“Bury Caesar”

"Bury Caesar." Written by Jun Gudoy for SubSelfie.com.

Editor’s Note: This is a direct reply to a recently published article of SubSelfie.com entitled
A Hero’s Burial?

Dear Alaysa,

I read your article detailing the events of how your family ‘suffered’ under Martial Law. It would be preposterous if I say ‘I feel your pain’ and that whatever ‘injustice’ was done is too trivial. I would not go to that extent. In fact you are right to be indignant and you are right to express the ‘pain’ that martial law has given to your family and the same can be said to people who felt injustice. Indeed, it is my premise that violence is personal. To convince you otherwise is asking for you to turn your back on what your family has ‘fought’ for and to invite insult to your pain. I have high regard for people who fought for what they believe in whether on the right or wrong side of history. For what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’ then? How can we be a judge to the steady flow of narratives from that great stream called history? Politics, violence and perspectives are all too personal indeed.

Justice, you said, is best served when the ultimate source of evil — the ‘dictator’ — should not be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. That doing what Duterte is saying would be a dishonor to those who fought for freedom and those who fought bravely for this country to exist.

Our ‘heroes’ are human. The people we put in the edifice of glory are portrayed seemingly incapable of harm and seldom do we put their motives under scrutiny. That I believe is what we read in our history books — the ultimate imprimatur of who was bad and nasty. ‘Marcos was bad. He is the evil incarnate and nothing he has done deserves consideration. The man, some would say, is incapable of remorse and that he has brought this country to ruin.’

A common perspective perhaps that we can both agree. No human, dead or alive, hero or villain in the eyes of some historians is purely evil. And perhaps, your perspective isn’t shared by a lot of people. Thirty years of propaganda have portrayed one person as solely responsible and the only culprit to all the sufferings we have today, personal and perhaps communal for us as a people struggling to get out from the scourge of colonialism.

Why the need for some historians to portray Marcos as the perennial bad guy? Why the need to horseblind the people into believing he only deserves our contempt and punishment? Is history the same for all of us? Is there one singular narrative we all should believe in?

Ultimately, history is not innocent of motives. Some who gained power after they have deposed Marcos need to justify their existence and they picked a very convenient target.

In my previous social media posts, I always posit the argument that history is written by the victors and that perhaps, our history is a long epic of how we were divided and conquered. That for us to hate each other is convenient for those who want to control us.

To conveniently put the blame of the ‘atrocities’ of martial law on one person helps us make a simplistic grasp of history and makes events comprehensible. I would say things are more complicated than that.

To understand Marcos and Martial Law, it would be difficult to remove him from the context of his times. This country was building from the ashes of World War 2, ‘dictators’ were everywhere in Southeast Asia, we were in the middle of the Cold War, our neighbors were falling prey to the wave of revolution and communism which will remind you of the story of Vietnam, perhaps the Khmer Rouge of Cambodia would be a great example too.

Foremost, Marcos was a veteran of the World War, a boy from the backwaters of the North. When he became President of this country, our nation was caught in between those who want peace and stability and those who want to ignite the revolutionary struggle against the status quo. Failing to put him in context is to ignore our own history and it will be a disservice to our own innate sense of justice.

To discuss the conditions for Martial Law and what Marcos has done to build this country will be a long narrative I should reserve for another time.

President Ferdinand Marcos hosts the Southeast Asian Treaty Organization (SEATO) nations in Manila on October 24, 1966.
President Ferdinand Marcos hosts the Southeast Asian Treaty Organization (SEATO) nations in Manila on October 24, 1966.

But to answer the question which bothers you, should he be buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani? For me, the answer is yes. As an Ilocano, I would love to have him buried in Ilocos, but the popular opinion and perhaps what President Duterte wanted was for him to rest in the Libingan ng mga Bayani to give an end to a decades-old conflict on divisive perspectives of the man.

