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Pres. Ferdinand E. Marcos: Hero or heel?

President Ferdinand E. Marcos served 21 years as the 10th president of the Philippines, that is, 8 years or 2-terms elected, and 13 years as martial law dictator after declaring martial law on September 21, 1972.

With martial law ignominy and embarrassing exit by People Power’s ouster in EDSA until his forced exile to Hawaii where he died in 1989. FM was denied burial at the “Libingan ng mga Bayani”. His wife Imelda and children preserved his mortal remains not in a crypt or underground, but in an elevated tomb open to public view, in his hometown of Batac, Ilocos Norte. Despite the passage of time, they hoped for a final resting place at the Libingan.

The time came for FM’s internment in the “Hall of Heroes” museum, “despite his fall from grace”, says AFP spokesman Brig. General Jose Mabanta, because FM deserved the military’s highest honor, the Medal of Valor “specifically for his combat deeds” and “the award was still on the military’s official record” that “has never been cancelled”.

Was the AFP decision with the nod of President Noynoy Aquino as AFP commander-in-chief? Or, did it come because of a nationwide survey – not known to many – wherein alleged overall respondents favored FM’s transfer to the “Hall of Heroes”? Anyway, the AFP says: “But Marcos’ family and political allies have slowly started to regain political power and have recently been pushing for the family patriarch to have a hero’s burial in the military’s Heroes cemetery”.

Admitting that “US historians have questioned the authenticity of the medals of Marcos” – who had claimed receiving two dozen war medals – Mabanta implies that FM deserved the Medal of Valor. This runs counter to Gale Encyclopedia that “Marcos also tried to get recognition and benefits for his resistance force, the Ang Mga Maharlika, that (US) Army investigators concluded that Marcos’ unit was fraudulent”.

The trend now seems to compare public officials who could be the “best”: the “best” mayor, the “best” governor, the “best” president. Former FM crony, Atty. Estelito Mendoza, recently opined that Ferdinand Edralin Marcos is the “best” President the Philippines ever had.

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If the proposition be for “brightest” Philippine president, a greater many, both national and global, would perhaps opt for FM. When he was convicted for the murder of Julio Nalundasan who had beaten FM’s father Mariano Marcos twice as Assemblyman, FM was preparing for the BAR exams inside his detention cell. He was on self-review and working on his appeal with the Supreme Court. Despite mental and psychological distraction, FM topped the BAR with the highest rating until then, such that, the Supreme Court doubted FM’s 95% rating.

When FM was put to an oral exam by the SC en banc – the only time ever in BAR exams history – Marcos obtained a perfect score of 100%. Such brilliance was further made impressive with his “photographic” memory. His oral answers had complete citations – fine footnotes in law books – with correct page number and volume of cited SC decisions. Eventually later, FM’s appeal convinced the SC to acquit him.

FM could have been the “best” president despite his martial law proclamation, owing to the urgency for government reforms amidst grave socio-economic and political chaos. But martial law abuses and excesses spelled his waterloo. Wikipedia reports that martial law was “marred by massive authoritarian corruption, despotism, nepotism, political repression, and human rights violations (which) he benefited from a large personality cult…”

Had FM ruled martial law as a “benign dictator” as a philosopher of yore once advocated, and punished his subalterns’ excesses and blunders down the line of governance, there would have been another version of his legacy in Philippine history. It doesn’t suffice now for Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. to haplessly muse in refrain, thus: “There have been abuses but they were never a part of the policy of my father’s administration… Although there were individual abuses, I cannot see how his administration per se can be liable for that”.

From Proclamation 1081 on Sept. 21, 1972 until now, or a span of about 39 years, is too short to reconcile the conflicting impressions and sentiments as yet. Perhaps, a longer run of the nation’s history may pass on the final verdict. Meantime as of now, whether President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos is a hero, or heel, could be tactfully left unanswered.

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Email: lparadiangjr@yahoo.com

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