Politics
Eulogy for the dictator
The brazenness was palpable. Aided and abetted from on high, Ferdinand E. Marcos was buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
IMAGE EDSA People Power Commission
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The brazenness was palpable. Aided and abetted from on high, Ferdinand E. Marcos was buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. They may have promised no state monies would be used for his burial, but it has become all to clear that the state apparatus was used to be both defend and facilitate his burial.

Far too reminiscent of Martial Law, where the powers of state were subverted and leveraged to the benefit of a few; to the detriment of hundreds of thousands. Unlike the salvaged dumped by the sides of roads during the night under his watch, unlike the thieving backroom scheming that turned his presidency into a dictatorship, unlike the thousands rounded up and jailed in the dead of the night, Ferdinand Marcos was buried at noon. High noon. Under the light of the Philippine sun.

For once, finally, we could see them. We could see the Marcos family and their loyalists for all they were and still are. They came into the light, after decades of planning, after searching for a champion and finding a man who was an avowed loyalist, they came into the light to bury their patriarch. Ferdinand Marcos received his day in the sun. And we could see them.

His burial did not crystalize nor embed his manufactured heroism; it brought into sharp focus his impunity, his arrogance, and the lack of respect for the Filipino nation that exemplified his reign. They can bury him deep, they can raise statues above his grave, but they cannot bury our history.

There is a reason the sun and stars comprise our flag. The sun represents the light that is supposed to guide our nation: Equality, equity, and the repudiation of tyranny and impunity in any and every form. Sometimes I fear we forget that. We get lost in the politics of accommodation, in seeking remedies for decades old problems through the quickest possible route. We raise up individuals as equals to our nation. Even worse, we subjugate our nation at the altar of personality; we seek kings, queens, and lords to lead us.

Ferdinand Marcos fancied himself that. He and his wife, the Conjugal Dictatorship, seized opportunity and attempted to recreate a country in their image. They wanted to be the fountainhead of nationalism: They reduced the grand idea of the Philippines, of a post-colonial nation that has embraced democracy and equity through the repudiation of empire and tyranny, to something that was nothing more than a distorted reflection of their ego. Marcos being heroic, a hero worthy of emulation was an intrinsic part of that narrative they attempted to craft; the myth they tried embed as fact in our national consciousness. Those attempts to remake our nation, through propaganda and bloodshed, through corruption and tyranny, remains our darkness. A shroud that has cast a pall over any sense of nationalism we still retain.

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Never, never, forget that we have successfully survived colonization by the Spanish, the Americans, the Japanese, and (most cruelly of all) one of our own. We were colonized by Ferdinand Marcos and his men. That last colonial period is the one whose scars run deepest; where the damage is still most felt on a daily basis. We may be paying for the financial debts of Martial Law, worse though, we are still reckoning with the social, political, and cultural damage done. Our prior colonial periods are scar tissue; perhaps the Marcos era remains an open wound. One that we cannot even seek to close while travesties like the burial of Marcos continues to bedevil us.

This is, and never was, just about burying Marcos: It was always about unwinding the rightful narrative that saw Marcos for what he was: A dictator. A thief. A man who saw himself as greater than the nation he was elected to lead. A man who repudiated the oaths he swore to protect this nation and its people.

The burial of Marcos at the Libingan was never about national healing and reconciliation. No, it was never about that. It was about redeeming the stained and tattered reputation of Ferdinand Marcos. It was an attempt, on their part, to retake our national historical narrative and rewrite it in his favor. This is, and never was, just about burying Marcos: It was always about unwinding the rightful narrative that saw Marcos for what he was: A dictator. A thief. A man who saw himself as greater than the nation he was elected to lead. A man who repudiated the oaths he swore to protect this nation and its people. The proof is found precisely in how he was buried: Secretly, clandestinely, and far too reminiscent of the Martial Law era. This was a decision made at the highest levels in our government; without due deference given to the will of the people. No, instead, it was burial by fiat, flouting legal convention and, most important, blatantly attempting to circumvent and disenfranchise the voice of the People. Silence is complicity.

The burial of Marcos at the Libingan was never about national healing and reconciliation. No, it was never about that. It was about redeeming the stained and tattered reputation of Ferdinand Marcos. It was an attempt, on their part, to retake our national historical narrative and rewrite it in his favor.

The burial of Ferdinand Marcos is fraught with symbolism, but not, I think, what they were hoping for. The Marcos family and loyalists hoped it would be redolent in the trappings of heroism; a final acknowledgement of his status as a President, Soldier, and Hero. No matter what he did with those positions, no matter what he did to the country, they wanted that symbolism. That rebuttal to any criticism: Look where he is, look where his final resting place is now. Look.

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Instead his burial has become symbolic of all that is wrong with politics today: Impunity and patronage. Elections, not as mandates given by the people, but interpreted as license to act the tin pot authoritarian. This wayward idea that electing someone with the express purpose of cutting through and dismantling our institutions in the quixotic, and ultimately foolhardy, pursuit of amorphous ‘change,’ is democracy. Because the flip side to deifying the dangerous conceit, “He’ll get things done” is this. It is impunity.

Instead his burial has become symbolic of all that is wrong with politics today: Impunity and patronage. Elections, not as mandates given by the people, but interpreted as license to act the tin pot authoritarian.