As any President deserves to be, he should be where he really belongs. Because after all the people have popularly elected him twice as President (the other elections thereafter you might want to argue against). To argue against and insist ‘he was a criminal!’ would open questions about the other presidents before and after him. Cory should not be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani because of the Mendiola Massacre then and other human rights abuses. Worse, Aguinaldo wouldn’t qualify because aside from ordering the murder of Bonifacio, he went on to commit atrocities in the name of ‘freedom.’ Laurel, if a simplistic sense of history would dictate, is a collaborator. But then again, we see beyond those. These are people who can be heroes and villains at the same time depending on which side of history you judge them.

As a veteran of the World War, he deserves to be in the Libingan ng mga Bayani, much like the guerrillas who fought and died for our freedom. You might question the honors bestowed on him but we cannot dispute the fact that he fought for this country and he was there in the Death March when American and Filipino soldiers were dragged as prisoners of war.

Now, should he be denied that right because people died under Martial Law?

I would argue that for us to use that logic would disqualify a lot of the people who are interred in the Libingan. For who has not killed in war? (I wouldn’t say he was personally guilty). Who among the silent and the fallen has not killed anyone who does not have a family grieving on the other side of the grave? In war, in times of revolution, we are all victims. And i will never argue that there is a ‘just war.’ No war waged in history has been ‘just’ to my belief. Blood shed on the wrong or right side of history are all the same lives stolen from the countries and families they came from.

There are times when difficult choices are made and people are caught in the twilight of history and crucial decisions are made. Some give excuses through abstract and noble ideas such as freedom and liberty. Others would claim righteousness by claiming it is a ‘war’ to defend one’s dignity and property. The moral arguments are long and not that simple. And often in history we have to be careful of analogies which justifies our personal opinion.

For him to be buried in the Libingan is not to dishonor those who ‘heroically’ died and not to insult those ‘heroes’ who are officially recognized by our history books. To bury the man where he deserves to be is also to execute justice. That no matter how warped some people might see the man, we cannot deny that he did something for this country. And that we cannot deny.

To bury Marcos is not to exonerate the man. To bury him is to reiterate our sense of humanity and respect for the dead whichever side of history we are vehemently on.

We are not a people who will carry the corpse of a man in chariots and parade him to the cheer and glee of those who hate him. This is not the Middle Ages nor the Spanish Era where the severed head of a ‘criminal’ is put on the stake and burned for the public to see. To bury Marcos at the Libingan is to invite discussions on what the man really was, human as he is, and to put him in greater national discourse.

Do I argue that he was the perfect being? In fact far from that. Marcos was the product of his times and so are we.

An archetypal story we are all familiar with, when the disciples and the people wanted to torture a man for blashphemy and crimes, Jesus gave a short reply: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone…”

Shakespeare phrased it poignantly: “I have come here to bury Caesar, not to praise him.”

And I say the same, let the saints and holiest people in this country deny him his proper burial. Let those who are long dead rest for they cannot defend themselves. Let our sense of justice be bigger than our personal pains.

We can vilify and continue to mock any dead man and put him in the magnifying glass of history and let all his deeds be judged and weighed by the scales of justice but we do not drag the bare skeletons and deny any human a proper burial.

That is not us. And we shall never become the perceived ‘monsters’ we fought hard to vanquish. For what ‘sins’ can a dead man defend himself. For what amount of blood and hate do we need to atone and redeem a dead man?

In the end, perhaps, the ‘foul mouthed’ man from the South (as people want to portray him) maybe more ‘human’ than all of us.

Respectfully yours,
Jun

[Entry 142, The SubSelfie Blog]

About the Author:

Jun Gudoy.

Jun Gudoy is the head of the Communications and Media Office of the province of Ilocos Norte under the leadership of Governor Imee Marcos.


Last May 30, 2016, Alaysa Tagumpay Escandor published a note in Facebook to firmly establish her point about justice and to answer Gudoy’s letter and other Facebook messages from strangers. According to her, these included six on forgiveness and “moving on,” four on the “sins of the Aquinos” and the merits of the Marcos years, two on the unassailability of the military career of Ferdinand Marcos, two discreet allusions to mauling her and one unsolicited diagnosis of my mental judgment that made her laugh. We are reposting it below:

To clear the air, I will address each point as succinctly as I can:

(1). I wrote my earlier post not to exact personal vengeance but to demand justice.

