No Limitations

Marcos not entitled to a full military honors burial

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President Benigno Aquino has in effect officially declared to the Filipino people and the world that the late tyrant Ferdinand Marcos is not a hero by denying him a  Libingan ng mga Bayani hero’s burial. This decision is consistent with what is right and true.

Marcos clearly was no hero and to have him buried as one is to impose a national lie adding  insult and injury to the Filipino people whom he has already harmed in so many ways.  Aquino deserves our respect for this show of moral leadership.

Aquino is still considering whether Marcos should instead be given a full military honors burial as suggested by Vice President Jejomar Binay.

For the moment, Aquino’s no rush position on this issue  appears  prudent — maybe even  truly Solomonic. Nothing compels the President to execute Binay’s suggestion which is a clear example of accommodation politics.

Aside from truly serving the interests of the people, Aquino will do himself proud and even earn more respect by refusing to carry out the lie that Marcos is entitled to a full military honors burial. Not only would such a burial set a bad example to Filipino soldiers, it also insults and dishonors the many good  men and women — from lowly foot soldiers to generals — who truly and honorably have served the country.

It is to the interest of those in the military and the nation not to allow the institution to be dishonored by providing an undeserved full military honors to a disgraced scoundrel.

Some background. Let’s look at Aquino’s  past pronouncements re Marcos burial issue.

On  February 16,  2011: “Whatever I say will be biased, so I’m thinking of inhibiting myself on deciding on the matter.”

On February 23, 2011:  “I asked him if he (Binay) could be the one to decide on the case. Whatever my decision is, people will say I am biased. Maybe his action will receive less criticism.”

On April 20, 2011, in a press conference, Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda:  “He (Aquino) recognizes the fact that his family is a victim of the Marcos regime and to render a decision would be so easily done by him but he doesn’t want to appear to be biased on the matter. Whatever decision he makes, either way, others will say he is biased or vindictive.”

We couldn’t  see anything  wrong with being biased on the side of what is right and gave Aquino a lot of flak for displaying poor leadership after these statements.

Anyway, many  thought that  VP Binay was tasked with actually making the decision on this Marcos burial issue  as Aquino initially stated : “I asked him if he (Binay) could be the one to decide on the case.”

It is irrelevant at this point  whether  Malacañang’s actual game plan  was for Binay to just make suggestions or else have  the final say on the matter.  The fact is — the amiable politically savvy Binay made recommendations and threw the hot potato back into Aquino’s hands. Hoping to come out smelling like a rose — Binay failed to  resist   self promoting inclinations and unabashedly described  his recommendations as “Solomonic”.

Essentially,  Binay recommended two things: One, no Libingan hero’s burial for the late dictator.  Two, allow an Ilocos burial instead with full military honors.

Since  Marcos is historically the Philippines worst villain, Binay’s  no Libingan hero’s burial recommendation  is consistent with what is true and what should be. While it does not take rocket science nor a King Solomon to see that burying a scoundrel as a hero is moronic, this sort of distortion happens in the confused Philippine socio political environment.

In fact 216 Congress persons actually signed a resolution pushing for a  Libingan  hero’s burial for the tyrant. Intellectual dishonesty shamelessly exhibited at its worst by supposed leaders. Believe it or not.

Even a messianic posing Senator who supposedly seeks military reforms has no qualms about giving a Libingan hero’s burial for a dictator who desecrated much of what is noble in the military as an institution. Talk about inconsistency.

Whether Binay’s recommendations  are based on personal political expediency as some claim — and that perhaps he may be considering a  possible  Binay Bongbong tandem in 2016 — or whether it is  a genuine concern for truth — only Binay knows.

I would like to believe that as a former  human rights lawyer,  Binay recommended a non-Libingan Marcos burial because he listened to his deepest self and realized that this truly was  the correct moral option.   If so, with respect, we correctly commend and honor him  for this recommendation.

In any case,  the  second  part of his recommendations — a  full military honors burial — fosters a lie.  From the point of view of   personal political interest,  some will proffer that Binay is being Solomonic or at least attempting to be. Whether his political sense will prove him right remains to be seen.

I don’t think one should fault  Binay for thinking:  “What’s my best move here in terms of getting future votes and building alliances?” Politicians of all parties, colors and shades, with  initials ranging  from a to z – think as such. That’s understandable. That’s simply political think.

However, the interest of the country  may not necessarily coincide with the interests of politicians. Sometimes they do. Sometimes they don’t.

The citizenry’s primary concern should always be that which is for the good of the country. If that coincides with a politician’s mode of action, well and good. If not, concerned well meaning citizens should voice out their thoughts. On the other hand, politicians acting in good faith should learn to listen and respond accordingly.

Is Binay’s recommendation of  a full military honors burial for a corrupt, greedy and brutal tyrant good for the country?

