Even in death, Marcos brings out the worst in Filipinos
Aquino’s cold feet on Marcos’ hero burial issue will haunt him and can cause his downfall.
In a recent press briefing, Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda reiterated President Benigno Aquino’s previous position of shying away from the issue of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ hero burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani and quoted him:
“I am doing this because I am holding my judgment and passing it on, asking the Vice President to do it because I don’t want to appear biased on the matter.”
Lacierda added that the issue is not an administration priority.
What will be the effect of Aquino’s cop out from deciding on whether or not to bury Marcos as a hero at the Libingan ng mga Bayani?
Here’s my take on this:
First, let’s look at Aquino’s given reason for refraining: “I don’t want to appear to be biased on this matter.”
Bias is bad if it unfairly oppresses an individual or a group. But not all biases are bad. They can also be good. Aquino gives the impression that all biases are bad.
Like so many millions, I expect Aquino to be biased against a hero’s burial for a brutal greedy dictator who stole from the people and imprisoned, tortured and murdered thousands. Even Aquino himself does not hesitate to say that he believes Marcos was responsible for the death of his father. If he is not biased against a hero’s burial for Marcos, something is seriously wrong with him. There’s nothing wrong with being biased if one is biased on the side of what is right.
We all have our biases and they are not necessarily bad. I’m biased against the massive corruption that went on in the previous administration. I’m biased against violating the human rights of undocumented aliens. I’m biased in favor of providing quality education for all of our young people. And yes, I am biased against the insensitive purchase of an expensive Porsche by the president of a country where one third of the population goes to bed hungry at night.
History’s most effective leaders had their biases which defined them and their sense of values. They led people to accomplish goals consistent with their biases.
Abraham Lincoln was biased against slavery. Jose Rizal was biased against the oppressive Spanish rule. Mahatma Gandhi was biased against the arrogant British Raj.
These leaders were killed for their convictions and biases.
While I don’t expect Aquino to die for believing like millions of Filipinos that Marcos is no hero, I do expect for him to at least act as President. Notwithstanding the Palace’s claim that Marcos’ burial as hero is not an important issue—it is. By skirting his responsibility as President to decide on this issue, Aquino gives the impression of non-leadership and worst: weakness and cowardice.
If he is to be an effective leader, he needs to show by example that he is not afraid to take responsibility on important issues. Here, he shifts this onus to Vice President Jejomar Binay—concealing his cold feet by giving the impression that he simply wants to be fair.
Fair to who?
Mercenary journalists who rant that Aquno displays a hard unforgiving heart if he does not allow a Marcos’ hero burial? Shameless congressmen who prioritize their personal political and economic interests above that of the country? The large population of young Filipinos who know little about the Marcos oppression? Those who do not know that his war medals were fake? The Marcos family?
How about fairness to: The Filipino nation which the dictator robbed and brought to shame for some twenty years? The victims of Marcos oppression who were imprisoned, tortured or murdered?
How about fairness to his own father who was imprisoned for eight years and ruthlessly murdered as he stepped off the plane?
Showing fairness is good but it does not mean: unacceptable accommodation; slavishly trying to be nice; or affirming the errant views of the ignorant who do not know enough of the facts. Fairness certainly does not mean carrying out a lie.
So what if Aquino gets criticized by mercenary journalists? So what if shameless congressmen threaten not to support him? So what if the Marcoses with their billions threaten to bring him down? What the hell is he in power for—except to use that power for good?
He should be more concerned about the millions who supported him expecting him to be a good courageous moral leader. If he allows Marcos to be buried as a hero, not only will they cease supporting him—they will also pillory him for his insensitivity in betraying their expectations.
Aquino should stop acting like a two bit politician and assume his responsibility as President on this issue. He must come out declaring the truth that Marcos is not a hero who does not deserve to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani and that he, Aquino, owes it as his duty to the Filipino people not to have him buried there. Plain and simple.
The facts do not lie. Truth is truth. Marcos is one of the worst villains in history categorized by many as belonging to the same rogues’ gallery as Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and the like.
To give him a hero’s burial is to carry out a lie. It insults the intelligence of the Filipino people and makes us look ridiculous in the eyes of the world. It will also further affirm to the international community the country’s reputation as the basket case of Asia. As president, Aquino has a duty not to bring dishonor to the nation.
I hope that the President and his advisers open their eyes and ears and not always react negatively to criticisms thinking all these are attacks from his enemies. Criticisms are sometimes constructive and sincerely well meant to help him. I certainly am not an enemy. Like millions of Filipinos, I want nothing from Aquino except that he be a good president and serve the people sincerely and well. I want him to succeed. I still believe he is an honest person.
I was with his father Ninoy about six days before he left for the Philippines and to martyrdom. In that meeting with Alex Esclamado, Steve Psinakis, Gasti Ortigas and Ernie Rondon, I listened carefully when Ninoy answered the question: “Why would you be so foolish to return to the Philippines where Marcos could imprison you again or have you killed?”