(2). Justice, because some of the gravest crimes in our history happened during Martial Law in a manner and scale that would not have been possible without the backing of then president Ferdinand Marcos.

(3). Justice, because it is the only real remedy to injustice. Martial Law saw the virtual institutionalization of injustice across all fronts: economic, political and cultural. Economic injustice through very aggressive borrowing from the World Bank, leaving the country with a US$26 Billion debt and empty coffers in 1986. Do a Google search of “William Saunders,” “Jane Ryan,” and “Xandy Foundation,” or you can read the related posts of Ed Lingao.

Political injustice through State brutality, hence the 70,000 political detainees, 35,000 tortured, and 3,257 “salvaged” — all in all, 108,257 of the country’s best and brightest, perished or punished for fighting for freedom. Go read the the exhaustive accounts of Martial Law from Amnesty International Philippines and Alfred McCoy’s Dark Legacy.

Cultural injustice through censorship of the press, arts and expression; the excesses of the Marcos family (3,000 pairs of shoes, 146 paintings, $21M jewelry); the invention of crony capitalism, Philippine style. Search in Google that iconic poem “Prometheus Unbound.”

(4). Justice, because the gravity of the crimes during Martial Law is not something the nation should just “forgive and forget.” In psychology, a person can only emerge from trauma with integrity intact if all the emotions, even the unwanted and painful ones, are acknowledged and recognized. To forget is to repress the emotion, to banish it into the shadows of the unconscious where it festers. In broad strokes, the same is true with national trauma. We can only “move on” in the truest sense of the term only after we have come to terms — that is, in full awareness and engagement — with our past.

(5). We must cease to think of justice and reconciliation as dichotomies. In fact, justice is one part of the larger process of reconciliation. Without justice, reconciliation will fail (and we will regress into a state of dysfunction — aren’t we seeing this now?).

(6). Justice is not the absence of forgiveness or mercy, but rather the transformative process of striving for equitable, fair and humane treatment for our people, both past, present and future.

(7). As a people, if we fail to demand for justice and accountability, we may very well consign to the future generation the same kind of impunity and brutality that has haunted our past. As they say, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat them.

(8). Whether you like it or not, the fate of those in Ilocos Norte is inextricably linked with the rest of the country. The country suffers, so too those in the North.

(9). Marcos’ unassailable military career is really the easiest to debunk. Take it from The New York Times, Marcos isn’t the kind of soldier you imagine him to be. He was a fake.

(10). While imperfect, the Libingan ng mga Bayani still stands as a symbol of our collective yearning to honor the people who served the country. The rules are clear about prohibiting the burial of persons “convicted by final judgment of a crime involving moral turpitude.” In 1986, Marcos was found guilty of violating the human rights of 10,000 Filipinos and made to pay a total of two billion dollars in compensation (Cesar Hilao et al., v. The Estate of Ferdinand Marcos).

(11). No, I am not a “yellow apologist.” I know about the Mendiola Massacre and Hacienda Luisita. But again, false dichotomies. To demand accountability from the Marcoses is not to say the Aquinos go scot-free.

(12). My mental health is perfectly fine. How about yours?

About the Author:

Alaysa Tagumpay Escandor.

Alaysa Tagumpay Escandor is a development professional who works for Christian Aid, an international charity organization. Her name is a tribute to the silent heroism of her family members before her. She was part of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility and also worked as a Segment Producer for the Special Assignments Team of GMA News and later became a Producer for the network’s data journalism arm, GMA News Research. Read more of her articles here.

