I have tried not to be drawn into the public debate on the Marcos burial for obvious reasons. I had served as Marcos’ press secretary, spokesman, Secretary/Minister of Public Information from 1969 to 1980, and although I was the only Cabinet member who resigned six years before Marcos fell, I became neither a part of the Ninoy Aquino crowd, nor an enemy of the Marcos regime.
I did not, therefore, acquire the moral high ground claimed by the so-called “victims” of Martial Law, who seem to believe that when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989 and the Cold War ended in 1991, the Filipino communists in Utrecht emerged as the real victors.
People with limited minds tend to think of our society as one permanently divided between two groups of Filipinos, one pro-Marcos, the other anti-. Some who had seen my much younger image on television on Sept 23, 1972 tend to equate my having read the Martial Law proclamation on that day as the sum-total of my human existence. They have managed to propagate the lie that Marcos was the cause of Martial Law and that it was the cause of all their sufferings. They never bothered to see for themselves that their armed struggle against the government was the cause of Martial Law and all their problems.
Neither for nor against Marcos
As spokesman and information minister, I defended Marcos when I believed it was the right thing to do. I opposed him when it became necessary to do so. Thus, in January 1973, I refused to make the official announcement on the “ratification” of the new Constitution. I shared the doubt expressed by Justice Claudio Teehankee, Jr. that the Constitution had been properly ratified by the “citizen assemblies.” So the announcement had to be done by the Secretary of the Interior and Local Government.
In 1980, I resigned from the Cabinet. I jumped off the speeding train, as it were, unmindful of where, how and in what condition I would fall. I survived the fall. I suffered some political bruises after that, but I took it as part for the course, and never took it personally against Marcos. My children, who were much too young then, took things differently, but they never talked about it even when they were much older.
In 1991, while attending a large Filipino gathering in Carson City, CA, an Ilocano gentleman approached me to confess that he had handled the special operations against me in the 1984 Batasan elections, and that although I had topped the polls in Quezon City, his instructions were that “under no circumstance should I win.” Upon my return to journalism, I found myself facing trumped-up charges, which the Teehankee Supreme Court swiftly threw out in Tatad vs Sandiganbayan.
I also found myself threatened with eviction from my own home after a crony bank attached my property without prior notice just because a borrower whom I had earlier vouched for had some difficulty making his payments on time. While I endured these pains, my young children, without telling me, suffered in the hands of self-righteous and bigoted sectarian teachers who took out their political frustrations with me on them. These left permanent scars.
When Marcos fell in February 1986, I was already six years out of the Cabinet and a member of the National Unification Committee, (chaired by the late former Sen. Francisco “Soc” Rodrigo), which chose Cory Aquino and Salvador “Doy” Laurel as the opposition candidates in the February 1986 snap presidential elections. I accompanied Cory on her first political sortie to Bicol, but quickly got disheartened when she said that because the people “hated” Marcos so much, she did not need a program of government.
Experience with Cory
I voted for Cory, but stayed away from the campaign. She lost the election, but was installed by the military as revolutionary President after the EDSA uprising. When the EDSA ‘victors’ started jostling each other for the spoils, my good friend and neighbor Lupita Aquino Concio (now Kashiwara), who used to talk to me about her late brother’s life in prison, asked me to go to the Cojuangco building in Makati, so I could get a Cabinet position. I politely declined.
Later, the late Speaker Ramon Mitra Jr. offered me the position of Permanent Representative to the United Nations. I also politely declined. I remained supportive of Cory, but stepped out into the cold when she appointed a constitutional commission to write a new Constitution, instead allowing the people to write their own through a constitutional convention. Some friendly bishops had wanted to recommend me as one of the commissioners, but I declined.
The Cory Constitution contained so many flawed provisions. This made me decide to join former Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile in his campaign against its ratification. In my first speech in Tuguegarao, Cagayan, the audience rose on their feet to a man, after I said it wasn’t a Constitution we were being asked to ratify but a worthless scrap of paper. I had a sheaf of paper in my hands, which I tore to pieces to signify the flawed document. One commissioner excoriated me for this in his book on the Constitution.
Nevertheless, after the Constitution was ratified, I became one of its staunchest defenders. In the 1987 senatorial election, I ran with 23 others under the Grand Alliance for Democracy (GAD), many of whom had never before lost an election. Except for the future President Joseph Ejercito Estrada and Enrile, all 22 other GAD candidates lost to Cory’s candidates, half of whom were hardly known to the voters.
