A Covert but Ceremonial Burial for a Dictator:
Marcos' Resting Place in the Libingan ng mga Bayani
by Luis Adrian Hidalgo
Covering issues involving the Marcos family can be a challenging work. But to be able to report it effectively, reporters must be knowledgeable and have an understanding of the historical context of the country’s longstanding affair with the Marcoses.
AMIDST THE secrecy and tight security, the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos was buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (LNMB) in Taguig on November 18, 2016.
The media was caught off-guard by the stealth. No TV networks or newspapers were invited to cover and report on the burial, which by the looks of it had all the trappings of a state event. No government agency, civilian or military, had released information about the event. President Duterte who had set the whole controversy in motion with a campaign promise to the Marcos family was abroad attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Peru. Covert operations arranged for military choppers to carry the remains to Manila and included enough pomp and circumstance, including a 21-gun salute and an escort of uniformed troops to see the Marcos corpse to this desired resting place.
In the early morning, before anyone outside of those involved could know, some social media posts had begun posting rumors of the burial unfolding. Broadcast media picked up on the event and reported live the public’s reaction including the crowds that began to gather at the gates of the Libingan. With little or no access to the event, TV could air only grabbed visuals from a video posted on the official Facebook page of Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos, the oldest of the Marcos siblings.
Reporters sought information from officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Malacañang. Each gave different answers to the central questions: Did the president authorize the burial and the military support provided for it? How much did he know about the event?
Who gave what answers?
Ten days after the Supreme Court (SC) rejected the petitions filed against giving Marcos a place in the LNMB, a motion for reconsideration had yet to be filed and heard in accordance with court rules. The holding of the burial therefore dismissed the rules obliging the period in which the decision could be reconsidered by the SC.
THE SC VOTED
Associate Justices Arturo Brion, Presbitero Velasco Jr, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Mariano del Castillo, Jose Perez, Teresita de Castro, Jose Mendoza, and Estela Perlas-Bernabe
Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, together with Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, and Associate Justices Marvic Leonen, Francis Jardeleza, and Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa
Associate Justice Bienvenido Reyes
Coverage was quick to point to the president’s role, recalling his campaign promise and several statements expressing his view on the legality of the burial and that it would help the nation to move forward.
Reports cited statements of AFP and PNP officials which hinted that Duterte indeed knew of the burial and Malacañang feigned ignorance.
Acting PNP Regional Director Chief Superintendent Oscar Albayalde confirmed that the burial would take place and that the Marcoses had requested for it to be a private affair. Shortly after the burial, AFP Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said in a press briefing that the president “is always kept aware of everything that’s happening in the country.”
Media kept up live coverage of protest groups around the Libingan with follow-up interviews with officials and other civil society leaders, fueling spontaneous demonstrations to protest the burial.
In the late afternoon, students from the Ateneo de Manila University, Miriam College and the University of the Philippines Diliman lined up Katipunan Avenue, holding up signs and chanting slogans. In the evening, people gathered in numbers around the People Power Monument along Edsa and the Ayala Triangle in Makati. The furor drew out crowds in other parts of the country — in the cities of Cebu, Davao and Zamboanga. “Marcos is no hero!” was the people’s preferred battle cry — written on posters, placards, pinned or printed on T-shirts.
The protest took over social media in the days that followed.
A student shout slogan during the anti-Marcos burial rally at the People Power Monument, Nov. 30, 2016.
Media’s role against historical revisionism
The SC’s decision which allowed Marcos’ interment at the LNMB reopened the wounds of many who had suffered during the period — the loss of loved ones who were salvaged or who were tortured, scarred forever with the pain and humiliation or the anguish of not knowing. For many, the presence of troops in the streets made real the power and reach of those in control. The period will not be forgotten for the curtailment of free expression, the submission of news organizations to state control, the incessant propaganda which also shaped public taste, the minor but still real inconveniences of curfew and restrictions to travel.
But for Marcos loyalists, the burial restored honor to a revered name and a reason to celebrate.
CMFR noted in a previous monitor that the issue of the burial and anything that had to do with the Marcos legacy “remains a hot-button issue among Filipinos because there has been no accountability for the excesses and abuses during the regime of the late dictator.” Moreover, there has been a conscious and consistent effort by the Marcoses to revise history as a way of recovering the luster of their name. (See “Marcos Burial: The Press as a Moral Compass“).
The campaign of Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. for the post of vice president provided for many occasions to serve the purpose of a national resurgence of the Marcos name, an endeavor which many members of the press assisted for all kinds of reasons. With a template to provide tracking of all candidates, spurious statements about the period and the deposed president went unquestioned and unchallenged.
