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A Joan of Arc in the Phl

The world is watching. Well, the Philippines is watching at least. And watching closely. The presidential and national political candidates are now living under a microscope and everything they say is going to be scrutinized, repeated, analyzed, and taken into consideration when the voting happens this May. It’s a very strange time to be in the country because from now until May everything is going to an extreme close up as we all try to get to know those who want to be in our government.

Having said that, I have to admit that I am among those looking at all the decisions and the statements of our would-be leaders. What they say about their stance on the economy, infrastructure, healthcare, and more are of special importance to me and I try to carefully listen to their opinions. This is especially true of those running for president and vice president, because, let’s face it, their opinions have the potential to be so much more than opinions should they win this May. They could shape the future of our country.

Having just recently celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Edsa Revolution, martial law and the former Marcos presidency has become a very polarizing topic. Many of those who are older (Martial Law babies as they are called) are very vocal about saying they would never want to go back there again, while many of the younger generation tend to think things “may not have been so bad.” It’s dangerous ground to tread on and sometimes it astounds me just how little the younger generation knows about that time in our history and how they sweep under the rug the suffering of so many people.

Personally, I don’t ever want to go back to rule under a dictator, no matter his last name. While democracy has its limitations I still believe our freedom is worth it and it’s important that we fight to maintain out right to be free. Hopefully we can find a political middle ground in the future. A leader who is strong and can discipline and inspire his people but at the same time not take their freedoms from them in the process.

And as far as another polarizing Marcos topic goes, I have to say I completely agree with Liberal Party Vice Presidential candidate Leni Robredo of Naga City who recently said that she did not believe that the late dictator former President Ferdinand Marcos deserved a burial in the Libingan ng mga Bayani. I know that a lot of people have been airing their opinions on this topic back and forth and I can’t even believe it is up for discussion.

Vice Presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has been reiterating that his father deserves to be buried in the Libingan ng Mga Bayani because the rules allow for his burial there. He has remained steadfast in his belief that his father meets the criteria and that there is no need for him to apologize for the atrocities committed during his father’s former martial law rule. He is entitled to his opinion, of course, but I can’t believe he is just “washing his hands” of the entire history, so-to-speak and just pretending that nothing happened.

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Robredo on the other hand is more adamant about her opinion. She doesn’t feel that Marcos deserves to be buried in Libingan because it should be reserved for those truly deserving. She went to further say that only those who have contributed much to the country and are role models should be seen as heroes and accorded a hero’s burial.

I can’t help but agree with her. After all, no matter what people these days say, we can’t erase history. We can’t erase the hundreds and thousands of people hurt by martial law, the families that were torn apart, the many who were tortured, beaten, or worse. After all, they and their families still live among us today and I can’t imagine how they feel following this discussion about whether or not the man who was behind their suffering should be treated like a hero.

Rules notwithstanding, the question of whether or not former President Marcos should be allowed burial in Libingan is not just a legal one but a moral one too. Was the former president an exemplary Filipino who gave his life for the country? Was he someone who sacrificed for the country and made it a better place? Was he a Filipino who inspired others to be better and do better? I think we all know the answer to these questions.

I have to admire Leni Robredo for being decisive about this issue and making a stand. She could have easily sat on the fence and hedged her bets like Senator Grace Poe on the issue, who remained cagey about providing an actual answer. Leni stood her ground and said her piece despite knowing she would be going against the opinions of others. I think that that is admirable and something that we should look for in a future leader of the country. We need someone that we know stands their ground and is not afraid of saying what’s on their mind.

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And of course, the Philippines is not the only country with election drama. The United States is also embroiled in their own version of election soap operas with candidates slinging mud and going after each other’s character. One of the only differences there and here is that once a candidate loses to another, they usually support the other of the same political party.

I guess, like here in the Philippines, we’ll have to wait and see what happens. Will the United States have their first female president (another first in their history)? Or will a dark horse emerge as President Obama did eight years ago? Only time will tell.

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