On Marcos’ burial at Libingan ng mga Bayani

To many people, the issue of burying former strongman Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes ‘Cemetery) is a big issue. We highly respect their views on this; in truth, we share very much many of the reasons for objecting to it. In fact, the Moros suffered the most numbers of killed or victims during the height of Martial Law, in particular those victims of massacres. This is not to include the thousands upon thousands of hectares of Moro and other indigenous peoples ‘ancestral lands in Mindanao given to migrants or outsiders.

The truth is that all former presidents after Marcos did not allow his remains to be buried there. They found it most inappropriate to consider Marcos a hero for which the cemetery has its billing. They have not forgotten the Marcos ‘legacy of hypocrisy and violence, the rapine by his cronies and sycophants, his hidden loot, his deception with his fake medals and non-existing guerrilla unit; the repression, corruption, and injustices, the rape of the country’s economy; the military abuse, torture and “salvaging”. To the present, not only the people but also Marcos’ own family continue to suffer from such bitter legacy. Imagine, Bongbong Marcos lost the vice presidential race to Leni Robredo during the last polls by just more than 200,000 votes; and it was the Moro protest votes that made this defeat possible. Of all the provinces and cities in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) only in Sulu that he won over the latter.

However, if President Rodrigo Duterte decides to break tradition, then the best attitude we can probably adopt is to conduct a reality check: He is the president and he has the prerogative. Besides, whatever his decision carries, only he himself has to answer. Real leaders are leaders because oftentimes they make hard decisions that appear too controversial to many people. But in the end, many if not most of those decisions are right because leaders see many things that the rest cannot see. That is why in the MILF we give our leaders more discretionary powers more than what other similar organizations can allow.

Duterte’s own words are enough to gauge his intention: “He is allowing the burial ‘not because he is a hero … but because he was a Filipino soldier.”

For more practical reasons, consider that the Libingan ng mga Bayani is a property of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Army is the unit tasked to manage its operations and maintenance. As Commander-in-Chief of the AFP, which includes the Army, President Duterte is well within his official capacity to allow the burial.  

For those who are not convinced of the practicality of the decision, they can contest it in court because there is a law which clearly stated that there had been gross violation of human rights during the time of Marcos. Another law stipulates that the states hereby acknowledges its moral and legal obligation to recognize and or provide reparation to victims and their families as well as those injuries they sustained during the same period.

Currently, there are approximately 49,000 buried in the 103-hectare cemetery.