Most congressmen favor Marcos burial in heroes’ cemetery

By Caroline J. Howard, ANC

Posted at Apr 12 2011 10:51 PM | Updated as of Apr 13 2011 09:31 AM

MANILA, Philippines - A resolution urging the Aquino administration to allow the burial of former President Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani has gathered the support of majority of lawmakers in Congress.

As of April 11, 219 congressmen, or three-fourths of the house membership, have signed House Bill 1135, a resolution pushing for the late strongman's burial at the heroes' cemetery.

It's a stark contrast to how Filipinos remain divided on issue today.

A recent Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey taken in March showed, half (50%) of Filipinos want the former President buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, a cemetery reserved for national heroes. Around 30% of those who favored his burial there believe he should be "buried with official honors," while 20% said only for a "private burial."

Speaking on ANC's "The Rundown" on Monday, Sorsogon Rep. Salvador Escudero III, who authored the bill, cited Marcos's stature as former chief executive and wartime soldier.

Escudero, who served as Marcos's agriculture minister during Martial Law, says as a bemedalled World War 2 veteran and as a former president, Marcos is qualified for a simple burial in the hallowed ground for heroes.

Escudero added that after nearly 3 decades, he now hopes to put closure to what many see as a dark part of history, and heal divisiveness in the country.

"Marcos has been bashed for the past 27, 28 years. Siya lang ang personalidad na araw-araw halos inuupakan sa media."

"It was not a direct violation of Marcos, it was a consequence, if ever, by his policies," he said.

"We can't take it away from people that former President Corazon Aquino and Senator Benigno ‘Ninoy' Aquino Jr. are heroes. In the same manner, please give us a chance to declare Marcos a hero. He was a fighter in World War 2, a former president. Let us put a closure to this."

Escudero noted that it was the choice of the Aquino family not to have either parent buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

Adding insult to injury

But critics said giving the late dictator a hero's burial would be like adding insult to injury.

In the same interview, Gabriela Partylist Representative Luzviminda Ilagan said the proposal to lay Marcos to rest in a burial ground reserved for heroes merely opens old wounds in the hearts of thousands of Marcos human rights victims.

"Let's not rewrite history. Even if President Marcos did not have a personal hand (in the abuses), there's command responsibility. Granting he fought in the war, then he's a war veteran; granting he participated in the war, then he was one of our soldiers, but he can't be considered a hero who deserves a burial in the Libingan ng mga Bayani."

While it may be healthy to open the matter to public discussion, Escudero believes there is no need to take it up in a plebiscite at the risk of starting a precedent for all future burials.

Delegated authority

Vice-President Jejomar Binay, a known long-time Aquino ally, will be the final arbiter on whether Marcos gets to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, as President Aquino has distanced himself from the matter.

"Those of us who signed the resolution, we are aware that the Vice-President was very close to Mrs. Aquino, that's given. And in deference to the family, I did not approach Representive Abigail Binay because tatay niya and magde-decision," Escudero said.

"A delegated authority is still the authority of the guy who delegated it. And whatever the decision may be, we will respect it," he said.

Amid potentially contentious debate in the House of Representatives, and loud protests, Escudero good humoredly volunteered another solution suggested by former Senator Rene Saguisag: to change the name of the Libingan to "Libingan ng Dating Pangulo at Bayani."

Ilagan however insists, it won't be possible.

"It is symbolic and symbols take on a lot. If he's buried in that particular place, even if the resolution doesn't say he is a hero, indirectly putting him in a place for heroes, will make people think he has been considered a hero. There are other options: a mausoleum in his home town," Ilagan said.

Last week, Commission on Human Rights Chairperson Etta Rosales said burying Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani would be akin to dismissing everything the EDSA People Power Revolution stands for.

Escudero said, while the Senate is not inclined to file a parallel measure, some senators have voiced support for it should it make its way to the upper chamber, He said his son, Senator Francis Escudero, would vote for the measure.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile has also been quoted as saying it is high time that the remains of former President Marcos be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Fort Bonifacio, adding the former president is entitled to it, and there is no law that prevents it.