Get real
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 13 August 2016


Let’s take a closer look at the Marcos burial issue. It started during Du30’s election campaign in Ilocos Norte, when he promised that if he became president, Ferdinand Marcos would be buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani (LMB). As a campaign issue—I mean, when the issues are inclusive growth, corruption, poverty, drugs, criminality, “endo” labor practices, wages, how can the Marcos burial possibly be of the same level of importance? The only place in which the issue would resonate is Marcos’ birthplace.

No offense to Ilocos Norte, and to people like neurologist Dr. Joven Cuanang, who owns Sitio Remedios, arguably the most famous tourist resort there. But Ilocos Norte, according to the 2000 census, registered a population of 514,000 persons (about the same as Makati City), and is the least populated province in the Ilocos Region (it has 12.2 percent of the total population).

I mention this only to show how many people would possibly be mortally offended if Marcos is not buried in the LMB, which is what Du30 is worried about. Compare that to the population of the Philippines. I would also remind the good people of Ilocos Norte that removing Marcos from there would also remove a tourist attraction. He is part of the package of tourist attractions that include the “Malacañang of the North.” So think twice about exporting him.

In any case, only three of the country’s presidents (Elpidio Quirino [only recently interred there], Carlos P. Garcia and Diosdado Macapagal) are in the LMB. So it is safe to say there will be no shame if Marcos is not buried there. But there will be much pain if he is.

Mr. President, do you really think that people voted for you because you promised to bury Marcos in the LMB? If yes, don’t you think you should ask either Pulse Asia or Social Weather Stations to settle the issue? Or perhaps to validate if the Filipino people want him to be buried there? I conducted my own little survey and asked randomly selected people from all walks of life—street cleaner, salesgirl, cigarette vendor, security guard, academic; young and old, male and female—if they voted for Du30. If the answer was yes, I asked an open-ended question: Why did you vote for him? No limit to the reasons given. I polled 20 Du30-ites, and none of them listed “because he promised to bury Marcos in the LMB” as an answer. Unfortunately, I failed to ask their place of birth, which I now think may be important. But surely some of them were Ilocano? Yes, but I don’t really know.

So let’s do it the scientific way. Let’s get the people’s pulse. Let’s ignore for the moment the rising wave of protests against it, as more people get more aware. Marcos will be buried in the LMB because you, Mr. President, want to “keep your promise.”

Promise to whom? Who asked you to make it a campaign issue? No one has stepped up to accept responsibility. Was it the Ilocano people who asked you, or just a few Ilocanos surnamed Marcos? What proportion of the Ilocano people do they represent? My father, Juan Collas, was born in the Ilocos, so I claim Ilocano blood. And I don’t think Marcos should be buried in the LMB. I wonder how many others think the way I do—that it would be an act of desecration against the heroes buried there, and against the soldiers buried there. We have to know.

My father was a journalist (Philippines Free Press in its heyday) before he joined Quirino’s (Ilocano) administration. He used to be a fond friend of Marcos, even arranging for him to be a sponsor at my wedding. But after martial law was declared, and he and I used to go to the Supreme Court to hear the cases against martial law, he told me, “If I had known that Ferdinand would turn out like this, I never would have written in his defense.” (He was referring to the murder charges against Marcos in the Nalundasan case.) He never mentioned Marcos in a favorable light again.

Or maybe you have a sense of “utang na loob” to Marcos. Your father, I read somewhere, was part of Marcos’ legitimate (pre-martial-law) administration. But I also read that your mother turned anti-Marcos during martial law. Mother knows best, Mr. President. Besides, personal feelings should have no bearing on your decision. Didn’t you say that there are no friends (“walang kaibigan,” like President Joseph Estrada also once said) while in the government?

There is an encouraging note here. It seems Du30 has (unwittingly) conceded that Marcos is not a hero—not when he had so much unexplained wealth, was responsible for the economic debacle that led us into a debt crisis, and had so many deaths, disappearances, and incarcerations (including Ninoy Aquino’s, Pepe Diokno’s, and all his political enemies’) on his hands.

That is, at least, something. The downside is that Du30 is still insisting that Marcos be buried in the LMB because he was a soldier, period. And all soldiers are entitled to burial there.

But Mr. President, aren’t soldiers buried in the LMB because it is assumed that they fought for their country? And soldiers who died fighting for their country are assumed heroes.

But Marcos certainly did not die for his country. As a matter of fact, the research done by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines shows that Marcos took advantage of whatever army connections he had for fraudulent money-making and self-aggrandizing purposes.

So, if he is not a hero, and not even worthy to be called a soldier, isn’t it obvious, Mr. President, that he shouldn’t be buried in the LMB? Isn’t it obvious he should stay in Ilocos Norte?

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