I cannot say how long the small, scattered marches against the burial of Marcos’s remains at the Libingan ng mga Bayani can go on. But even if they should grow into massive crowds and cover the entire archipelago, I do not believe they would be addressing the most important question for our country’s future. Whether or not Marcos is or was a hero is not the most important question for us Filipinos. Whether we should become a free and prosperous, God-fearing democracy or a wretched Godless communist dictatorship is. This should be our main concern, from which we cannot be distracted.
Marcos has been dead for 27 years. According to our Christian faith, he is now in God’s hands. Human vanity must yield. God alone awards the honors with justice. If God chooses to crown mortal man in glory, it does not matter if all the millennials and their arrogant professors call him shit. If on the other hand, if God chooses to damn him, all the earthly praises and honors heaped upon him will mean nothing.
No state rites
As far as the law is concerned, Marcos’s remains should be buried, and remain buried, where the law allows them to be buried, without making him a hero or accusing him of wanting to be treated as one. A hero’s burial is always a solemn state ceremony, but Marcos’s remains were buried by the Marcos family in private rites, “precipitately and surreptitiously,” as Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman puts it. Since not even his family is claiming Marcos is or was a hero, there is no quarrel with those who are saying he was and is no hero and should therefore not be buried as one. But they apparently wanted to create a strawman so that they would have something to tear apart and bring down.
Why? Why this tumultous pandemonium and thunder? What distraction are they trying to create, and from what, and from whom? We cannot avoid this question. There are several possible answers.
Motives for distraction
DU30 has his drug war and extrajudicial killings. More than 700,000 “users” have surrendered and are now detained, awaiting rehabilitation. Close to 5,000 suspects have been killed while resisting arrest or while already under detention, as in the case of Mayor Rolando Espinosa of Albuera, Leyte. The killings continue,
and the police commanders are given quotas of dead bodies to fill.
Second, Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr. has his communist revolutionary dictatorship project under the Kilusang Pagbabago to pursue. He has just begun, and he cannot afford any focused public scrutiny of his project. A noisy distraction on a sensational issue would be to his advantage.
Third, the CPP/NPA/NDF has its peace agreement to conclude without conceding anything to the Government, while it insists on the release of all political prisoners, among other things, as a precondition for a ceasefire agreement. With a loud noise on a sensational issue in the streets, the negotiations between the communist or communist-influenced members of the Cabinet and the NDF could proceed indoors to discuss the terms of surrender of the Government, without committing the CPP/NPA to disarm, demobilize and reintegrate into the government forces.
With the noise barrage focused on Marcos and the “evils of martial law,” there may be no time to ask the CPP/NPA/NDF, now that they have become a de facto coalition partner of DU30, what made them force Marcos to declare martial law. In particular, there may no longer be any opportunity to examine at close range the role played by the CPP/NPA/NDF when they bombed the Liberal Party rally at Plaza Miranda on August 21, 1971 and precipitated the suspension of the privilege of habeas corpus, and when they set into motion all the violence that led to the declaration of martial law.
Ideally, if we could forget Marcos for a while, we and the angry anti-Marcos crowd should concentrate on the CPP/NPA/NDF issue, even at the risk of eventually finding Marcos a victim, like the rest of the society, rather than as the enemy. By asking ourselves the right questions about the communist threat we could perhaps influence the course of activism in our midst. Only then could we understand our messed-up history. Only then could we expect a catharsis for all those caught in the controversy.
An episode in Singapore
In Cory Aquino’s time, I once sat in a forum in Singapore on what happened in the Philippines during the period of martial law. The discussion revolved around the disaparecidos, people who were supposed to have been forcibly “disappeared” by the military. As Marcos’s press secretary, spokesman and information minister from 1969 to 1980, I read the martial law proclamation on Sept. 23, 1972, and engaged its critics every day. I resigned from the Cabinet six years before Marcos fell; but then, as now, I thought that many of the things blamed on martial law should properly be blamed on those who had made martial law necessary.
The abuses of martial law became possible because, and after, the communists made martial law necessary. To the communist armed rebellion, the military response had been costly to both parties. Perhaps as many partisans perished in party “purges” as in running gun battles with the military. But there were acts for which the government was pilloried, despite its total non-involvement. This was a particular propaganda tactic, which the communists exploited at the bombing of Plaza Miranda. They threw the grenades, killing nine and wounding close to a hundred others, then accused Marcos of bombing the rally.