A part of his answer: “I expect that I will be arrested when I get there. I intend to run for President under house arrest. I cannot win because Marcos will certainly cheat me but I hope this will rally the people to organize against the dictatorship. I believe this is the only hope of freedom for our people. But if they kill me—so be it.”
I sensed that the man had become very spiritual as he expressed no rancor against his enemies. He did indicate his disappointment with many Filipinos: “They were so easily bought or intimated by Marcos.” Exhibiting great courage, understanding the risks involved, he did what he felt needed to be done for love of his people. Ninoy was unquestionably a true leader and Filipino hero.
Having written that, perhaps I am being unfair to Aquino in expecting him to have the same extraordinary courage and clearmindedness as his father.
His father was an unusual man. I also know that it’s not easy to be president.
However, I don’t think it takes extraordinary courage for him to make a decision that he is mandated to make and which people expect him to make.
People elect presidents to make decisions for them on national issues. The president together with all of his advisers utilize considerable resources to get information and facts. Based on their findings and conclusions, the president makes his decision as he sees fit. This is his mandate and his responsibility.
By skirting that responsibility and throwing it to Binay, he thinks he can play cute and avoid alienating forces on either side of the issue. Yeah sure, let Jojo take the heat. Use the “Better him than me.” alternative. The politically savvy Binay is certainly not going to allow himself to be a fall guy.
Binay announced that he is taking opinions from all quarters and will make a decision based on the feedback he gets. Predictably, with their unlimited resources, the Marcoses will pack Binay’s survey with tons of letters, comments and opinions advocating for a Libingan hero’s burial for Marcos. Envelopes for hired-gun journalists will keep coming to increase their pro Libingan for Marcos propaganda output. Binay’s decision supposedly will go according to his survey results.
So here we are—a nation where an important executive decision will be based on a survey by the Vice-President. Instead of Aquino deciding for the people which is his mandate, the issue gets thrown back to the people. What if in fact the survey shows that a majority decides that Marcos should be buried as a hero and the survey is used as the basis for the decision to bury him as one—does the lie of burying a non-hero as a hero become truth?
It’s like saying that the majority is always right and should be followed. We know that not only is a large section of the Philippine population functionally illiterate, many of them sell their votes. That does not mean they are bad people. It’s just that the Philippines is not yet a ripened democracy. Being such, a Philippine majority vote often fails to make good decisions.
This explains why warlords, goons, movie actors, athletes or other celebrities unfit for office get elected. The very distortion of 216 Congressmen signing a resolution calling for Marcos burial as a hero by itself confirms to us that a majority vote cannot always be relied on to arrive at a morally correct decision.
Many of these men and women lawmakers are not evil per se. They are just being intellectually dishonest for selfish reasons. How many of the rational and well informed among them would believe that Marcos is really a hero? As to the very few who sincerely believes he is, let us forgive them for morons know not what they do. Even in death, Marcos brings out the worst in the Filipino.
Aquino curling into a fetal position imagining that this issue will not come back to haunt him is wishful dreaming. If Marcos is buried as a hero under his watch, even those who want him to succeed will howl to the heavens in protest. When that happens, expect all the respect, trust and goodwill for him to vanish like so much smoke. His public credibility won’t be worth the value of a single coconut.
Mr. President, it’s not too late for you to take the bull by the horns before you get fatally gored. Take this matter back from Binay. Make a decision. This is your responsibility. This is your mandate. Don’t run away giving us this bovine dung “I don’t want to appear biased.” garbage. Be a real President.
On the other hand, if you allow Marcos to be buried as a hero while you are President, for sure, you betray and desecrate the memory of your father and other martyrs who fought and died for the freedom and dignity of the Filipino. The EDSA revolution would then have lost all of its meaning and all the respect and pride we acquired as a people from that episode would have been for naught.
The burial of Marcos as a hero is not as inconsequential as you may believe. It will have its after effects. You will inevitably pay heavily for your blindness if this happens. The legacy of goodwill your father and mother left will not save you.
Deciding on such a simple issue as Marcos’ hero burial is not rocket science. Ask a five year old the question: What kind of person should be buried in a cemetery for heroes? A five year old’s mind is not infested with political distortions. Try it. Ask.
The five year old will answer: If he is a true hero, he should be buried in a cemetery for heroes. If not, then he should not be. From out of the mouth of babes: truth.
<em>Note: The author was a co- founder of US Pinoys for NoyMar. The California State Bar honors him as one of only 29 US lawyers officially certified as an Expert Specialist in immigration law continuously for more than 20 years. He also does accident injuries, wrongful death and airplane crashes. For communications (San Francisco area): 455 Hickey Blvd. Suite 516, Daly City, Ca 94015 tel 650-991-1154 fax 650-991-1186 email firstname.lastname@example.org </em>