The truly revealing thing about the way Filipinos have turned the burial of former Presdident Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (LNMB) into a massive circus is in how they hold on to the belief that the country’s evil’s are embodied in a single man. The underlying psychology here seems to be that if a single man can be put up as the “source” of “evil” in the Philippines, then it absolves Filipinos of the collective sins of their society.
But the truth is a bit less peachier than that. The fact is, the Philippines is a haven for criminality. It is a country infamous for its citizens’ lack of respect for their own laws and where shortcutting, bulldozing through, and circumventing the law is seen to be more a mark of cleverness than behaviour befitting a person who should be locked up. The truth about Marcos is a lot more confronting when stripped of the emotionalism that has come to surround his legacy. The truth is that Marcos (as he is painted today) mirrors the Filipino character.
In former President Marcos, Filipinos found not only a scapegoat for the wretchedness they are renowned for today but a modern-day messiah — a man who absolves Filipinos of their sins by taking accountability for all these on their behalf. In the Filipino mind, Marcos being the Philippines’ “Supreme Evil One” is a convenient bogeyman whose size easily dwarfs the evil in the ordinary Filipino.
This narrative is consistent with the general template of most belief systems Filipinos latch on to — that some kind of Satan embodies and originates the world’s evils and that those who are subject to those “evils” are mere victims and are not to be blamed for the persistence of those evils.
That narrative, to its credit, has worked spectacularly in the Philippines. Filipinos are convinced that the wretchedness of their country has nothing to do with their collective character and their collective failures and is entirely to blame on a single evil man — Ferdinand Marcos. So to even suggest to the average Filipino indoctrinated to this notion that there is something about the inherent character of the Filipino that contributes more to her society’s backwardness than any one person is regarded as an outright heresy against the Filipino gospel.
And so this is why the impending burial of Marcos at the LNMB has become an explosive issue — because his burial there throws into question an entire philosophy that several generations of Filipinos have been raised to adhere to.
Seen from a different, perhaps an outsider’s, perspective, the re-branding of Marcos from “pure evil” to just another Filipino president is nothing short of a massive paradigm shift in Philippine society. Looking at the bigger picture, one can see that there is nothing about Marcos (other than the exceptional length of his rule) that makes him fundamentally different from any other Philippine president. Indeed, deep in their little hearts, every Filipino knows that all Filipino politicians are fundamentally the same. They lie, they steal, they issue empty promises, they serve their family and friends first before anyone else, and they all owe their patrons big time.
And in that simple notion, that Marcos is just another Filipino president, lies the elegant simplicity of the Supreme Court decision to allow his burial at the LNMB. Because to say that Marcos is ineligible for burial in a site to which Filipino presidents are entitled to be buried constitutes a level of hypocrisy that has long-term ramifications on the Philippines’ constituted “democracy”. How, after all, can we look one another in the eye and say, hand on heart, that there has never been any president significantly better than President Marcos to begin with?
In short, Marcos was nothing special. He was just another Filipino president. No more, no less. Filipinos need to come to terms with the reality that he was made to stand out by nothing more than a small clique of oligarchs who are very familiar with their compatriots’ penchant for latching on to biblical belief systems that are not substantiated by any coherent logical bases. This familiarity with the sucker nature of Filipinos’ minds is what keeps them in power. To get rich, one only needs to come up with a mediocre product, and 100 million suckers willing to buy it for a dollar. Ferdinand Marcos branded as “The Evil One” was one such product that generations of Filipinos happily lapped up.