From Andanar to Abella, from our own solicitor general to a sitting Justice of the Supreme Court, the value of sixteen million votes has been twisted beyond democratic recognition. The fundamental expression of democratic will has become subverted, reinterpreted by spin doctors and apologists into something unrecognizable; something akin to a referendum on authoritarianism and a mandate for impunity. That subversion was on full display. By burying Ferdinand Marcos at noon, in the light of day, and under the glare of our gaze, they rather unintentionally brought impunity out in the open. We saw the machinations of the powers-at-be; the horse-trading that usually takes place behind closed doors, between friends and loyalists, patrons and their cats paws. We saw it, clearly and cleanly, by the light of day, how promises made in secret are kept, no matter the cost to the nation. We saw what our government has been and become. And we should never forget it. We should not forget that Duterte felt confident enough, comfortable enough, to exercise his power thus.

From Andanar to Abella, from our own solicitor general to a sitting Justice of the Supreme Court, the value of sixteen million votes has been twisted beyond democratic recognition... By burying Ferdinand Marcos at noon, in the light of day, and under the glare of our gaze, they rather unintentionally brought impunity out in the open.

By the light of day, we should not forget. Not the promises made privately and executed publicly. Not the efficiency with which democracy can be reinterpreted as tyranny. Not the warnings about giving up a little liberty for the illusion of security. Those in the streets, the youth, will not. Today we were taught a lesson about impunity, one that will ring true and long, because Marcos was buried secretly, quietly, with fanfare for a family, at the expense of our community. And those in streets, they are exercising their democratic rights as much, perhaps at times even more, than when we vote. Our voices give power to the government and when we raise those voices, through the vote or in the streets, government should listen. Marcos thought he could not only silence that voice, but leverage it for his own aggrandizement. His burial did not crystalize nor embed his manufactured heroism; it brought into sharp focus his impunity, his arrogance, and the lack of respect for the Filipino nation that exemplified his reign. They can bury him deep, they can raise statues above his grave, but they cannot bury our history. Our history will always ring true, our story will always speak the most resonantly, because it is that tale that made us who we are; that defines us as Filipinos.

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Marcos was flown out of the country in 1986 to avoid the anger of the Filipino people. In 2016, he was flown into the Libingan ng mga Bayani to avoid the anger of the Filipino people. Fitting. And a telling reminder of how we have always fought tyranny, have always sought the sun, and the light of day and better tomorrows. Now, more than ever, that reminder is needed and, hopefully, never forgotten.

Marcos was flown out of the country in 1986 to avoid the anger of the Filipino people. In 2016, he was flown into the Libingan ng mga Bayani to avoid the anger of the Filipino people. Fitting.

That is where we should leave it, where I originally left it. Never forgetting, building monuments of remembrance and places of learning; extracting the lessons of the darkest parts of our history to ensure that we construct a civic community that respects inalienable rights and dignity inherent in all. But, leaving it there did not feel right. This is the coda I have struggled with: What is the reckoning we need? Hidden amidst everything on going is a point that needs reflection: We do need healing. We do need to reconcile with our past and move forward. But, it is not the right of the oppressor, the colonizer, to tell the oppressed, the formerly colonized, to move on. That is our decision. Our right to do decide how and when. They cannot dictate our grief or our forgiveness.

We do need to forgive. Collectively, if not individually. But, forgiveness is both a tool and a weapon. Because forgiveness requires transparency, it demands accountability, and an enumeration of what occurred. How can we forgive if we do not understand? How can we forgive if we do not recognize the tragedies that occurred and how it damaged us as a nation? That is enumeration. That is learning. And perhaps in this reckoning we will find the path forward.

Forgiveness requires memory. It does not invite forgetting. Forgetting and revision, the unraveling of our national story, is the path on which Marcoses and their loyalists want us to take. And in attempting to force us down that path they are seeking their redemption through our division, they manufacture antagonism to ensure they will be able to reclaim the power of memory and remembrance. And perhaps, amidst the division and acrimony, they will find the fissures necessary to continue to execute their hidden agendas.

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This is our eulogy to Ferdinand Marcos: The voices of the youth raised in the streets and on social media. The older remembering and sharing. All of us learning. Learning and embracing the remembrance of the depredations of martial law. The iniquity inherent in impunity. We are eulogizing a dictator the right way: By raising our voices; by speaking truth to power; by remembering and never forgetting. 

Funerals always end with eulogies. This is our eulogy to Ferdinand Marcos: The voices of the youth raised in the streets and on social media. The older remembering and sharing. All of us learning. Learning and embracing the remembrance of the depredations of martial law. The iniquity inherent in impunity. Accidentally, the Marcos family and the powers-that-be gave us the opportunity to eulogize Ferdinand Marcos. And we are. We are eulogizing a dictator the right way: By raising our voices; by speaking truth to power; by remembering and never forgetting. 

Eulogizing Ferdinand Marcos requires understanding what he was and what he and his people did to us. And then, after the eulogy and the grief, comes the healing. That means remembering by embracing the power of our history and making sure we never return to a world of their making.

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About The Author
Nik de Ynchausti
Nik Skalomenos de Ynchausti splits his time between the business world and the non-profit world. When he has the opportunity to write, he focuses on the intersection between Philippine politics, culture, history, and identity.
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