Home Opinion The Symbolism of the Marcos Burial

The Symbolism of the Marcos Burial

By: Archimedes Articulo

Archimedes Articulo
Archimedes Articulo

We live by symbols and by symbolism, and burying President Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani is definitely a symbolic act that tells many tales.

Some argue that the day we buried Marcos at the LNMB was the day we have also symbolically buried the sins of Martial Law, a dark chapter of our history, and desecrated our constitution. The manner how the internment was done, they argue, was an insult to the Filipinos, most especially the victims of Martial Law. Like a thief in the night, they say. And so, they protest.

On the other hand, some see the burial of President Marcos as a symbolic act of people seeking unity and healing, a closure, and a willingness to move on. They argue that there is no law or rule that prohibits the burial of President Marcos at the LNMB. And so, they also do mass actions in support to the decision of President Duterte.

Here we are again standing in a historic moment not knowing how confrontations will end.

As events unfold, symbols are again made and played.

It pays if we do not forget that our system of laws is a system of cultural, political and moral symbols. These symbols are expressly described and provided for by our lawmakers, in a form of commands, acting on behalf of our people’s sentiments, ideals, and predispositions. In a form of commands, these statements are enforced. They are not mere Symbols but imperatives that regulate human actions.

Now, if burying Marcos at the LNMB is a horrific symbolic act, then, it may be validly asked, why did we fail for three decades to come up with a symbolic act of enacting a law barring this scenario from ever arising and happening?

Without a law that settles the issue, the moral outrage for one is the cause of sadness of another. Contesting parties will invoke ethical theories that suit their current moral temperament, and the debate will rage without closure in their lifetimes. Because sadly, but truth be told, moral confrontations are things without a common court with a judge that decides with finality whose moral sensibility is more correct.

We do not need, of course, to identify the specific person we want barred at the LNMB. But, in the past three decades, we could have at least passed a law with more specific and clearer requirements or standards. Law, after all must be the embodiment and expression of our collective sense of morality and wisdom as a people. In the law that we are now seeking, the description of the sins that would disqualify the sinner from being buried at the LNMB could have been clearer and categorical. If done, it could have encapsulated the conclusions of the ethical, political debates that we are again having now.

The moralists among us, the politicians, the human rights activists, and others who now object to the burial of Mr. Marcos at the Libingan should have done more in the past. Setting aside political correctness, it may be argued that it is the collective failure of these people that have put us again in this bitter situation. They could have gone beyond compensation and recovery of ill-gotten wealth and asked for law that forever barred this subject condition from ever arising.

If we read Armed Forces Regulation 161-375—not a law—issued in 2000, the enumeration is broad and the safeguards are vague. It is this vagueness and the absence of law that is causing this confrontation now.

Whether or not Marcos is a hero is a question that will not generate a common answer. The answer you get, for instance, when you ask it in Ilocos will definitely differ when the same question is asked in Manila. Using this as a basis, therefore, to allow or reject burial of Marcos at the LIBINGAN would not stand on firm and solid ground. On the other hand, however, whether or not Marcos was a President of our Republic is a question that generates a very objective answer. And so the question of whether or not Mr. Marcos was a soldier. It is this question that paved the way for the burial of President Marcos at the LNMB.

Under the existing rule, former Presidents and soldiers may be buried at the LNMB. Nowhere in the rule that moral discourse and ethical conclusions are requirements or additional parameters to determine whose remains may be buried there. There are those who question the authenticity of the claim that Marcos was a soldier. Alright, assuming arguendo that he was not a veteran, will that disqualify him the privilege? Unfortunately, no. The rule does not require that former Presidents be soldiers too before they may be buried at the Libingan.

By force of logic and of law, the answer to the question whether or not President Marcos may be buried at the LNMB is therefore clear. The interplay of symbols before the SC is done when the High Court made its decision known. The decision allowing the Marcos burial at the LNMB is again, in itself, a symbolic act pointing at the changing sentiments of the times.

This opens up a question with far ranging implications: does our collective failure for so long a time be interpreted as, in itself, a symbolic act of providing for an opportunity for healing when time comes? Are we ready to heal and move on as a people and as a nation?

President Duterte openly made it his campaign promise to finally allow burial of President Marcos at the LNMB if he wins the Presidency. He won the Presidency. Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. is the son of President Marcos. He sought the Vice Presidency. He almost won the race losing it to Leni Robredo with a very thin margin of 263,473 votes. With 14,155,344 votes garnered, Marcos is now protesting the result. That substantial number of Filipinos who passionately regard and respect President Marcos points to the fact that no single group owns, controls and exploits the Marcos and Martial Law narrative. The foregoing, by and in itself, may be a part of an emerging symbol and sign of the changing times, and which, if we are to survive as a society, we must all seriously consider and respect.

In the days ahead, the Filipinos, again, from all camps, are given chance to articulate and express their opinions and sentiments. We are once more given the opportunity to soul search as a people and as a nation, and to come up with a narrative that will bind the past with our present and our future. Filipinos cannot live continuously with the narrative of hate, but we cannot continue living without justice being served. We need closure. We cannot be forever locked in a vicious cycle. If we want justice for the sins of the past, by all means we file cases and other actions to correct them. It is not historical revisionism, it is justice. After all, ours is a rule of law and not of men, and definitely, not of passions and emotions.

Although it is wise to learn from people who experienced Marcos first hand, it is not right that they alone stand as measure of everything right or wrong under Marcos. Democracy is fueled by popular opinion, participated by all our people. We all stand in a historical crossroad where we cannot exclude Filipinos among us born after the Marcos era from expressing their views. Our opinion is as good as theirs now. The key is to grasp that no one knows with Cartesian certainty what took place in the past. When something becomes history, it becomes a subject open for interpretation. It will have a life of its own. And when people interpret, interpretations will vary as generations come and go. Those among us who reject this truth is bound to suffer the full impact of its consequence.

So we go back to the thesis.

We live by symbols. From our experience, let us now create symbols that are participated by, and captures the sentiments of, all. Sometimes, the rhythm of History follows an interesting pattern. It is at first written by the victors, but collectively adapted, in time, by the people who, for better or for worst, are the beneficiaries, or victims, of their own historical realities. -Northernforum.net


The author is an Associate Professor IV, Cagayan State University, teaching Moral Philosophy and Political Philosophy subjects. Former Dean, College of Arts & Sciences, Cagayan State University and Former Campus Executive Officer, Carig Campus, Cagayan State University.

AB Philosophy, cum laude, University of the Philippines; Diliman. Master of Arts in Philosophy, University of the Philippines, Diliman; Bachelor of Laws and Letters, University of Cagayan Valley; Master of Business Administration, University of Cagayan Valley; Doctor of Public and Legal Administration, Cagayan State University.

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