Get real
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 20 August 2016


Tomorrow is the 33rd death anniversary of Ninoy Aquino, who was escorted out of his arrival plane by military personnel and shot before he even stepped on Philippine soil. His death was a defining moment for many theretofore quiet Filipinos, turning them into committed fighters for the return of democracy to the Philippines. Their efforts culminated in the 1986 Edsa Revolt, after the snap election called by Ferdinand Marcos resulted in the victory of Corazon Aquino—a victory denied by Marcos and his “tuta” parliamentarians. Filipinos could take it no more and deposed him, helped, in no small way, by elements of the military.

Marcos and his family were flown out of the Philippines and brought to Hawaii, where he died three years later. He had wanted to return to the Philippines, but his request was denied by President Corazon Aquino. His family went to the Supreme Court, which ruled that President Aquino had acted neither arbitrarily nor with grave abuse of discretion in forbidding his return. When he died (13 days after the high court issued its decision), his family filed a motion for reconsideration, and it was again denied. That was in October 1989.

Fast forward to four years later, and President Fidel V. Ramos (FVR) was at the helm. He apparently thought that Marcos could safely be brought home, without any danger to national security or to peace and order (the reasons given by President Aquino). But there were conditions, and an agreement was signed between FVR and the Marcoses (I haven’t seen a copy, but Raffy Alunan, who was interior secretary at that time, apparently negotiated it). He would be flown straight to Ilocos Norte, he would be given military honors as a major in the Army, he would not be paraded around Metro Manila, and he would not be buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani (LNMB).

Fast forward to today. FVR has not commented on this agreement, or its authenticity. I can understand why: He is Ilocano, he is related to Marcos, and he supported President Duterte (who wants Marcos buried in the LNMB), who has given him an active role in the government. Of course, he was also one of the military officials who helped depose Marcos. But he did say that the people should decide. Which people?

Ah, there’s the rub. I thought he would say, by an opinion survey (the next best thing to a referendum, which Mr. Duterte originally wanted). But no. He wants the members of Congress, who represent the people, to do it.

He might as well have said, Let Marcos be buried in the LNMB. Because most of the members of this Congress, having shown their true colors right after the elections, started ass-licking Mr. Duterte in the hope of getting some goodies. They don’t think of their people, they think of themselves.

I also have not heard from the military, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, except that apparently the chief of staff, Gen. Ricardo Visaya, promptly gave the order to have the President’s wish be carried out. He gave no opinion. An acquiescent military.

I think it is very important that the military say its piece. Otherwise, all its efforts to be beloved of the Filipino people, all its efforts to be a true partner in human development, will go for naught. And besides, the “law” that Mr. Duterte says he is following in ordering the burial has to do with the Army.

At least the communists have said theirs. On one hand, their “consultant,” Joma Sison, has said that he has no objection to Marcos being buried in the LNMB. But his people on the ground have in fact gone to the Supreme Court to ask for relief. And Mr. Duterte says he will abide by what the high court says.

The military cannot hide behind the “we are not political” defense. Nobody is asking it to be political. But surely, it can understand English. It is the military that has to carry out Republic Act No. 289, which established the LNMB, and it is the military that issued AFPR G-161-374 (titled “Allocation of Cemetery Plots at the Libingan ng mga Bayani”), the implementing rules for RA 289. The last update to this, by the way, was issued by FVR when he was AFP chief of staff to Corazon Aquino.

Section 1 of RA 289 says the LNMB is “to perpetuate the memory of all the Presidents of the Philippines, national heroes and patriots for the inspiration and emulation of this generation and of generations still unborn.” Tell us, General Visaya, representing the military, what exactly about Ferdinand Marcos should be emulated by this and succeeding generations? His lies? His world-class corruption? His putting the Philippines into an economic hole so deep that it took 18 years to get out of it? I’d really like to know what the military thinks.

And then the implementing rules: They specify those who are allowed and those who are NOT allowed interment in the LNMB. Those not allowed include 1) personnel who were dishonorably separated, reverted, discharged from the service, and 2) personnel who were convicted by final judgment of an offense involving moral turpitude.

Now, General Visaya, applying #1, do you think a commander in chief who was deposed by the people (with the help of the military, under FVR) can be considered as having been dishonorably discharged? Because, if not, don’t you think it is FVR and his subordinates who should have been?

Applying #2, Marcos could not be convicted of moral turpitude because he conveniently died. But surely, you are not blind to the $680 million that was turned over to the Philippine government by Swiss banks. How do you think Marcos got that money, and Imelda Marcos all those jewels? But never mind. Answering #1 will be enough.