(Privilege Speech delivered by Rep. Edcel. C. Lagman on 09 August 2016)
Indeed, death is the great equalizer between the poor and the rich, the powerful and the weak, the famous and the unknown, the influential and the marginalized.
But even in death, there is a separation, a distinction, in history and the people’s appreciation between a tyrant and a just ruler, a despot and his victims, a hero and a villain, a patriot and a traitor.
Verily, the Libingan ng mga Bayani (LNMB) is the hallowed graveyard for heroes and patriots, not of despots and plunderers.
Heroes eternally rest in the people’s embrace and admiration, while villains forever agonize in disgrace.
The late President Ferdinand Marcos must not be buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani which is reserved for authentic heroes and patriots or for those who are presumed to be heroes and patriots because their records do not document the contrary.
In the case of President Marcos, the following are the verifiable records and indisputable evidence which render him unfit to be buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani:
1. He publicly declared on 23 September 1972 Martial Law for malevolent and contrived reasons to perpetuate himself in power even as he transgressed the sovereign will. He masterminded this power grab which lasted for 14 ignominious years.
In a privilege speech on September 13, 1972, 10 days before Martial Law was declared, then Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr. exposed "Oplan Sagittarius" wherein Marcos would place Metro Manila and outlying areas under the control of the Philippine Constabulary preparatory to the declaration of Martial Law. Series of bombings would erupt in Metro Manila which would be used to justify Marcos’ complete takeover of the government and usher in authoritarian rule.
On the night of September 22, 1972, then Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile claimed that as they were driving out of Camp Aguinaldo, a car opened fire at his convoy and sped away.
In 1986, when Enrile turned against Marcos, he disclosed that the ambush was staged to justify martial law. (Official Gazette website)
2. He padlocked the Congress and arrogated the role of sole legislator, and in the process negated popular representation in the enactment of laws and adoption of national policies.
3. To further stifle dissent, he incarcerated titans in the political opposition like human rights advocate Senator Jose W. Diokno, the venerable nationalist Lorenzo Tañada, the staunch oppositionist Senator Benigno Aquino, who was perceived as a presidential contender, the great libertarian Senator Jovito Salonga and the then promising Senator Ramon Mitra, Jr.
4. He emasculated the judiciary and virtually derogated judicial independence.
Marcos promulgated General Order No. 2 dated 22 September 1972 which implemented the Arrest, Search and Seizure Order (ASSO). Through ASSO, he, not the courts, ordered the arrest of prominent members of the opposition, leftist personalities and even ordinary citizens.
A week later on September 29, 1972, he issued Letter of Instruction No. 11 (LOI 11) which commanded that, "all officers of the national government whose appointments are vested in the President of the Philippines submit their resignations from office, thru their Department Heads, not later than October 15, 1972", including members of the judiciary. According to Law Dean and Chairperson of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), Atty. Jose Manuel Diokno, "From the moment he signed LOI 11, Marcos stripped the judges of their independence. Thus, justice no longer depended on the merits of case, but the closeness of the lawyers to the Marcoses." (InterAksyon.com)
Marcos was so influential over certain members of the Supreme Court, that when members of the opposition challenged the validity of the "ratification" of the 1973 Constitution by mere acclamation of Citizens' Assemblies, and not through a plebiscite, the High Court shockingly upheld the so-called raising-of-hands "ratification".
Through the PCO (Presidential Commitment Order) and the PDA (Preventive Detention Action), Marcos arrested and detained alleged “enemies of the State” indefinitely, denied them the rights to bail and to trial. This indubitably depreciated the role of the judiciary.
5. He wantonly violated the people’s economic, social and cultural rights as well as their civil and political rights.
In the guise of fighting communism, numerous political dissenters and critics of the Marcos regime were harassed, arrested, detained, jailed, tortured, and/or summarily executed/massacred or involuntarily disappeared. Villages or communities were dislocated as bombings and strafings, forced evacuations and hamletting were dreadfully practiced in war zones when the government implemented the total war policy against the insurgents.
