What glorifies the Filipino nation to have a defaced leaders picture on the heroes wall of Malacanang?

April 11, Malacanang, was in qualms to agree in giving the former Philippine President Ferdinand E. Marcos a space in the heroes hall. The reason is that he was awarded a medal of valor for his honorable military service, by President Diosdado Macapagal. Likewise, PNoy ordered Vice President Jejomar Binay to come up with a recommendation whether to allow the former president burial at the Libingan ng mga bayani.

April 20, just a week after, the lower house is pushing House Resolution 204, backed up by 190 strong liberal party members to favor the burial of the late president whose waxed body is in a mausoleum in his ancestral house. Representative Salvador Escudero of the 3rd district of Sorsogon justifies the move that despite Marcos was ousted he has served the country well.

Columnist Godofredo Roperos writes up on the Marcos question as a gleam of national political reconciliation that requires political wisdom and understanding of our political memory and history. On the other hand, political groups do not find any value and denounce giving the ‘dictator’ a heroes burial, as they remember the historical pain and agony of those who fought for democracy under the Marcos’ martial rule.

 The question on Marcos’s burial in the Libingan ng mga Bayani brings more questions to challenge the political memory, values and social moral and nationalist spirit of the Filipino people. All these are symbolic acts. From Saussure’s semiotic traditions, what those questions bring attacks our views about our identity as people.

Should the Congress legislate who a Nations hero is?

Every culture has heroes, and these heroes are representations of the identity and the ideals of one’s culture. The values that we share, our precepts that guide our norms and social behavior become embodied in the traits and characteristics of our heroes. As Geert Hofsteede informs, our culture is manifested in our symbols, heroes, rituals and values, and at the deeper structures of our culture is our identity as a nation as group of people sharing common national interest.

A hero to represent the Filipino nation or its culture cannot be legislated and it never has been. The academics with their rich understanding of our history, culture and nation, play an important role in appraising, appreciating and recognizing what counts heroic and who should be entitled to the abstract social symbol of a ‘hero’. Laws may grant honor to a hero, or honor to anyone, but laws should not turn anybody to a hero for a hero is a people’s expression.

However, the National Heroes committee, as formed by former President Fidel V. Ramos, arrived at some criteria for confirming a national heroes title. The committee declares that “1) heroes have concept of nation and they aspire and struggle for the nation’s freedom; 2) they have define and contribute to a system or life of freedom and order for a nation; and 3) they contribute to the quality of life and destiny of nation (Corpuz, 1993, in NHC document pp. 2-3).

The National Heroes committee extends this criteria with three other measures, stating that a hero: “1) is a part of the people’s expression; 2) thinks of the future and defines the future of generations; and 3) the choice of hero involves not only the recounting of an episode or events in history, but of the entire process that made the particular person a hero” (Lagmay, 1995, in NHC document p. 3).

Would it give peace to those martyrs who lie in here to be with a dictator?

True, Marcos was awarded a medal of valor, but that was just an episode in his life and outside the decades long struggle of the Filipino people against suppression of their basic rights and freedom. True, he built grand infrastructures that are visible and usable till now, but that is his duty as the country’s leader. True, he placed the country in the economic map of Asia, but it is also true that his family accumulated ill-gotten wealth from the nation’s coffers.

Laying his remains in the Libingan ng mga Bayani is a symbolic act to entitle Marcos a hero, whereas he falls shorts of the criteria to be entitled with such. Apparently, for a common kababayan of Marcos who voted for him several times even though she’s aware of how the dictator manipulated the country and suppressed the people’s freedom, my mother, a genuine Ilocana, would like Marcos’ remains to be kept where is now that is where he was from.

Where would the former President be at real peace?

It is incredulous to think that burial of the former president in the Libingan ng mga Bayani would bring national political reconciliation. What is to be reconciled anyway between the Marcoses and the forgiving Filipino people. Is it not enough to be considered a symbolic act of reconciliation to allow them back and elect them in public offices?  Whatever issue between the Aquinos and the Marcoses there is, it is not a national interest. That is out of the Marcos question as a dictator to deserve hero’s burial in the graveyard of martyrs.

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