I wrote a white paper saying that in an honest and fair election nine to 10 of us should have won, and was tear-gassed at EDSA for protesting the results. In Washington D.C., my presentation elicited a very strong reaction from the Global Strategy Council, notably from Sen. Jesse Helms, the long-serving chairman of the Senate committee on foreign relations.
In 1992, I entered the Senate. There I spent the next nine years mostly as Senate majority leader to five Senate presidents. My attempt to formulate a Code of Ethics for Senators earned me the title, “Moral Conscience of the Senate.” I was termed out in 2001. My attempts to come back in 2004 and 2010 were both unsuccessful. Since then I have been writing books and columns, grand-parenting, and defending the sanctity of human life, the family and marriage, etc., in national and international forums—from the United States to Europe to the Caucasus.
At home, I sit with some of the country’s moral and spiritual leaders and citizen-statesmen at the National Transformation Council, which seeks to institute systems change. Where I sit now, I count myself as a free citizen of the Republic of Truth and Reason, with a right and a duty to speak on any issue of public interest and the common good, on the basis of truth and reason.
So although I had not wanted to be part of the brouhaha over President Duterte’s decision to inter Marcos’ remains at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, the issue has become a mountain, as it were, which every Filipino must climb. Duty and right oblige me to climb this mountain.
Between the Law and the Left, who decides?
The Law, not the Left, decides who should be interred at the Libingan. Under the rules which say who should be interred there, Ferdinand Edralin Marcos did not have to have been elected President twice (the only one ever reelected) to be buried there. As a Medal of Valor awardee, he deserved to be buried there. As a World War II veteran, he deserved to be buried there. And as a former Secretary of National Defense, he deserved to be buried there.
Who, to begin with, are buried there? Cory’s dog was buried with honors in Malacanang, but does everyone at Libingan deserve to be there? And who are these people who have gone to the Supreme Court to block DU30’s decision to inter Marcos’ remains there? Aren’t they all associated with the CPP/NPA/NDF, which had failed to oust Marcos in their armed rebellion? Why do they call themselves Martial Law victims when, without their armed violence, Martial Law might never have become necessary nor possible? Having failed in their armed struggle, do they have the right to dictate where Marcos’ remains should finally lie? It would have been comical, were it not so depressing.
The effort to bar the interment is not dictated by law at all. After the US-backed military coup ousted Marcos and sent him and his family to Hawaii, Cory Aquino decreed that they could no longer return to the Philippines, not even to answer charges that had been filed against them for crimes allegedly committed by them against Filipinos in the Philippines. She would rather that they were tried by American courts.
In November 1991, Cory allowed Imelda to come home to answer tax evasion charges, and eventually run in the 1992 presidential elections. But the remains of Marcos, who had died in September 1989, were kept inside a Japanese Buddhist temple in the island of Oahu in Hawaii. President Fidel V. Ramos finally allowed the cadaver to be brought home in September 1993, provided it would be interred without honors in Marcos’ hometown. And in Batac, Ilocos Norte, the remains have lain since, inside a refrigerated vault, at the Marcos presidential museum.
The examples of De Gaulle and Napoleon Bonaparte
If I were a family member, I would humbly suggest that we simply imitate the example of Gen. Charles de Gaulle. He was the leader of Free France, head of the Provisional Government of the French Republic, President of France, and one of the towering figures of the 20th century. He died after he fell from power on Nov. 9, 1970. He was buried not at the Pantheon nor at Les Invalides, together with Napoleon, but in a humble grave at the parish churchyard of his own town, Colombey-les-Deux Eglises, with a simple marker saying, “Charles de Gaulle, 1890-1970.” After all in death, we submit ourselves totally to God, and it is he who assigns the honors.
But this is now academic. After lying inside the Marcos museum for 23 years, Marcos’ remains will finally rest at Libingan. This parallels the story of Napoleon Bonaparte, who died in exile on the island of St. Helena in 1821. There he was buried in the shade of weeping willows until 1840, when King Louis Philippe had his ashes removed to the Dome des Invalides after a state funeral. This marked not just Napoleon’s final victory but above all the victory of all France. Marcos’ final interment could show the world what a civilized nation we have become.
A very dear friend and neighbor, Mrs. Erlinda Palanca Mabanta, was called to our Lord’s presence last week after a long and saintly life spent in the service of God, family, and the community, especially the poor whom she dearly loved. She was a tireless humanitarian worker who never stopped working and praying for everyone up to her last breath. She was 95. I ask the gentle reader to kindly offer a prayer for the repose of her soul. Thank you very much.