From September to December 1972, Task Force Detainees of the Philippines recorded 6,295 unwarranted arrests. These rose to 29,500 at the end of 1973. At the end of the Marcos regime, these arrests totaled 92,607. Partial listing of torture cases over the same period (September 1972 – February 1986) reached 5,531, summary execution, 2,537, and involuntary disappearances, 783.
Claimants in the class suit instituted with the United States District Court of Hawaii were those involuntarily disappeared, tortured and summarily executed by security forces and paramilitary groups between September 21, 1972 and February 25, 1986.
On September 24, 1992, the Hawaii Federal District Court ruled that Marcos was guilty of human rights violations and the Marcos Estate liable for damages. The jury awarded $1.2 billion for exemplary damages to the claimants on February 23, 1994. Eleven months later, on January 18, 1995, the jury of the same court awarded $755.4 million for compensatory damages, thereby validating 9,074 claims. (Martial Law Files)
Republic Act No. 10368 (Reparation and Recognition of Human Rights Victims during Martial Law) validates that the Republic of the Philippines indubitably recognizes and condemns the human rights atrocities committed during the regime of former President Marcos.
R.A. 10368 also aims to ensure that future generations are guaranteed of their right to know the truth of what happened during the Marcos dictatorship and do not become victims of attempts at historical revisionism. It does this by providing for: a) the establishment of a Memorial/Museum/Library in honor and in memory of the victims of human rights violations during the Marcos regime and b) the inclusion of the teaching of Martial Law atrocities, as well as the lives and sacrifices of victims of human rights violations in our history in the basic, secondary, and tertiary education curricula. (Sections 26 and 27 of R.A. 10368)
Indeed, if only such safeguards to historical accuracy were put in place in the country’s formal educational system, we would not even be considering burying the remains of the late dictator at the hallowed grounds of the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
6. He forcibly closed media outlets and detained Joaquin “Chino” Roces, the founder of Manila Times and the Associated Broadcasting Company, and other journalists. He suppressed the freedom of expression and of the press. He closed 292 radio stations all over the country; 66 community newspapers; 11 English weekly magazines; 7 major English dailies; 7 television stations; 4 Chinese dailies; 3 Filipino dailies; 1 English-Filipino daily; and 1 Spanish daily.
7. He either closed or took over the management, control, and operation of public utilities like the Manila Electric Company, Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company, National Waterworks and Sewerage Authority, Philippine National Railways, Philippine Airlines, Air Manila, and Filipinas Orient Airways, (LOI No. 2, s. 1972) and private enterprises, i.e., Iligan Integrated Steel Mills, Inc. and the Elizalde Rolling Mills, Inc. (LOI No. 27, s. 1972)
8. He plundered the economy and inordinately amassed ill-gotten hordes. The Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) estimates that the Marcos’ ill-gotten wealth ranged from a low of USD5 billion to as high as USD30 billion.
In 1997, the Swiss Federal Supreme Court ruled that “there was little doubt about the criminal provenance of the secret Marcos accounts and securities hidden in the Swiss banks. It ordered that they be transferred to the Republic of the Philippines and that their disposition be determined by a final enforceable judgment of the competent Philippine court.” (Bautista, J. citing Federal Office for Police Affairs vs Aquamina Corporation, Panama,10 December 1997)
9. He allowed cronies to inordinately and criminally enrich themselves through errant contracts and skewed projects as well as discriminatory and flawed polices in various industries: coconut, banana, tobacco, logging, mining, offshore gaming, pharmaceuticals, construction, and of course, nuclear energy. (Garcia, M.A. 2016) Reports have it that 33% of Marcos regime’s loans, equivalent to $8 billion went to Marcos and his cronies pockets. (FDC)
10. He ballooned the foreign debt, much of the proceeds of which funded projects and programs which did not benefit the Filipino people.