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7 Comments Add yours

  1. Edgar Cruz says:

    AKO RIN NAGING KALABAN NG DATING MARTIAL LAW RULE . PERO LATER I REALIZE ANG NAKINABANG LANG YUN MGA TAONG NAIS MAKAPWESTO SA GOBYERNO ..WALA RIN NAMAN NAGAWA NA MAGANDA , NÁPASOK AKO SA NFA DINATNAN KO MGA TAGA UP SÂRAP NG BUHAY . DAPAT LANG NA MALIBING SI APO MARCOS SA LIBINGAN NG MGA BAYANI.

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  2. Bagwis says:

    PANAWAGAN LANG PO SA MGA KAMAG-ANAKAN NG NASA LIBINGAN NG MGA BAYANI, KUNG ILIBING DUON SI MARCOS, ILIPAT NA LANG PO NINYO ANG KANILANG MGA BUTO..!

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  3. Owen says:

    MYTH 1. UNDER MARCOS THE COUNTRY WAS PROSPEROUS

    A few people were prosperous. People like Herminio Disini, Danding Cojuangco, Imelda Marcos. Ferdinand Marcos, junior — Bongbong — got his own island, Calauit — as a hunting preserve. He demanded, and was handed, millions of pesos from a private company, Philcomsat. “What could we do,” a company officer said later, “he was the president’s son.” Imelda turned the Philippine National Bank into her private piggy bank and Philippine Airlines into her personal air service. She bought condos in New York, ordered posh department stores to close their doors so she could shop inside in peace, handed out hundred dollar tips to Americans. Where’d all this money come from?

    Marcos ruled unchecked for almost 14 years, free to write his own laws as he went along (after he was overthrown, investigators discovered dozens of secret decrees he’d kept handy for all possible contingencies). With those awesome powers, what progress did he bring to the country? In 1974, the poverty rate was 24%. By 1980 it was 40%. When Marcos assumed the presidency, the country’s foreign debt was US$1 billion. By the time he fled, it was US$28 billion. Where’d all the money go? Investigators later estimated the Marcoses stole at least US$10 billion, most of it salted away abroad. Martial Law sustained a plunder economy run for the benefit of the Marcos family, its relatives and associates. Everyone else was just an afterthought.

    MYTH 2. UNDER MARCOS THE COUNTRY WAS PEACEFUL

    During Martial Law, not only did the Communist New People’s Army increase in strength, from a few hundred to more than 20,000 soldiers, but crime in Manila became so bad that at one point Marcos actually ordered the deployment of “secret marshals.” These were armed plainclothes military agents who pretended to be passengers in jeeps and buses, with orders to shoot and kill anybody they thought were criminals.

    The worst threat to peace and order was none other than Marcos himself. Historian Alfred McCoy estimates the Martial Law regime killed more than 3,000 Filipinos and made hundreds disappear. Dinampot (picked up) entered the venacular to describe what happened to Marcos critics, who were usually labeled “subversives” or “dissidents.” Another word coined under the dictatorship, “salvage” — murder committed by the authorities — acquired international notoriety. If there was “peace” in the country it was the graveyard silence produced by fear and repression.

    MYTH 3. MARCOS BUILT MANY ROADS, SCHOOLHOUSES, DAMS, ETC

    True. He could build and build because it wasn’t his money that was being used, it was the taxpayers’. And of course, Marcos made sure he got a cut. The biggest, most famous construction project, the billion-dollar Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, was an overpriced, graft-ridden structure which paid Marcos millions of dollars in kickbacks. His crony Herminio Disini got such a large commission he could afford to flee to Austria, buy a castle and settle down. The country took years to pay off the BNPP. It still hasn’t been used. Imelda also had an “edifice complex.” She was in such a hurry to have the Film Palace in Roxas Boulevard finished, part of it collapsed, reportedly burying workers alive.

    Imelda’s idea of infrastructure for the poor was a high whitewashed concrete wall around Manila’s squatter areas, the better to hide the poverty and misery, and so avoid depressing passing motorists and tourists.

