[From today's Inquirer]
Ferdinand Marcos was a fraud. He ran for every higher office as a democrat, but killed democracy when he imposed martial rule. He promised to make the nation “great again,” but burdened the country with behest loans, crony economics and epic corruption, turning it under all that weight into “the sick man of Asia.” He presented himself as a lawyer serving the law, but prostituted the legal system (defenders like the journalist Teodoro Valencia were happy to parrot the line about “constitutional authoritarianism”) to make it serve what the rest of the world remembers as a “conjugal dictatorship.”
Also, and perhaps above all, he pretended to be a World War II hero, but in fact the opposite was true. He was anything but.
On Jan. 23, 1986, or two weeks before the crucial snap election he was forced to call took place, the New York Times ran a front-page article that began: “The U.S. Army concluded after World War II that Ferdinand Marcos’ claims of heading a guerrilla resistance unit during the Japanese occupation of his country were ‘fraudulent’ and ‘absurd.’” The article, based in part on the historian Alfred McCoy’s groundbreaking research on US military archives, summed up the matter raised by other news organizations, such as the San Jose Mercury News, thus: “Between 1945 and 1948 various U.S. Army officers rejected Marcos’ two requests for official recognition of the unit, calling his claims distorted, exaggerated, fraudulent, contradictory and absurd. Army investigators finally concluded that Maharlika was a fictitious creation and that ‘no such unit ever existed’ as a guerrilla organization during the war.”
To the scheming, ruthless, extraordinarily ambitious founder of this fictitious creation, some 204 congressmen now propose to offer the final accolade: burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. To the perpetrator of this “absurd” and unconscionable fraud, the great majority of congressmen, almost as many as those who voted to impeach Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, now propose to offer belated redemption. To the dictator who caused the death and torture of (literally) tens of thousands of Filipinos, and whom millions of Filipinos (quite literally) chased out of Malacañang Palace through the revolution on EDSA, 204 members of a restored Congress now propose to offer, not an accounting, but closure.
After acquitting themselves honorably in the matter of the Gutierrez impeachment, treating the case with due diligence and all deliberate speed, many of the same congressmen have disgraced themselves by hastily signing the House resolution endorsing a Marcos burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
None of the reasons that have been advanced even remotely does justice, either to the horrors of the martial law experience or to the elaborate fraud the fake guerrilla leader of a fake guerrilla unit perpetrated on the Filipino people.
It will not do to forget or even to forgive the Marcoses for the brutality of their martial regime—because they have refused, until now, to ask for forgiveness or to admit the brute truth. It will not do to equate the situation of former defense secretary Angelo Reyes with that of Marcos—because the allegations against Reyes had not been proven, but the many charges against Marcos have been proven again and again, most recently by the symbolic turnover of token checks for thousands of human rights victims. It will not do to follow the 25th anniversary of the first people power revolution, the template for peaceful uprisings that came after, by honoring the man ousted by that revolution with a hero’s burial—because to do so is to spit on the sacrifice of the assassinated Ninoy Aquino and many other victims of the Marcos dictatorship, whose spilt blood led, inexorably, to EDSA.
Above all, it will not do to remember Marcos as a military hero—because his claims, and his many war medals, were as fake as his “adherence to democracy.”
There is no question that the Mt. Samat memorial pays much-deserved tribute to the “battling bastards” of Bataan. Unfortunately for our own sense of history, that same memorial, so closely identified with Marcos’ own political career, has served to cover Marcos’ questionable activity during World War II with the borrowed aura of real heroes. To bury Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani is to make that outrageous borrowing a permanent scandal.