The shocking death toll of Filipinos when Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law in 1972 sent shivers through Filipino society at the time. Such widespread killing of Filipinos by summary execution had never been seen since the Japanese invasion of the Philippines and their severe occupation. His regime was marked by brutal killings, torture, the exile of opponents, imprisonment and the disappearing of thousands. The scale of the plunder under Marcos has never been fully tallied but it is said by government estimates to be in the billions of dollars stashed away abroad.
Marcos had a systematic campaign to kill dissidents, critics and anyone who opposed his iron-fisted rule. The debate raging this past week was about the decision of President Rodrigo Duterte to allow the burial of the late dictator’s body in the Heroes’ Cemetery in Manila this coming September 18. The father of President Duterte served in the Cabinet of Marcos and the President made an election campaign promise to allow the burial.
The Supreme Court is holding hearings on the petitions filed by victims of Martial Law to prevent the planned interment from happening, claiming that Marcos was a dictator of the worst kind and was not a hero. The body of the late strongman lies embalmed and preserved in a glass museum in his home on permanent display in Batac, Ilocos Norte.
The hope of the Marcos clan is to exonerate the late President’s long years of martial rule through the “heroic” burial and establish the clan as respectable. Much has been done to prevent the true history of Martial Law years to be included in school books or movies and that dark chapter of Philippine history is generally unknown to the youth of today. Many youth think that he was a good President, not knowing the truth. His son Ferdinand Marcos Jr. was almost elected as vice president in the recent elections. Short memories can bring long suffering.
An online petition that drew more than 30,000 signatures said: “Burying Ferdinand E. Marcos alongside our nation’s heroes who fought for our freedom is an affront to the thousands of lives tortured and murdered during his reign.”
The burial will send a very wrong message to this generation of youth and the next that they who do evil things can still be admired and buried as heroes. The whitewashing of a dark past is the cover-up of the bitter truth.
When Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno wrote a letter saying suspect corrupt judges are under the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, not the executive, President Duterte answered the chief justice, “Please, don’t order me. I’m not a fool. If this continues, (that) you’re trying to stop me, I might lose my cool. Or would you rather I declare Martial Law?” he said.
Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella swiftly calmed troubled waters and told the media later that the President was not going to declare Martial Law. “There is no need to worry about Martial Law. As President Duterte said, ‘I want to make specific changes without having to do Martial Law.’”
Last week, President Duterte said he would not declare Martial Law himself, to the relief of the nation and the stock market. In a recent speech at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) welcoming home Filipino overseas workers, the President said “I won’t do a Marcos.” He said, “I have no plans to become a dictator. I’m a lawyer. They say [I’m like] Marcos, far from it. I am just doing my duty as President or else I will compromise.”
The President also said recently that the death toll of almost 2000 suspects of drug abuse due to his war on drugs was not genocide, like what was happening in Syria under Assad. He said in a speech to mark National Heroes’ Day before a gathering of government officials, war veterans, and foreign ambassadors: “Genocide? Who did I kill? I did not kill any child. I did not drop barrel (bombs) just like Assad. “I’m fighting. . .”
The UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon condemning the killings in June commented: “I unequivocally condemn his apparent endorsement of extrajudicial killings, which is illegal and a breach of fundamental rights and freedoms.”
The UN special rapporteur on summary executions, Agnés Callamard, said over a month ago, “Claims to fight the illicit drug trade do not absolve the government from its international legal obligations and do not shield state actors or others from responsibility for illegal killings.”
Bishop Bacani of Novaliches, Metro Manila said recently: “The Filipino greeting of “Mabuhay” (long live) may now be replaced by “Mamatay” (die). The killings have become so widespread, which I do not think has happened here even during the Second World War and the Martial Law era, especially because they are taking place at the time of peace and not during war time.”
Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle made a statement that encouraged Filipinos to take a stand to protect all life –including children in their mothers’ wombs against being aborted and those being killed in extrajudicial executions. We must protect the sanctity of life and condemn all killings, he said.
The criticism against the killing of suspects is that they are just suspects. Anyone can be marked as a suspect by the finger-pointing of another and then be killed.