    MYTH 4. IN 1986 MARCOS COULD HAVE ORDERED HIS TROOPS TO RUN OVER THE CITIZENS ON EDSA BUT REFUSED TO DO SO, EVEN IF IT MEANT HE WOULD LOSE

    Actually he was urging his generals to attack, but in front of the TV cameras made a big show of concern over civilian casualties. Reporter Sandra Burton, who was there, wrote: “Viewers had just witnessed another bit of play-acting, or moro-moro, between Marcos and (General Fabian) Ver, which seemed intended to impress upon his official US audience the president’s concern for preventing bloodshed, even as the Americans’ sensitive communications devices were intercepting his generals’ orders to fire on rebel headquarters.”

    The truth was the dictator’s generals were reluctant to attack. According to Beth Day Romulo, one general later said his huge amphibious assault vehicles could have “rammed through the crowds.” However, “I didn’t want to be known as the Butcher of Ortigas Avenue.”

    Marcos kept up the pretense. Burton wrote how: ” Hyperventiliating again, Ver grew more and more excited. ‘Just give me the order, sir and we will hit them.’ Marcos, looking reasonable, compared to his bellicose chief of staff, refused. Yet even as he spoke, his generals were ordering Colonel Balbas to stop making excuses and fire the mortars he had positioned early that morning on the golf course inside Camp Aguinaldo.” Marcos never let a few broken, maimed bodies stand in his way. He wasn’t about to stop.

    MYTH 5. MARCOS MEANT WELL, BUT IMELDA AND THE CRONIES RUINED EVERYTHING

    He refused to share power. He kept a closet full of secret decrees. His word was law. The judiciary, legislative and military were his puppets. If Ferdinand Marcos could claim credit for all the nice buildings constructed during his regime, he should also take responsibility for everything else.

    The truth was, Marcos was evil from the get-go. As a young man, he assassinated his father’s political opponent — through a coward’s way, sniping from long range in the dark of night. He fabricated a record as an alleged guerrilla leader during World War II. He opened a secret Swiss bank account — under the pseudonym “William Saunders” — with Credit Suisse in 1968, years before he declared Martial Law.

    Marcos was all of a piece. He intended to run the country purely for the benefit of his family and friends, and to set up a dynasty that would continue the plunder. He was prepared to do anything to hang on.

    During the snap election campaign in 1985, he sneered that his opponent, Cory Aquino, was a mere housewife with no experience. Cory fired back with a statement that summed up the dictator: “I concede that I cannot match Mr. Marcos when it comes to experience. I admit that I have no experience in cheating, stealing, lying, or assassinating political opponents.”

    The lies: The biggest lie — the mother lie — was that Martial Law was imposed for the good of the people. It was not. It was imposed for the good of the Marcoses and their cronies, to keep them in wealth and unassailable power forever and ever amen. Marcos was a congenital liar: he lied about the state of emergency. He lied about his ill-gotten wealth (“what ill-gotten wealth?”, he would ask amusedly.”Tell you what, if you can find it we’ll split it”. Shows how reliable his word was). He lied about his war medals (almost all of them were fake), he lied about his father’s wartime heroics (it turned out Marcos Sr was a collaborator executed by the guerrillas), he lied about his health. He lied about holding free elections and dismantling Martial Law. He lied and lied and lied. This was the man Joseph Estrada wanted to give a hero’s burial.

    The fear: Anybody could be picked up at anytime for any reason by the military or the police. You could wind up a detainee, or you could just vanish, a “salvage” victim. If you protested against the government, you were labeled a “subversive” or a “communist” or both and you were summarily arrested. People the government didn’t like were tailed by security elements, their telephones tapped. A student who spoke up to Imee Marcos was murdered. No two words were more invoked and abused for the purposes of oppression than “national security.” People were afraid to speak out. Marcos logic being what it was, the silence meant the people were happy.

    The injustice: Only Marcos and his cronies, who plundered the economy, were protected by the law. Nobody else was. Arbitrary arrest, detention, salvaging and torture were the standard. The Defense Minister — a man named Juan Ponce Enrile — said in 1982: “We presume that priests and nuns charged with subversive activities are guilty until the courts decide whether they are guilty or not.” On one occasion the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, someone named Enrique Fernando, servilely held an umbrella over Imelda Marcos’ head.

