Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Pambansang Libingan ng Pilipinas
Nine days after the self-inflicted death of Angelo Reyes, many are still doubting if it was really appropriate that he was buried at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani. The Bayani in its name demands the highest standards of heroism from people who are privileged to call it their final resting place. While many of those who are interred there are authentic heroes by their own rights, either because they lived heroic lives or because they died as martyrs for the motherland, a claim to heroism is something that is always subject to debate and public perception. Unfortunately, Angelo Reyes' claim to heroism will be subject to debate for many years to come.
More unfortunately, the Marcos family and their loyalists are now using the decision of the government to allow the burial of Angelo Reyes at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani to resurrect their demand to have Ferdinand Marcos buried there as well. True, both men served their country for most of their lives, but their claims to heroism are also both not universally accepted. This is not the first case, and will definitely not be the last, of burials in this hallowed place being questioned. If it is the time of Gloria Arroyo to go, will she also be entitled to her own plot at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani as a former president even if the trails of massive corruption during her presidency lead to her very doorsteps?
These arguments can be stopped once and for all by splitting the current Libingan ng Mga Bayani into two separate cemeteries. Uniformed men and women who died in the line of duty and martyrs who gave up their lives for the country should be interred at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani because by their very death, they have irrevocably and unquestionably earned the nation's gratitude as true heroes. They are bayanis who deserve their place of honor at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani.
Presidents, Chiefs of Staff, National Artists, Chief Justices, Senate Presidents, Speakers of the House, War Veterans and other important public figures can be buried in a separate Pambansang Libingan ng Pilipinas (National Cemetery of the Philippines) where the criteria for entitlement can be more objective. A law can be passed defining who are entitled to interment at the Pambansang Libingan, and the deceased can be spared the judgment of public perception.
If Ferdinand Marcos is interred at the Pambansang Libingan, it will not be because of his claim to heroism but because he was a President of this country and the position alone entitled him to a burial in the national cemetery - nothing more, nothing less. In the United States, there is little debate, if any at all, about burials at the Arlington National Cemetery because it does not lay any claim to having only heroes being laid to rest there. We should do the same here to stop all needless squabble on who deserves to be laid in a hero's tomb.