I wasn’t at all surprised that Rep. Salvador H. Escudero III had filed a resolution in the House of Representatives (HR 1135) urging the Aquino government to allow the burial of the remains of former President Ferdinand E. Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
Neither was I surprised but nonetheless dismayed that over two-thirds of the 287 members of the 15th Congress had signed the resolution. It isn’t unusual for the author or proponent of a bill or resolution to aggressively solicit as I myself used to as many signatures among colleagues as he or she can collect. Sadly, some congresspersons sign even without reading the measure’s content.
However, in my experience, the big number of signatories doesn’t ensure the passage of a legislative proposal. It has to undergo debate in the plenary session, and before that, subjected to public hearings by the concerned committee(s). Come voting time, not all those who signed vote yes.
Rep. “Sonny” Escudero, like his senator-son “Chiz,” is amiable, friendly to everyone. He’s also a diligent legislator. I worked well with him, as I had with Chiz, when we were minority (opposition) members in the 14th Congress.
But Sonny, who served long in Marcos’ government, is unabashedly a Marcos loyalist. There’s where we part ways. I have been an anti-Marcos, anti-dictatorship activist since the mid-1960s and a victim of torture and nine years of military detention under the Marcos martial-law regime.
Rep. Escudero has stirred up a hornet’s nest by reviving this proposal, first put forward by then President Joseph Estrada in 1998 and refloated by Bongbong Marcos during the senatorial campaign last year.
Upon the backlash of widespread popular opposition and opprobrium, Estrada withdrew his proposal. As for Bongbong’s, he and I had a brief run-in during a press conference of the Nacionalista Party senatorial candidates; he didn’t insist on it and the issue lapsed.
Now with Bongbong in the Senate and his mother, Imelda, in the House as Ilocos Norte representative, Rep. Escudero may have believed he could easily shepherd his resolution into adoption by the House. He ought to think some more.
The resolution has yet to be discussed at committee level, but before it can be tackled a counter-resolution, “vigorously opposing the renewed proposal,” will be filed on Monday by the progressive party-list bloc of Bayan Muna, Gabriela Women’s Party, Anakpawis, Kabataan Party and the ACT-Teachers Party. Both resolutions will be referred to the same committee for consideration and public hearings.
The party-list bloc resolution manifests the vehement opposition thus far publicly expressed by the human rights alliance Karapatan, SELDA (the organization of former martial-law political detainees), Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, and the First Quarter Storm Movement. Members of these organizations held a protest-condemnation rally at the Batasan South Gate last Tuesday.
Strong opposition has also been aired by MABINI (human rights lawyers’ group formed during the Marcos dictatorship), the Bantayog ng Mga Bayani Foundation (which honors martial-law martyrs and heroes), and the Catholic Education Association of the Philippines. MABINI, headed by ex-senator Rene A.V. Saguisag, even twitted Vice President Jejomar Binay, a MABINI member, for conducting a survey on the burial issue after President Aquino shifted the burden of decision-making on to him.
The bone of contention is not so much over burying Marcos’s remains at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, since not so few now think that the burial ground no longer deserves its name.
The bone of contention is over the idea, as the Escudero resolution proposes, to honor Marcos indirectly as a “hero” and emphatically as a “patriot,” and that doing so will be a “magnanimous act of reconciliation.”
The party-list bloc’s resolution calls the proposal “a grave travesty of justice and a monumental historical distortion tantamount to declaring as a hero a dictator who committed gross crimes against humanity, plunged the nation deeper into debt and foreign control, and plundered the nation’s resources.”
The proposal, the resolution adds, is “a renunciation of the historic 1986 People Power Uprising which toppled the Marcos dictatorship.” To give Marcos a hero’s burial, it points out, “would send the absurd message that the Filipino people overthrew a ‘hero’ during People Power I and that the international community’s sympathy for that uprising is wrong.”
As for reconciliation, which has been bandied about since the Cory Aquino administration: “How can there be reconciliation when the Marcoses haven’t acknowledged any wrongdoing, much less crimes against the people, and haven’t deemed it proper to apologize?”
As the public observed during the proceedings on impeachment complaints, political and other self-serving considerations not high moral principle or historical fidelity seem to prevail among the majority of House members. Many among the signatories to the Escudero resolution held posts or benefitted from the Marcos years in power; but I was aghast to see the name of a former feisty anti-Marcos activist.
The House may either acquit itself or plunge into infamy by how its members will vote on this issue whether P-Noy accedes or not to its decision.
P-Noy himself will be judged by his ultimate action. There is no escaping it.