Monday, November 21, 2016

With Marcos laid to rest, it’s time also to bury pains of the past

There are many reasons why the former dictator should not be in a cemetery for heroes, but the Philippines has more pressing matters to deal with

Of all the Philippines’ problems, the burial of ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the national cemetery for heroes should have been among the least bothersome. As a former president and soldier, he fitted the criteria. President Rodrigo Duterte made the interment an election promise and following the supreme court’s approval, the body was flown in last Friday and after a 21-gun salute, buried. More than two decades of protest and debate is over; the nation can finally put discussion behind and move on to more important issues.

The arguments against Marcos’ burial as a hero were repeatedly voiced after his family returned his body from exile in Hawaii in 1992. Despite a deal with the then government that the body be buried immediately in his home province of Ilocos Norte, it was instead put on display in a glass mausoleum. That was one reason to deny the request for him to be buried in the heroes’ cemetery, but not the most apt: during two decades as leader, he and his cronies plundered the country of up to US$10 billion and to stay in power, murdered and tortured opponents and rescinded rights and freedoms under military rule. The US$3.6 billion so far recovered and its distribution to the victims and their families prove corruption and oppression.

Marcos fought beside US soldiers during the second world war, although falsified claims about his bravery. The economy prospered under his leadership and much infrastructure was built, but the abuses meant it was also one of the darkest periods in Philippine history. A popular backlash culminated in the People Power revolution of 1986 that forced him to flee.

Burying Marcos’ body beside 45,000 other soldiers and three former presidents may seem wrong to some given the abuses. But opinions are divided and the Marcoses still have strong support in parts of the country. The burial issue was not going to go away and Duterte resurrected it as a means to promote national healing. With the legal doubts removed and the dictator’s body buried, it is time for Filipinos to put the controversy behind and look forward.

South China Morning Post

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