By Perry Diaz
Finally, after four months of waiting for a presidential decision on whether to allow or not allow the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, Vice President Jejomar “Jojo” Binay submitted his recommendation to the President that Marcos be buried with “full military honors” in Ilocos Norte, Marcos’ home province.
In my editorial, “Good job Jojo” (Global Balita, June 3, 2011), I wrote: “Vice President Jejomar ‘Jojo’ Binay’s recommendation to bury the remains of the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos with ‘full military honors’ in his home province of Ilocos Norte, not at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes’ Cemetery), is the best solution to President Benigno “P-Noy”Aquino III’s dilemma. It’s an equitable compromise considering that it has divided the people in half between those who opposed his burial at the Libingan and those who believed that he deserved to be buried in a place reserved for heroes.
“Given that one half of those who responded to an SWS survey believed that he was a hero and the other half believed that he was not a hero, it would have been a no-win situation for Binay. However, if Binay were King Solomon, he would have done something similar to what King Solomon had done to resolve the issue of the two mothers claiming the same baby: ‘Cut the body in half and bury one part at the Libingan and the other part in Ilocos Norte.’
“Those who opposed the burial at the Libingan would probably say, ‘Go ahead and cut the body in half and bury one half at the Libingan and give the other half to the Marcos family.’ But the Marcos family would most likely say, ‘Never! We’d rather bury his whole body in Ilocos Norte than desecrate his remains!’
“Indeed, Binay’s recommendation has a ‘Solomonic’ effect.”
Binay under fire
But Binay has to pay a stiff price for his “Solomonic” solution. As soon as his recommendation was leaked out to the media, he started getting flak from all sectors including a lot of his friends and political allies, many of who called him, “taksil” (traitor). But where were they when Binay asked the 130 Comelec-accredited political parties about their official stand on the burial issue? Nobody – not one! – responded. In the end, Binay was left to himself to make a decision on a thorny problem.
Binay knew that he was working against an organized effort in favor of burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. The House of Representatives passed a resolution signed by 216 congressmen in support of a Libingan burial. In an SWS survey, one half of the respondents believe that he was a hero and therefore deserves to be buried at the Libingan.
Binay’s recommendation also didn’t dwell too well with some of P-Noy’s supporters. In an email message, of which I was furnished a copy, a leader of a Fil-Am advocacy group wrote: “Because of the close personal friendship that developed when they were both serving in the House, ‘Wily Imee’ was able to get PNoy to agree to allow Marcos to be buried ‘with full State burial honors in Ilocos’.”
Curiously, I responded to that Fil-Am leader: “From what I read, it’s ‘full military honors,’ not ‘full State burial honors.’ These are two different things.” And his reply was: “It’s really a distinction without a difference. The key word is ‘honors’ not military or even state.” I replied: “The distinction is miles apart and the difference is distinct. Marcos was a veteran of World War II and he received the Medal of Valor (which was authenticated). Therefore, at the very least, his coffin should be draped with the Philippine flag and be given 19-gun salute. That’s military honors.” Then I added: “While Marcos did not deserve ‘State honors,’ the military has the right to accord him ‘honors’ as a veteran. Gosh, even a private first class is entitled to military honors.”
Last June 5, 2011, a few days after Binay’s recommendation leaked out, Malacañang issued a statement through deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte, “Making a decision on where Marcos should be interred was not a simple matter.” Then she added, “There were many things to consider before arriving at a decision.” Huh? What “many things”?
It’s interesting to note that when P-Noy was declared the winner in the 2010 elections, he received a congratulatory text message from Imee Marcos and from which he announced that he had reconciled with the Marcoses. Is this one of the “many things” that P-Noy had to consider? Also of note is that Executive Secretary Jojo Ochoa was a longtime law partner of Lisa Araneta Marcos, the wife of Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.
Is it probable then that P-Noy was leaning all along towards allowing Marcos a hero’s burial at the Libingan? And did P-Noy choose his ever-loyal Vice President – who would take a bullet for him – to make that happen; thus, sparing himself the ignominy of betraying his own father who the Aquino family believes was ordered killed by Marcos?
Marcos a hero?
Last June 7, 2011, in reaction to Binay’s recommendation, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin – who served under the Cory Aquino administration — and Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV said that Marcos “deserves to be given military honors and to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani under military regulations.”
One might ask if Marcos was deemed a “hero” by virtue of him receiving the country’s highest military recognition, shouldn’t he be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani? Not necessarily. In my opinion, burial at the Libingan is a privilege, not a right. There are overriding criteria that constitute the basis for denial. The atrocities committed during the Marcos martial law regime would negate that one criterion which some people say justifies a hero’s burial for Marcos at the Libingan. To that end, I must say, “You can make a villain out of a hero but you cannot make a hero out of a villain.” And to many Filipinos, Marcos was a villain, not a hero.
With all the mixed reactions to Binay’s controversial recommendation, Binay stood tall and looked good. It was his shining moment. He proved that even with virtually no political backing, it did not deter him from making a bold “presidential” decision. He bit the bullet and was prepared to take the flak from anybody. That’s the price of leadership.