THE burial of the late strongman Ferdinand E. Marcos continues to divide the nation. But if we have to move forward, we have to have closure on this matter.
This is why I admire and respect President Rodrigo Duterte as a leader. We have longed for this kind of leadership in the past and we have been frustrated with those who came before him.
I think it is important to remind everyone on who exactly can be buried at the Libingan:
AFP Regulations G K61-373, subject: Allocation of Cemetery Plots at the LNMB issued in April 1986 by GHQ AFP under then-AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Fidel V. Ramos and then-President Corazon C. Aquino, prescribes who are entitled to be interred:
Pursuant to the aforecited AFP Regulations, re-published on 11 September 2000 as AFP Regulations G 161-375, there are 10 categories of deceased persons entitled to be buried at the LNBM, namely:
Medal of Valor Awardees;
Presidents or Commanders-in-Chief, AFP; Secretaries of National Defense; Chief of Staff, AFP; General/Flag Officers of the AFP;
Active and retired military personnel of the AFP; Former AFP members who literally entered/joined the PNP and the PCG; Veterans of Philippine Revolution of 1896, WWI, WWII, and recognized guerrillas. Government dignitaries, Statesmen, National Artists and other deceased persons whose internment or reinternment has been approved by the Commander-in-Chief, Congress or the Secretary of National Defense;
For Presidents, Secretaries of National Defense, widows of former Presidents, secretaries of National Defense, and as Veteran of World War II.
The AFP was very clear about former President Marcos being entitled to be interred at the LNMB on any of the following categories: as Medal of Valor Awardee, as former President, as a soldier, as former Secretary of National Defense, and as veteran of World War II.
“In regard disqualifications,” the ruling added, “Marcos was neither dishonorably discharged nor convicted with finality of an offense involving moral turpitude. While he was charged with several offenses, he was not convicted. Thus, he died an innocent man.”
The AFP regulation that the LNMB is military cemetery (just like the Arlington Cemetery in the United States) intended primarily for military personnel and veterans. ONE DOES NOT HAVE TO BE A HERO TO QUALIFY TO BE BURIED THERE ...” (caps mine).
The fact is that presidential approval is not required for the interment of a person meeting the qualifications. The late Cory Aquino made an exception for Marcos; subsequently, President Ramos also tried to make it appear obligatory. It is only now, with President Duterte, that we have a President who is firm and resolute on the matter.
So, what is the beef of Marcos haters? That Marcos was not a hero, nor a medal of valor awardee, nor even a guerilla veteran? Santa Banana, he was a President, a former National Defense Secretary, former Chief of Staff and Commander-in-chief and a soldier.
Most of those protesting claim that Marcos is no hero and should not be buried at the cemetery reserved only for heroes. They should be told that among those buried there was Shadow, the favorite dog of the late President Cory. Just what justified a dog to be buried among those qualified to be buried there is something else for the books.
How did Marcos get his Medal of Valor? Records show that he and a band of soldiers refused to surrender to the Japanese Occupation forces when the combined forces of Americans and Filipino soldiers fought in Bataan for three months.
My late brother Willie Jurado was also in Bataan as a volunteer soldier and was then with the group of Marcos, who had to swim across a river to make good their escape from Bataan and that dreaded Death March from Bataan to Capas, Tarlac.
Willie did not know how to swim and was left behind to surrender, and subsequently was forced to join the Death March on the Capas Concentration Camp where he almost died, because he had caught malaria and dysentery. I know all these because Willie told me so, and because my mother went to Capas from Manila to provide food and clothes for Willie. Willie came home after those who survived the death march were amnestied. This was also the case with my late eldest late brother Desi, who was incarcerated at Fort Santiago for eight months for being a member of the underground movement against the Japanese.
It was because of the exploits of Marcos in Bataan that he was later on awarded the Medal of Valor. Marcos later on formed the “Maharlika Guerrilla Movements,” which Marcos haters say never existed. In 1943, Marcos went to the North and joined the 14th Infantry of the guerrilla movement, as did my two elder brothers,
Marcos, with the rank of major, was then operating in the guerrilla movement in the Cagayan provinces, in Isabela and Nueva Vizcaya.
My recollection of Marcos as a guerrilla veteran was when I saw him at Camp Spencer in Luna, La Union. It was here where my two elder brothers also had their headquarters.
After the rape of Manila, when the Americans liberated the city, the Japanese Forces led by General Toshio Yamashita had to retreat to the Cordilleras to make their last stand. And that’s where the crucial Battle of Bessang Pass occurred. Desi led an assault team (he was then a lieutenant of the 3rd Battalion of the 121st Infantry under Col. Russel Volckman, and the late Major Conrado Rigor was battalion commander.)
The only hindrance was an uphill pass that must be taken. While he may not have been there in the Battle of Bessang Pass, it was the 14th Infantry led by Marcos that did the “flanking movement” in Nueva Vizcaya to prevent Yamashita was escaping from his Cordillera hideout.
These are all my recollections of the last days of the Japanese Occupation. I must have been 17 to 18 years old then, living with my parents in Bangar, La Union.
What surprises me is that most of those protesting Marcos’ burial were not even born at that time. How could they know what really happened? They must have been reading and hearing about the martial law days in the Daily Inquirer and ABS-CBN, both Marcos haters and Aquino lovers.
I say Marcos truly and finally deserves to be buried at the LNMB. Only the Supreme Court can prevent it now.
We must put closure to this lingering controversy. What will we tell our children later on?