Tuesday, March 15, 2011

MARCOS: To Be or Not To Be @ LNMB

Should Ferdinand Marcos be buried as a hero at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (LNMB)?

Sometime after his election as President of the Philippines in 1998, Joseph “Erap” Estrada indicated his intention to approve the burial of the late President Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. He claimed that it was mandated by law. When many of the anti-Marcos groups which included the victims of human rights violations and their relatives expressed their vehement objection, Estrada responded with the following statement, “Show me a law that says Marcos may not be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.”

I was in the Philippines at the time and I heard what Estrada said. Staying at a condo in Salcedo Village, Makati and close to the Ateneo Law Library I decided to go there to do a little research. Being a Bedan alum, I had to pay a few pesos for the privilege. As a result, I sent a letter to Estrada in response to his challenge to show him a law that may prohibit him to bury Marcos at the heroes’ cemetery.

I also sent a copy of the letter to famous author and columnist Carmen N. Pedrosa who featured it in her column “From a Distance” published on June 27, 1998 by The Philippine Star, a national daily in the Philippines.

As discussed by Ms. Pedrosa, my research and letter showed precisely the legal basis which may prohibit Marcos’ burial at the LMNB. I specifically mentioned Republic Act No. 289 and AFPR G 161 374. The former is the statute that provides for the creation of a national pantheon for Presidents of the Philippines, National Heroes and Patriots of the country while the latter is the last of a series of implementing rules relating to the construction, development and maintenance of the pantheon.

The main reason for the national pantheon’s being as provided in Section 1 of Republic Act No. 289 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 generation still unborn.”

In short, to be buried in the hallowed ground are the remains of Filipino heroes who would serve as “inspiration and emulation” of the generation when the law was enacted, today and most especially those of tomorrow who are yet to be born.

By the very letter of the law alone, given what transpired during his dictatorial regime and the way he was eventually deposed, it would be very hard to justify making Marcos as somebody to emulate and as a model to inspire any generation.

AFPR G 161 374 specifically provides who are qualified and who are disqualified to be interred in the national pantheon. It requires that they must have the qualifications and none of the disqualifications.

Paragraph 2 of AFPR G 161 374, entitled, Allocation of Cemetery Plots at the Libingan ng mga Bayani enumerates who are qualified to be interred in the cemetery. It says, “The remains of the following deceased persons are qualified and therefore, authorized to be interred in the Libingan ng mga Bayani:

a.                  Medal of valor awardees
b.                  Presidents or commanders-in-chief AFP
c.                   Secretaries of national defense
d.                  Chiefs of staff, AFP
e.                   General flag officers of the AFP
f.                    Active and retired military personnel of the AFP
g.                  Veterans of Philippine Revolution 1896, WW1, WW2 and recognized guerillas
h.                  Government dignitaries, statesmen, national artists and other deceased persons whose interment or re-interment has been approved by the commander-in-chief, Congress or the Secretary of National Defense
i.                    Former presidents, secretaries of defense, CSAFP, generals/flsg officers, dignitaries, statesmen, national artists, widows of former presidents, secretaries of national defense and chief of staff are authorized to be interred at the LNMB.”

Those who support Marcos’ burial at the pantheon could be relying on this provision because clearly and understandably Marcos would qualify as among those enumerated.

Unfortunately there is another paragraph in the said rules which also clearly states those who are not qualified to be interred in the Libingan ng mga Bayani. It says, “The remains of the following shall not be interred in the Libingan ng mga Bayani:

a.                  Personnel who were dishonorably separated/reverted/discharged from the service.
b.                  Authorized personnel who were convicted by final judgment of the offense involving moral turpitude.

Read with the statute that created LNMB, mere inclusion in the list is not sufficient. Anyone in the list must also serve as “inspiration and emulation” for the current and future generation. So they must not therefore bring dishonor in any shape or form. That is why the provision on disqualification was also added.

Marcos cannot be disqualified on the basis of letter “b”. He was never convicted by final judgment of any offense involving moral turpitude. Although we can cite several offenses involving moral turpitude allegedly committed by him, he died before he could be charged, tried and convicted. There are legal effects or consequences of death. In this material world, our finite courts cannot acquire criminal jurisdiction over the soul of the dead. It would be too late for any measure of personal and material reformation and / or retribution. The Divine courts take over for final judgment.

Letter “a” is another matter. Marcos was President, Dictator and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. He installed himself as such virtually for life. There is only one way for him to be dishonorably discharged, separated or deposed – by revolution of the people who as the sovereign authority had temporarily vested its governmental powers to him. The EDSA or People Power Revolution of 1986 “dishonorably discharged” him not only for conduct unbecoming of an officer but most significantly  for killing democracy, for violation of human rights and a list of other reasons too long to enumerate in this article.

As quoted by FB friend and author Carmen N. Pedrosa in her column I wrote, “Your (Erap’s) election and coming inauguration is a necessary, legal and historical consequence of the EDSA revolution. Without the latter, a Marcos dynasty would not have provided Erap the opportunity to become a senator, vice president and now president…..”

Marcos’ burial at the LNMB never materialized under the presidency of Erap despite his initial intent to approve it.

Senator Bongbong Marcos just recently revived the issue: Marcos: To be or not to be @LNMB? Senator Bongbong insists “to be”.

I say it is not only legally unsound but politically and morally untenable as well. For the sake of his father and his own, the Senator should let his father rest in peace and let the positive memories dominate and for him to focus on redemption with good deeds.

I will discuss this further in my next column.

Photos sent by my barber:

Photo Bongbong

Photo ng Ama ni Bongbong
Photo ng Ina ni Bongbong

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