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It’s Personal, Mr. President

“One thing common among these seven people I know is they all suffered inhumanely…”
BY GREG CASTILLA – When I heard the news that the refrigerated remains of Ferdinand E. Marcos, the former dictator, will be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes’ Cemetery) this coming September 18, it sparked a fire of anger in me. I was also disappointed.
Of course, I am against it. And the reason is purely personal.
I did not personally know Marcos. The first and the last time I saw him in person was on January 26, 1970 when he stepped out of Congress following his state of the nation address.
Thousands of activists jeered him and his wife, and when the demonstrators started inching toward the direction of the presidential car, the Metrocom (Metropolitan Command) unleashed its might against the demonstrators, whacking them with their truncheons.
I and other fellow activists that included the late Jesuit Fr. Carlos Abesamis were among those who had to run for our lives. Unlike many demonstrators who were hurt in the ensuing melee, I was not. But my heart was beating fast for fear that something untoward might happen to me or to my friends.
With that experience began my disdain for Marcos which grew intensely during the Martial Law years.
I was in my twenties when Martial Law was declared in 1972 by the late strongman President Ferdinand E. Marcos.
What emerged was a dictator who had no respect for human life. Marcos was feared and rightfully so because he would not hesitate to use force to silence anybody who was against him.
He did not care whether one was a nun, a priest, a student, a laborer, a teacher, a peasant, a professional, an urban poor, or a politician. Once a person was suspected as a member of any leftist organization or a sympathizer, that person was a legitimate target by Marcos’ military.
With no constitution to protect the rights of individuals, Marcos was on a rampage. He was the judge, the jury and the executioner all at the same time.
It would have been easy to just forget the 3,257 victims of extra-judicial killings, the 35,000 tortured victims, and the 70,000 men and women he incarcerated. After all, as the reasoning goes:
Let’s all be united and should move forward. That’s easy to say, but a hard pill to swallow by someone like me who personally knows some of the victims.
Yes, I only know a few of the thousands but one person mercilessly murdered or tortured is one too many for me.
Billy Begg and I were together at San Jose Seminary for one year from 1966-1967. He was a good basketball player. His jump shot was unstoppable. We had several skirmishes on the court, but nothing like intentionally hurting each other.
A few years after Martial Law was declared, he stopped his studies at the University of the Philippines and joined the New People’s Army (NPA), convinced that armed struggle was the only way to bring about a more humane social order. Sometime in March of 1975, his group encountered a band of government soldiers somewhere in Isabela. Billy was captured alive. But when his body was found, it was obvious that he was heavily tortured.
Manny Yap was my contemporary at the Ateneo de Manila.  He was a very bright student who graduated magna cum laude. He was active in the student movement.  He disappeared on Valentine’s Day in 1976 as he was about to meet his mom somewhere in Cubao. His body was never found.
My wife and I worked with Jun Quimpo as community organizers in Tatalon, Quezon City, in the 70s. Popularly known as JQ among his friends, he was a UP student who dropped out of school to work for the poor.
He was eating when he was treacherously murdered by a military agent in 1981 in Nueva Ecija. According to the news account, the first bullet hit him in the hip; the second, in the nape. As he fell, five more bullets entered his body.
There is Satur Ocampo, the husband of my wife’s cousin, Carolina Malay, who was illegally arrested in 1976 and was severely tortured in various military camps until he escaped in 1985. He was tried for rebellion, but was found not guilty.
How can I forget Adora Faye de Vera, Flora Coronacion, and Rolando Federis who were all abducted by the military somewhere in Quezon province while they were on their way to Bikol aboard the train on October 1, 1976? I still remember it because I saw them off at the train station that night.
According to reports, de Vera and Coronacion were stripped naked, beaten and raped continuously by several military officers during their tactical interrogations. Coronacion was eventually killed and her body was never found.  Meanwhile, De Vera was made a concubine by one of the officers for several months until she was able to escape.
Federis was severely tortured, subjected to electric shocks as his military torturers pressed lighted cigarettes on the various parts of his body. Like Coronacion, Federis just “disappeared” and was never found up to this day.
I had to deliver the news of Federis’ ordeal to his mother and sister.  Nothing could be as heart-rending as telling a mother that her son had been killed and his body was nowhere to be found.
I have a few more acquaintances and know a few more workers, students and professionals whom I met in various meetings and fora during the Martial Law years and who suffered the same fate as Billy, Manny, JQ , Satur, Adora, Flora and Rolando.
One thing common among these seven people I know is they all suffered inhumanely under the watch of Ferdinand Marcos and they never received justice. Their perpetrators were never apprehended.  And Marcos never batted an eyelash. He simply did not care.
Now, Marcos is going to be buried at Libingan ng mga Bayani as a soldier-hero. It makes my blood boil!
President Digong Duterte said he sees nothing wrong in having Marcos buried at Libingan ng mga Bayani.
Well, something is wrong, Mr. President.
Marcos was never a hero.  His military records are fraught with lies. He never was an inspiration to me like the many authentic soldier-heroes buried in Libingan ng mga Bayani. He even stole millions from the coffers of the government.
He was a criminal in a lot of ways. He died with the blood of my friends soaked in his hands.
When I think of Billy, Manny, JQ, Satur, Adora, Flora and Rolando and the pain and sufferings they endured, I get emotional and angry. Sometimes I suppress my feelings. But they come back. My friends’ memories continue to haunt me.
It’s purely personal, therefore, that I am against in having the former dictator buried at Libingan ng mga Bayani.