Do not bury Marcos in the Libingan

THE GREATNESS of national leadership is measured by what a leader leaves behind at the end of his or her term.

By this measure, Marcos was no great leader, much less a hero. His 20-year rule was in fact a failure. The Philippines he left behind in 1986 was worse off than in 1965 when he first took office.

The last years of his term (1983-85) saw the country’s economy shrink by over 10 percent. It took a decade thereafter for the economy to recover back to the GDP level of 1982.

When Marcos fled in 1986, 60 percent of all Filipinos were reduced to poverty earning less than $1 per person per day.

By 1985, the international debt of the Philippines had risen ten-fold during his 20-year tenure to $28 billion. This debt would have been acceptable had it been spent for productive assets. Instead, a good part of it was used for such non-performing non-assets as the overpriced, never-used Bataan nuclear power plant.

In 20 years of Marcos rule, corruption at the highest level siphoned off billions of dollars from public coffers into the private pockets of Marcos and his cronies.

In 20 years of Marcos rule, the Philippines went from being the second strongest economy in Asia to being a laggard.

This is not a trajectory that would have made this country a new “Singapore,” as the son of Marcos ignorantly claims would have happened. It is a trajectory going in the wrong direction.

Marcos turned this country into a private company—an expense account for himself, his family and his cronies at the expense of all Filipinos. And he created the mechanisms and laws to institutionalize this. The last straw was the 1986 snap elections when he tried to steal the presidency despite his failing health.

This was the reason behind the Edsa People Power revolution: To regain our democracy, to kick out an ailing despot, to take back the economy from cronies and to restore basic human rights for all.

After Edsa, we passed a law making plunder a crime. The Bill of Rights was restored in the Constitution. We re-established Congress to stand as true representatives of the people (while Marcos abolished Congress and took over legislation through the infamous Amendment 6). We reconstructed a Supreme Court to take charge over a decrepit judicial system that deferred to Marcos on major decisions (notably, Javellana v. Executive Secretary). All of these to correct the failings of Marcos.

Now, a quarter century later, the House of Representatives passes a resolution to honor Marcos with burial in the Libingan ng mga Bayani. Think of the contradictions this implies.

We kicked out a dictator for plunder, corruption and national failure only for Congress to forgive, forget and to consider honoring with a place in our national cemetery?

We legislated a law against plunder but will now honor the man who created that word in our national vocabulary in the first place?

We paid human rights victims of Marcos $1,000 each in compensation for Marcos’ human rights violations and then honor the human rights violator with burial in the Libingan?

You would think we were blessed with national stupidity.

This story is also as surreal as it gets. There are five individuals in this world whose remains are preserved for public viewing (surely the Church must think this improper if not obscene): Four communist leaders—Lenin, Mao Zedong, Ho Chi Minh and Kim il-Sung—and Marcos, the self-proclaimed anti-communist.

Today, over half of our population was born after Edsa I with no direct connection to the Marcos past and its excesses and abuses. This is a generation Vice President Jejomar Binay now wants to include in his survey of whether to bury Marcos in the Libingan or not. They will vote with no idea about the gravity of their vote.

I scan the names of the 216 congressmen who signed the resolution and see patterns of accommodation that will doom this country moving forward:

Every Macapagal-Arroyo ally has signed the resolution because their future relies on alliances with Marcos loyalists.

A number of party-list congressmen (that bastardized version of what the 1987 Constitution contemplated) have signed as well. Do they even know that the basic sectors are among the real beneficiaries of Edsa? (Then again, since when were LPG marketers, security guards and tricycle drivers, millionaires representing balut vendors, the El Shaddai sect and ethnic groups—Bicolanos, Warays, Ilonggos—considered basic sectors?)

Worse, I am dismayed as a liberal democrat to see Liberal Party members signing this resolution. The LP was supposed to be the reform party in the 2010 elections. To see a number of them signing this resolution is a great disappointment and a reflection of how little party discipline there is under the President.

Juan Miguel Luz is associate dean for Development Management at the Asian Institute of Management. The views are the author’s and do not represent any institution. For comments:

Tags: cronyism , dictatorship , fake World War II medals , Ferdinand Marcos Sr. , forced disappearances , Graft & Corruption , Guinness World Records biggest thief , human-rights abuses , ill-gotten wealth , Libingan ng mga Bayani , plunder

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