TO Samuel Johnson (born 1709; died 1784), poet, essayist and author of A Dictionary of the English Language (published in April, 1755), do we owe the observation that “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.”
His biographer James Boswell (born 1740; died 1795) claimed that Johnson wasn’t condemning patriotism but how it was being misused by the unscrupulous to justify even the foulest of deeds. If that was indeed what Johnson meant, he was not not only being astutely observant about his times; he was also being prophetic. Scoundrels have indeed used patriotism, or love of country, to justify even the worst crimes.
“CEMETERY OF HEROES” is the English translation of “Libingan ng Mga Bayani,” where burying the remains of the late Ferdinand Marcos, Sr. has been resisted for years by most of the victims of the fascist dictatorship he erected on the ruins of the Republic in 1972.
That has not always been the Cemetery’s name. Established as the Philippine equivalent of the American Cemetery and Memorial in Manila where the remains of United States military personnel killed during World War II are buried, it was created in 1947 as the Republic Memorial Cemetery, and given its current name only in 1954, during the administration of then President Ramon Magsaysay — who is himself not buried there.
FERDINAND MARCOS, JR. (“Bongbong”) was talking “revolution” last Saturday, October 17. The occasion was his formal declaration during a ceremony in Manila’s Intramuros (walled city) that he’s running for Vice President of the Republic in 2016.
He didn’t sound as if he were running for the country’s second highest post, however, but for its highest. He said he would “lead a revolution in the mind, in the heart, and in action (“Pamumunuan ko ang isang rebolusyon sa isip, sa puso, at sa gawa”). He also said “Hindi pa tapos ang rebolusyon. Hindi pa tayo lubos na malaya (The revolution is not yet over. We are not yet truly free).”
THE PHILIPPINE government marked the 43rd anniversary of the declaration of martial law with the usual mantras about the need for everyone to see to it that “never again” will there be authoritarian rule in this country.
Speaking for President Benigno Aquino III, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, who was himself a political prisoner during the period, described martial rule—which Ferdinand Marcos imposed throughout the country in 1972 through Presidential Proclamation 1081—as “one of the darkest chapters in the country’s history.”
FORTY-TWO years have passed since Ferdinand Marcos placed the entire country under martial law on September 23, 1972 (he signed Presidential Proclamation 1081 on September 21, implementing it only two days later). But some Filipinos still argue that things were better during the dictatorship, while others recall the way the regime ruined countless lives and inflicted on Philippine society its dark legacies of human rights violations, abuse of power, corruption and bad governance.
This year, both that practically endless debate and the Marcos family’s decades-long campaign to have the late dictator buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes’ Cemetery) marked the 42nd anniversary of Proclamation 1081. Support for the latter is often linked to the belief that the Marcos regime ushered in a period of peace and prosperity—or that, at the very least, Marcos was an authentic hero deserving the honor.
IF A MILITARY takeover or a declaration of martial law as in Thailand seems unthinkable today in the Philippines, it seemed equally implausible in 1972. But that didn’t prevent it from happening then; and there’s no guarantee that it won’t happen again.
HE claimed to have been the “real hero” of the Battle of Besang Pass, and, with 27 medals in his collection, the US Army’s most decorated World War II hero, thus pushing Audie Murphy out of that niche. But he was said to have spent much of the war in a hospital bed, and, according to the late Congressman Bonifacio Gillego, a former Philippine Army intelligence officer, he could only have won all the medals he claimed if he could have been in several places at the same time.
While a law student he was accused of murdering his father’s political rival. Convicted of that offense by a lower court, while representing himself he managed to win acquittal in the Supreme Court, but might have gotten away with murder not so much through his legal acumen as through his father’s and godfather’s political influence. A lawyer who sought to justify practically his every public act in legal terms, he unleashed the most lawless regime in Philippine history on a people he once said could be “great again.”