By Amando Doronila
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—House Resolution No. 1135 seeking the burial of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos at Libingan ng mga Bayani turned on its head the policy mandate of the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution that toppled his 14-year dictatorship.
The resolution signed by 216 congressmen flagrantly defied the sovereign will of the people expressed by their uprising in the streets on Feb. 22-25, 1986, restoring democracy dismantled by Marcos when he declared martial law on Sept. 21, 1972.
The House move signaled the start of the campaign initiated by Marcos’ family and political heirs to restore the dictator’s political legacy through the burial of his body on the hallowed grounds of the heroes’ cemetery, according him the honors of a national hero.
This is all in defiance of the mandate of Edsa I.
The campaign to rehabilitate Marcos immediately whipped up a storm of controversy over the issue of the whether he deserved to be buried at the military cemetery, burial grounds of outstanding citizens of the Republic, including two past Presidents (Diosdado Macapagal and Carlos P. Garcia), military leaders and men of letters.
The charge against the House resolution was led by the powerful Catholic Church, which was the Marcos regime’s principal protagonist during the dictatorship.
The Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP), the largest organized group of Catholic schools and institutions, issued a strongly worded statement on the commemoration of Araw ng Kagitingan, honoring Filipino soldiers who fought heroically to resist the superior force of Japanese invaders in Bataan 69 years ago.
The CEAP called on the congressmen who signed the House resolution to withdraw their signatures, warning them not to be part of the attempt to revise or falsify history. The statement bluntly said the resolution would “desecrate” Edsa I.
The organization pointedly denounced claims of Marcos supporters that he was a war hero as false, and went on to say that the massive corruption of the dictatorship sent the economy to its knees, turning the Philippines into the “sick man” of Asia.
HR 1131 triggered an epic clash over two great political traditions that have defined the themes of political discourse during the past 39 years.
The discourse is framed by the demolition of Philippine democracy and the establishment of a dictatorship in September 1972 and by the restoration of democracy with the Edsa People Power Revolution of February 1986.
For four decades, these traditions have marked the cleavage line along which Philippine politics has polarized.
Once again, the dictatorship-vs-democratic restoration paradigm has been forced up to the surface with the House initiative seeking the political rehabilitation of Marcos and legitimizing the the dictatorial legacy of his regime.
The House resolution was a sharp attack to overturn the doctrine that Edsa I ended the dictatorship. The revolution was an emphatic and direct exercise by the people of their sovereign right to change regimes.
Attack on mandate
No legislative act of elected representatives of the people in parliament can revoke that mandate of the Edsa People Power Revolution.
Thus, HR 1135 clearly contravenes the mandate of Edsa I to abolish the dictatorship and cannot be used by members of Congress to engineer the restoration of the Marcos dictatorial legacy and vindicate the regime with the flimsy argument that burying Marcos at Libingan ng mga Bayani would bring to a closure the dark episode of the dictatorship, promote national reconciliation and allow the country to “move on” toward national unity.
Those who signed the resolution are members of a political institution that was one of the first to be padlocked by Marcos when he declared martial law.
The lawmakers have also become the beneficiaries of a free and independent legislature that was restored by President Corazon Aquino in the wake of the l986 revolution.
And yet they are now at the forefront of the campaign to restore the legacy of the Marcos regime, ignoring in the process the fact that Edsa I was the charter of the abolition of the dictatorship and the restoration of Philippine democracy.
The congressmen are not in step with redemocratization. They are swimming against the historic tide of democratic restoration following Edsa I.
They are backsliding to the era when complicit parliament served as a rubber stamp of the dictatorship. The congressmen would find it hard to claim that their resolution represents the sentiment of the people in regard to Marcos’ rehabilitation.
When the Philippines rejected the dictatorship in Edsa I, we didn’t make a clean break with a sordid past. Even with the restoration of democratic structures we have remained chained to the past.
Representatives of the people in Congress have been beguiled by the false argument that the rehabilitation of Marcos is an act of “statesmanship” that can throw wide open the gates of national reconciliation.
Under this approach, there is no recognition of accountability. There is no concession of wrongdoing and no expression of remorse for the plunder of public wealth and the deaths, disappearances and torture of victims in military “safe houses” of the dictatorship’s gulag system.
The Marcos heirs are back to positions of power and influence after free elections, flaunting their wealth, and mocking the Edsa People Power Revolution as if it never happened. There is no reconciliation without justice and no concession of guilt. The House resolution has torn to shreds the people power mandate that rejected the dictatorship.