The Marcos regime’s insatiable appetite for foreign loans jacked up the Philippine foreign debt from $1 billion at the start of his presidency in 1965 to $ 28 billion by the time he fled the country in 1986. (FDC)
For decades after Martial Law, foreign debt servicing, including for borrowed behest loans, gobbled up nearly half of the national budget, effectively dislodging critical economic and social services.
Symbolic of the folly of the Marcos regime’s foreign debt policy is the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP). After making USD4.2 billion in principal and interest payments that extinguished the loan, the country’s benefit from the plant continues to be zero. The project was initiated and pursued with little or no regard for actual energy generation and the attendant safety factors. The overriding concern centered on the windfall commissions.
11. He submerged the economy to below zero (0). Standing out was its record of having been the only administration to register a negative GDP growth. The economy grew negatively at -7% in 1984. (Solon, O. and Floro, M. 1993)
Also standing out was its inflation record. After posting a high inflation rate of almost 40% in 1976, the regime topped its own record with 50.3% inflation rate in 1984, again the highest among all administrations.
Even conservative government statistics reveal 59.3% of Filipino families to have fallen below the poverty line toward the end of his regime in 1985. The poverty incidence was worse in my region, the Bicol region, at 73.2%.
12. He was ousted as a tyrant by the Filipino people and thus, dishonorably discharged by popular action, while the Supreme Court barred his return to the Philippines.
On February 25, 1986, the historic people power revolution in EDSA forced Marcos and his family to flee the country. The U.S. Air Force C-141 transported the ousted dictator’s party of 89 and landed at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii. (Los Angeles Times, 1986, February 26) Marcos succumbed to a heart attack in Hawaii on September 28, 1989.
More than three years after the EDSA revolution, on September 15, 1989, the Philippine Supreme Court upheld a government decision barring former President Marcos from returning to the Philippines. The court affirmed that, “(President Corazon Aquino) did not act arbitrarily or with grave abuse of discretion in determining that the return of Marcos and his family … poses a serious threat to national interest and welfare.” (Los Angeles Times, 1989, September 15)
However, in 1993, then President Fidel V. Ramos lifted his predecessor’s ban on the repatriation of Marcos’ cadaver. It was eventually flown directly to Laoag where it has since lain in an air-conditioned crypt.
The then pervasive nonchalance of most Filipinos to the homecoming of Marcos’ remains has today been supplanted by a growing opposition to the proposed Marcos burial at the heroes’ cemetery. Among those who are opposed are the human rights advocates and families of victims of human rights violations during martial law who rightly contend that the burial of the deposed dictator and convicted human rights violator is a desecration of the revered lives and struggles for freedom and democracy of authentic heroes and martyrs.
Families of the desaparecidos steadfastly persist in finding their disappeared loved ones hopefully alive or even dead to accord them proper burial in a decent cemetery. Unlike the Marcoses, they, along with the families of those who were extrajudicially killed, do not aspire to having their departed kin laid to rest in the Libingan ng mga Bayani, though they have the undisputed attributes of heroes and martyrs.
We cannot in conscience impress the late President Marcos with the same sterling people-centered causes for which human rights violations victims, particularly desaparecidos, sacrificed and forfeited their lives.
The foregoing 12 major reasons indubitably disqualify the interment of Marcos’ remains in the Libingan ng mga Bayani. His having been a soldier and former President are dwarfed, even nullified, by his cardinal sins against the Filipino people.
President Duterte in his State of the Nation address said: “I will not waste precious time dwelling on the sins of the past…except maybe extract a lesson or two from its errors…lest I be misunderstood, let me state clearly, that those who betrayed the people’s trust must not go unpunished and… they will have their day of reckoning too.”
The predisposition of President Duterte to bury the late President Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani is a gross departure from his foregoing statement. The interment of Marcos’ remains in the Libingan ng mga Bayani is an undeserved reward, it is not a day of reckoning.