Indeed, in many ways, the past was recollected as a golden period to which many wished to return — nostalgia inevitably assisting an alternative projection of what Martial Law and Marcos authoritarianism was about.
In contrast, the burial presented the right chance to reverse the revision of history. The media used the burial issue to refresh the public memory of the Marcos regime through innovative reports: The Philippine Daily Inquirer’s timeline which chronicled Marcos’ rise and fall; TV Patrol’s (ABS-CBN 2) report on Marcos’ fake medals; and a 24 Oras (GMA-7) report which juxtaposed the so-called “golden years” and the country’s darkest period under the Marcos rule. These supplementary reports and other similar materials help provide context and set the record straight. (See “Marcos Burial: Caught off-guard, Media Catches up with History“).
Covering issues involving the Marcos family can be a challenging work. But to be able to report it effectively, reporters must be knowledgeable and have an understanding of the historical context of the country’s longstanding affair with the Marcoses. Without these, the press unwittingly becomes a large part of the spread of ignorance and willful lies about the past. (See “EDSA People Power: Inadequate Challenge to Marcos Revisionism”).
With the resources for research, the media have the capacity to produce meaningful stories that advance political discourse based on historical truth. Without drafting this counter-narrative to revisionist propaganda, the press surrenders to the forces of “alternative truth.”
CHEERS | JEERS
People gathered at the Lapu-Lapu Shrine in Rizal Park on Aug. 14 for the Citizen’s Assembly Against the Marcos Burial in Libingan ng mga Bayani. | Photo by Lito Ocampo.
Marcos Burial: Keeping Track of a Controversy
Posted on: September 9, 2016
CHEERS TO Rappler for consistently covering the controversy over the burial of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
As the Supreme Court (SC) started hearing oral arguments for and against it on August 30, 2016, Rappler posted pieces that discussed the points raised by both the petitioners and the respondents.
In “SC orals on Marcos burial: Issues and answers,” (August 30) Rappler’s Patty Pasion listed the legal points raised by the petitioners against the burial, among them the provisions of Republic Act 289 (An Act Providing for the Construction of a National Pantheon for Presidents of the Philippines, National Heroes and Patriots of the Country) and Republic Act 10368 (Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act); the 1992 agreement between the Marcos family and the administration of Fidel Ramos; the relevance of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; and Marcos’s dubious military records.
On September 1, Rappler followed-up with “SC orals: How justices pursued issues on Marcos burial,” noting that human rights, the creation of RA 289, the rules governing who may be buried in the Libingan, and Marcos’ record as a soldier were among the issues the SC justices paid special attention to.
While the topic was covered by other media organizations as well, Rappler’s efforts to discuss key issues were more informative, since the former limited themselves to simply reporting when the oral arguments would take place, who filed the petitions against the burial, and some of the points raised.
In a previous monitor, CMFR urged the media to go more deeply into the controversy as both a moral as well as legal issue (“Marcos Burial: The Press as a Moral Compass,” August 2016). Now that the issue is in the hands of the SC, the media will hopefully continue to track developments and provide reports that will better inform the public to enable them to arrive at an informed consensus.
Several groups and individuals gathered at Luneta, Aug. 14, for the Citizen’s Assembly Against Marcos Burial in Libingan ng mga Bayani. | Photo by Lito Ocampo
Marcos Burial: Sidestepping Legal Issues, Ignoring Implications
Posted on: November 9, 2016, 6:07 pm
WITH A vote of 9-5, the Supreme Court has allowed the burial of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani. The ruling came as the status quo ante order of the Supreme Court, which prevented the proposed burial in consideration of the petitions against it, expired on Tuesday, November 8.
It would have helped the public to know the arguments being made in order to understand and evaluate for themselves the High Court’s decision. The Supreme Court holds equal power among the three branches of government. Unfortunately, the exercise of judicial power is least understood by the public. And most media organizations shirk the obligation to provide information about the judicial process.
There is too much at stake to leave this as unknowable territory because court decisions, especially the High Court’s, define what laws say.
It is different with this decision. This decision is not of limited interest and scope. The question of the burial has engaged Filipinos in a manner that has rarely been displayed in the past. The question of the burial carries with it the issues of impunity and historical injustice for the victims of the Marcos regime, which includes the entire nation restrained by political forces from the pursuit of reform and genuine democratic change.
This decision reminds everyone that the Supreme Court cannot carry on without greater public scrutiny and analysis. As soon as the Court releases the decisions written by each justice, these should be presented as fully as possible and submitted to public discussion. The people have a right to know and they have the right to be heard.
Post-script: The decisions released on November 8 did not receive much notice from the press except for a few columns.
* All monitors updated for MediaTimes