    The censorship: It was only when rebel soldiers finally seized a TV station in the EDSA uprising that people saw in their sets just how big the crowds were. Up until then the media were strictly controlled. Journalists who wrote against the regime — most of them were women — were routinely “invited” for questioning by the military. There was no transparency whatever. There were only three national broadsheets, the Times Journal, the Daily Express and the Bulletin Today, all of them offering the same pro-administration pap. The chief Marcos mouthpiece was a columnist named Teodoro Valencia. He died in 1986 and is now considered the “dean” of Philippine journalism. In 1983, when Ninoy Aquino was buried, at least one million people accompanied the funeral cortege as it wound its way through Manila. The next day, the Bulletin scarcely mentioned the story, instead playing up a story about a man struck and killed by lightning at the Luneta Park.(Recently, Joseph Estrada extolled the Bulletin as his idea of a good newspaper).

    The poverty. Poverty increased from 24% in 1974 to 40% in 1980 and why not? Imelda Marcos was using the Philippine National Bank as her private piggy bank. One of her ideas of dealing with the poor was to put up whitewashed walls around the squatter areas in Manila. The walls are still there.

    The corruption: There were suspicions about the Marcoses dipping into the public till. After EDSA, dazed investigators realized that the truth far outstripped the suspicions. The Marcoses had been screwing the public even before Martial Law. As early as 1968 Ferdinand and Imelda had already salted away more than $900,000 in Zurich accounts under the names “William Saunders” and “Jane Ryan.” It was the initial deposit in what would turn out to be a mountain of loot. After having tracked down Marcos accounts and properties all over the world, investigators still aren’t sure that they’ve found all the ill-gotten wealth.

    The US support for the regime: The US loved their bases in the Philippines and put up with Marcos as long as they could. When George Bush, who was US vice-president then, visited Manila for a sham inauguration of Marcos, he proposed a toast to the dictator, saying “we love your adherence to democratic principles and to the democratic process.”

    Imelda Marcos speeches: They were terrible and they dragged on interminably. Among the things she said publicly: The Philippines is the center of the world, because that’s the way it looks in a map. There’s a cosmic hole in the Universe which shines radiation in the Philippines which Filipinos can tap to deflect intercontinental ballistic missiles. Her audience would applaud frantically. Cowards cheering a loony.

    The arrogance of those in power: It was called a “smiling dictatorship” but the only one who was smiling was the dictator. Actually, his friends and family were also happy. When his cronies got into business trouble they were bailed out with taxpayers’ money. No investigations into cartels and monopolies were allowed. Marcos “lifted” Martial Law in 1981 but continued to rule by decree. Later it was discovered he had signed dozens and dozens of secret decrees which he intended to flash at the appropriate occasions. During the 1986 snap election when an opposition official said that there had been cheating an election commissioner — his name was Jaime Opinion — sneered at him on TV and snapped, “that’s a lie!” repeatedly. After EDSA Opinion went into hiding. When EDSA was in full swing, a rebel helicopter attacked the Palace with rockets. Marcos went on air and said “my family cowers in the Palace.” He didn’t get any outpouring of sympathy.

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  4. Van says:

    Jun Gudoy– out of your paragraphs-long of flowery words and maudlin appeals, you only got one sentence right: It would be preposterous if I say ‘I feel your pain’ . As a Filipino, your letter was appalling. Seeing your profile proudly display as working for the office of Imee Marcos and still you seeked to rebut Escandor’s personal prayer for justice makes it twice so.

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  5. Bagwis says:

    ni sa mga bwitre di karapat dapat ang bulok na katawan ng halimaw na DIKTADOR…!!!

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  6. someguy says:

    I think your main argument is that Marcos should be judge on the context of his time. He already was, and we found him lacking. Also, I think its unfair to compare the conditions of war against what Marcos did, he murdered defenseless civilians.

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