MANILA – Is President Rodrigo Duterte's order allowing the burial of former President Ferdinand Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani a ploy to make Filipinos forget history?
Senator Leila de Lima says yes.
"Kaya rin po siguro pinipilit sa atin ang paglibing ni Marcos sa Libingan ng mga Bayani. Para makalimutan natin ang kasaysayan ng diktadura at martial law, at para muling maging katanggap-tanggap sa atin ang mga pamamaraan ng ganitong klase ng pamamahala na atin nang isinuka at winaksi sa EDSA noong Pebrero ng 1986,” she said in a speech at the Manila Polo Club in Makati City on Thursday.
(Duterte is probably forcing us to accept the burial of Marcos at the Heroes' Cemetery. So we will forget the history of dictatorship and martial law, and for his method of leadership, which we rejected in EDSA in February 1986, to be acceptable again.)
The burial of Marcos at the cemetery reserved for former presidents, soldiers, and National Artists is the administration’s way of burying Filipinos’ will and knowledge of how to fight the power of a dictator, she said.
Marcos was set to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani on September 18. However, the Supreme Court issued a 20-day status quo ante order and is holding hearings on petitions seeking to stop the interment.
The high court can uphold Duterte's order or it may disallow the interment in the heroes' cemetery.
The high court earlier this week conducted hearings on petitions from Martial Law victims and concerned parties seeking to derail Duterte's order to proceed with the late strongman’s final interment at the Libingan.
Numerous alleged government detractors disappeared during Martial Law, and there were also reports of human rights violations supposedly done by police and the military against citizens in the name of keeping the peace.
De Lima further cautioned that citizens should not surrender their rights "to the vision of a strongman," or "out of fear" and hope that they will not be affected by the administration's war on drugs.
The people are being disempowered, she said, as they are being forced to take sides.
"'Either you are with us, or against us.' Dito po sa mga katagang ito nag-uumpisa ang lahat ng pangingitil ng salungat na mga opinyon, and, ultimately, the destruction of democracy itself…Pagkatapos ko, sino ang isusunod sa mga nangangahas na sumalungat sa pangulo?"
('Either you are with us, or against us.' This saying is where the curtailing of conflicting opinions starts, and ultimately, the destruction of democracy itself...After me, who among the president's detractors will be next [to be persecuted?)
De Lima has been vocal in opposing the administration's campaign against illegal drugs, and has denounced the Philippine National Police's "Oplan Tokhang," where police knock on the doors of suspected drug users and pushers and "plead" with them to stop their illegal drug activities.
While police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa has defended the operation, saying they are following operational procedures, advocates have said it impinges on suspects' right to due process.
De Lima has so far been engaged in a very public spat with the President, who denounced her as an alleged "narco-politician".
A "drug matrix" released by Duterte shows that supposedly, during her stint as justice secretary, she supported the distribution of illegal drugs in the New Bilibid Prison and was in cahoots with other public officials.
She has been called out for supposedly being "impartial" in probing extra-judicial killings purportedly done in the name of the war against drugs, and in her chairmanship of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights by former Duterte running mate Senator Alan Peter Cayetano.
She is also being investigated by the Department of Justice DOJ based on affidavits submitted by witnesses who claim they ran money to her alleged bagman, her driver Ronnie Dayan, for her illicit drug operation.