Recalling Plaza Miranda
Marcos, who had no palpable benefit to be gained from it, insisted the communists did it. But the public was more disposed to believe the enemy propaganda. It took years before the victims finally recognized that, indeed, the communists did it. The late former Senate President Jovito Salonga, who lost an eye from the blast and recently passed away, said that the late former Senator Benigno Aquino Jr., who was the only high LP official absent at the rally, “had something to do with it.”
Unfortunately, there was never a closure to the Plaza Miranda bombing nor to the crimes that led to the proclamation of martial law. The government entered into peace negotiations with the CPP/NPA/NDF without clearing the deck on these incidents. Thus, top personalities involved were allowed to exercise major roles in the negotiations without first having to make amends for their offenses. This is the very opposite of what they would like to do to Marcos. They would like to punish him beyond the grave, for things he had already paid for when he was ousted. In contrast, Joma Sison has not even been interrogated about his role in Plaza Miranda or in the spate of violence that precipitated martial law.
One famous martial law “disappearance” involved a well-known Jesuit priest named Luis Jalandoni, S.J. and a religious sister named Consuelo Ledesma. Both came from rich families and were highly regarded and well-loved within and beyond their respective family circles and religious communities. They suddenly went missing one day, and their disappearance was instantly blamed on Marcos. Most everyone believed it. If anyone had suggested that they had been liquidated, they would have promptly blamed it on Marcos too.
But a few years later, Father Jalandoni and Sister Connie surfaced in Utrecht, Netherlands, not as Catholic missionaries, but reportedly as spouses, identified with the National Democratic Front. When the Soviet Union fell and the Cold War ended in 1991, Louie Jalandoni, together with founding chairman Jose Maria “Joma” Sison of the Communist Party of the Philippines, became one of the last few remaining communist holdouts in Europe. He became a Dutch citizen, but remains a top official of the NDF.
They knew but did not tell
So in Singapore, I referred to this case as one reason I could not take any claim levelled by the CPP/NPA/NDF against Marcos at face value. Challenged by that remark, the conference chair turned to the next Filipino participant—-a Jesuit bishop who had since passed away—-for help. “What’s the real story here, Bishop? Did the Jesuits know that Marcos had nothing to do with the disappearances, and that the priest and the nun had in fact flown the coop to Utrecht?”
“Of course, we knew,” said the bishop of happy memory.
“How come you never made it public?” the chair asked.
“Ah, we did not want to help Marcos!” the bishop said.
This story becomes relevant as one listens with excruciating pain to the angry young men and women trying to gloss over the communist rebellion which Marcos had decided to confront with martial law. Martial law was probably not the ideal or perfect response to Joma Sison’s and Commander Dante’s armed rebellion. But it was the best available weapon under the 1935 Constitution, “in case of invasion, insurrection or rebellion, or imminent danger thereof, when the public safety requires it.”
The young men and women who were not yet around then would be well advised to inquire how close we had come to becoming a communist state then. They would then be more prudent in declaring that martial law was a criminal response to a non-existent threat, or that Marcos had lost the right to have his remains buried at the Libingan for making use of that constitutional response. They would then see that the burial of Marcos’s remains, whatever its perceived impropriety, cannot possibly eclipse or supersede the gravity of the threat presented by Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco’s plan to create a communist dictatorship or DU30’s coalition program with the CPP/NPA/NDF.
What if Marcos did not declare martial law?
To his worst critics, Marcos may be no better and no worse than the common run of strongmen who used rebellions and national emergencies to extend themselves in office. Staying in power for 20 years instead of simply eight was the consequence of the communist rebellion and martial law. Many have gone so far as to suggest that Marcos’s only intention in proclaiming martial law was precisely to stay in power beyond his constitutional term limit, as if the communist rebellion did not exist and he had to invent it to provide the casus belli.
This was the spoken dream of the late Ninoy Aquino, who loudly told his friends in the foreign press that should be become president, (after Marcos), the first thing he would do was to declare martial law and put the Philippines on the same footing as South Korea under Park Chung Hee. In fact, until Marcos acted and had him arrested, he continually chided Marcos for not having the courage to declare martial law.
Now, far too many Filipinos, and even outsiders, believe that the Philippines would have become a communist state by now had Marcos not acted as he did and when he did against the communists. Thus, if Marcos owes the nation any enduring apology, it should not be for his having imposed martial law but rather for his having failed to use martial law to extinguish the communist menace, as Lee Kuan Yew did in Singapore, and Suharto did in Indonesia. Because he failed to do so, the communists are now openly moving to take over our Republic, with the perceived support of the constitutionally elected President, after communism had lost the Cold War and failed everywhere else in the world.
We are about to lose our democracy and our country, but the best hope of our land could only see the perils of burying in his grave the long-dead Marcos.