive” protest march is scheduled to be staged today by the leftist Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) at Manila’s Rizal Park and other places, “against the return of the Marcoses to Malacanang.”
This is an offshoot of their initial protest against the November 18 burial of the late President Ferdinand Marcos’s remains at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, 27 years after he died in exile in Hawaii, following his fall from power in the “EDSA Uprising” of February 1986.
The remains were brought home in 1993, and preserved inside a refrigerated vault in Batac, Ilocos Norte, his hometown. President Duterte authorized their interment at the Libingan. Several petitions were filed before the Supreme Court questioning that decision, but by a vote of 9 to 5, with one abstention, the Court ruled it has no jurisdiction to review the President’s political decision.
Without any fanfare, the Marcos family buried the remains in private rites that caught the public by surprise. The Left denounced the burial as “surreptitious and precipitate” and asked the Court to declare it as illegal and to allow the exhumation of the remains.
Precipitate and surreptitious?
To the Marcos family, there was nothing precipitate about a burial that had waited for 27 years to undertake; nothing surreptitious about a burial that took place at high noon, rather than at midnight, to the accompaniment of a 21-gun military salute and some TV reporting. So the anti-Marcos petitioners and the public were not informed. But did the Marcos family have a duty to inform them?
The Court has not ruled on the new petition questioning the legality of the burial and asking for the remains to be exhumed.
Today’s march will now take the issue to the streets where the mob rather than the Court will preside. The issue about Marcos’ right to be buried at the Libingan will now be expanded to include the right of his son and namesake, former Sen. Ferdinand (Bongbong) Marcos Jr., to pursue his claim, before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, to be proclaimed as the lawfully elected vice president in the May 2016 election. The PET is composed of the Supreme Court en banc.
The Liberal Party’s Leni Robredo, who now temporarily occupies the position, has likened the burial to “a thief in the night,” an inapt description using a scriptural quote which Bible-quoting divines normally associate with something else–death. Her real fear is that the same Court majority that ruled in favor of the burial could rule against her, in favor of Bongbong, whom far too many people believe to be the real winner in the last election.
Mob rule will not work
Resorting to mob rule is always a cheap and foul tactic. Although the Executive and Congress are usually prepared for street manifestations, the Supreme Court is not as disposed to them, being apolitical and the most benign of all the institutions. The equanimity of the justices deserves to be protected at all times, since they cannot be all beyond intimidation. But the protesters seem to believe that so long as the issue is Marcos there is no limit to what they can do.
At the weekly Kapihan sa Manila Bay at Cafe Adriatico in Ermita on Wednesday, I shared the forum with Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman with Philippine Star columnist Marichu Villanueva asking the questions. Lagman made it very clear that even if the Court rules with finality in favor of the burial, this would not bring a closure to this controversy. The Left would never accept that Marcos has a right to be buried at Libingan, he said. He is no hero, and the Libingan, according to the Left, is a burying ground exclusively reserved for heroes.
To the best of our knowledge, the Libingan is nothing more than a military cemetery where former soldiers, Medal of Valor awardees, former defense secretaries and former presidents may be interred, according to the existing military guidelines. But by insisting that the Libingan is supposed to be what it is not, the protesters are able to say Marcos cannot be buried there because he is not a hero.
Lagman claims the guidelines, which allow one of Marcos’ qualifications to be buried there, are not legally binding because of some alleged defects. The claim has to be proved, but the danger here is that if this argument is correct, then not a single corpse in the Libingan deserves to be buried there and should be dug up and thrown out. But that would create an absurdity, which the state cannot permit.
Martial law was the crime, not causing it
What we are seeing now is a situation where the same CPP/NPA/NDF which had provoked Marcos into declaring martial law in 1972 are saying he could not be buried at the Libingan either as a former soldier, or a former Medal of Valor awardee, or a former secretary of national defense, or a former president because of martial law. Doing everything that provoked the martial law proclamation was not a crime; responding to the provocation was.
They could not forgive Marcos his firm response to their armed insurgency, which proclaimed “Death” to the President, and “Long live Commander Dante!” They had been assured by the late former Senator Benigno Aquino Jr., who liked to taunt Marcos until the final day, that the man “did not have the balls” to declare martial law. So the CPP/NPA/NDF would now like to resume their interrupted revolution and claim their long delayed “victory.”
What FVR and JPE can do
At the Manila Bay forum, I suggested that instead of blaming everything on Marcos, former President Fidel V. Ramos and former Defense Secretary and Senate President Enrile, who helped administer martial law, should now be asked to share with the public what they knew about martial law. What appeared in The Manila Times report on Thursday was substantially correct, but I never “challenged” FVR to do anything–that was not my word; I only suggested what he should do.
I also never said that “it was Marcos’ request to have his remains buried beside his mother’s in Batac, Ilocos Norte.” I have no knowledge of any such thing and could not have said anything to that effect. What I did say–and this was something I had previously written in this space–is that if I were a Marcos family member and had a say in the matter, I would have recommended that the late strongman be buried in a private plot, all his own, rather than at the Libingan, like General Charles de Gaulle of France, one of the giants of the last century, who was buried inside the churchyard of his native village of Colombey-les-deux-Eglises, rather than at the Pantheon in Paris.
That class act would have left the Left gobsmacked. But, as I said, I had learned much later that it was Marcos’ dying wish to be buried side by side with his fellow soldiers who had the good fortune of dying for their country in war. That’s why the family had to honor his wish.
How the Left can help DU30
The Left will probably be hoping if they are able to generate large numbers in today’s march, that they might be able to move the Court to finally rule in their favor or the President to change his stand on the Marcos issue. I seriously doubt it. If it is not so easy to convince the Court that it has no jurisdiction on a case where it has already assumed jurisdiction, it would be a thousand times harder to convince the Court that it has jurisdiction on a case where it has already decided it has none. As far as convincing DU30 to change his mind is concerned, it appears to be simply out of the question. The Left will have to stand with DU30 on the Marcos issue, unless they are prepared to part ways with him.
Despite the venomous anti-Marcos rhetoric coming from some elements working with the old Aquino group, DU30 may have so much more to gain in supporting an early resolution of Bongbong Marcos’s electoral protest before the PET than in being indifferent to it. Belated reports have suggested that the illegal manipulation of last May’s electoral results happened not only in the vice presidential, senatorial and other contests, but even in the presidential race.
Some highly qualified sources have suggested that in a closely monitored electoral count, DU30 should have garnered at least 21 million votes rather than the 16 million votes credited to him. He may still be interested in inquiring into the real score. This is one activity where, instead of expending all their energy trying to demonstrate that there’s nothing human about the long departed Marcos, the Left could demonstrate their meaningful support for DU30.