Here’s my take on this:

To some, in suggesting a full military honors burial for Marcos, Binay appears to be playing footsies politics with the Marcoses. Politics is addition, they say: “Why alienate the Marcoses? They can be useful allies.”

Lawyer Binay justifies his recommendation  essentially on legalistic grounds: “Even assuming that some of the medals Marcos claimed to have won for heroism and bravery were fake, you cannot take away the fact that he served as a soldier in WW II and is therefore entitled to military honors.”

A  military funeral with or without honors is  a benefit provided by the state to soldiers who are honorably discharged as an expression of gratitude for  services rendered to the country. The expenses for the funeral are paid for by the state.

However,  soldiers who are guilty of wrongdoing and who are dishonorably discharged are not entitled to a military funeral, with or without honors.

Marcos engaged in a series of major wrongdoings  that should not entitle him to have a full military honors funeral.

He  lied about having supposedly received 27 WW II medals. Respected Yale  Phd  historian Alfred McCoy researched US military archives  which   revealed that Marcos’ claim of being a multi-medalled war hero was blatantly false. His findings were published in the front pages of New York Times on January 23, 1986.

Washington Post’s Jack Sharkey and book author Col. Bonifacio Gillego also did similar researches. Not only did they confirm Marcos’ medals  were  fake, they also discovered that he was a Japanese collaborator.

As President and Commander in Chief, he declared martial law based on lies — among which is the supposed assassination attempt by the communists on the life of his then Defense Secretary Ponce Enrile. After Marcos fell, Enrile admitted that this assassination story was concocted fiction.

Marcos instituted mass corruption in the military by coddling and enriching generals and other officials to get their continued support and retain their loyalties. He gave them free rein to engaged in corrupt practices  in their respective regional commands. He even directly bribed them. Some of these practices  continue on today in some form or another — constantly   staining and diminishing the military as an institution.

Worst,  he used the military to oppress the people.  Elements in  the various branches were used to arrest, imprison, torture and murder his political enemies. Among the most dreaded of  these torturers and killers was the notorious Col. Rolando Abadilla code named “Kabesi” because of his Chinese features.

Not surprisingly, Kabesi was present at the scene when Ninoy Aquino was murdered, a political killing where military elements were again used.

As Commander in Chief, Marcos was the country’s top soldier. As a soldier, he  betrayed his calling and desecrated the military as an institution by  committing  heinous crimes against the people.  Instead of being the people’s protector, he became the people’s oppressor.  Providing a military burial with full honors to a brutal, dishonest and corrupt Commander in Chief  is an insult and a bad example to every decent Filipino soldier.

With such a notorious record of wrongdoing, Marcos should not even have been installed as a hero at the Armed forces of the Philippines Hall of Heros. If this was quietly done without consulting Commander in Chief Aquino,  this wrong should be rectified.

His family and supporters also allege the same pseudo legal  argument: “Notwithstanding all his faults, he served as a soldier in WW II. Therefore he is entitled to a soldier’s funeral.”

We need to remind ourselves again that a military funeral is reserved for those who served honorably and those honorably discharged.

Marcos supporters may claim that he  was never dishonorably discharged.

Not so. In fact he was. When the millions of Filipinos  amassed in February  of 1986 in Edsa I and drove him out of the country because of his dishonorable behavior — they ousted him as President and Commander in Chief.

The people’s  united  condemnation and ouster of the tyrant constructively   amounts to worse than a dishonorable discharge in a military court of law. Their unified voices,  expressing the nation’s heart and soul — accused Marcos of tyranny, treason and oppression and condemned him by kicking him in the butt and exiling him. This de facto condemnation is more disgraceful than a dishonorable discharge.

The only right thing to do for President Aquino is to also deny a full military honors burial for Marcos. His commitment to moral leadership compels such a decision.

Mr. President,   with all due respect, being    biased on the side of right is not only okay, it’s the only way to live.  At some point in his life, your father came to that conclusion. He gave his life for that belief — a genuine hero. His sacrifice brought down a terrible dictatorship.

We know it’s not easy to be President. We understand that it’s a learning process. We expect that you will make mistakes now and then.

As long as it’s not a mistake caused by malice, greed or moral cowardice, it’s all right. We are all human. People will forgive and understand. But please, be a truly good human being before being a politician or anything else.   That can lead you to being a  truly great President.

Note: the California State Bar honors Atty. Ted Laguatan as being one of the best immigration lawyers in the country. He is one of only 29 US lawyers officially certified as an Immigration Law Expert Specialist continuously for over 20 years. For communications (San Francisco area): 455 Hickey Ste. 516, Daly City, Ca 94015 Tel 650 991 1154 Fax 650 991 1186 email  laguatanlaw@gmail.com

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