POSTSCRIPT / June 18, 1998 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Erap flaunts mandate, insists on honoring FM

MOVIE star Joseph “Erap” Estrada has not formally gone up the stage as president, yet he is already being roundly booed for his decision to bury the frozen cadaver of Ferdinand Marcos in the hallowed grounds of the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Fort Bonifacio.

For readers who don’t speak Pilipino, that name means Resting Place of Heroes, a military-type cemetery where now lie some gallant soldiers, some presidents and a variety of heroic Filipinos.

Routinely, the defense secretary — and ultimately the President — decides if someone, usually a soldier, had displayed enough heroism in life to merit in death a niche in the Libingan. (It is not true, by the way, that a guard dog of former President Cory Aquino is buried there.)

Estrada says Marcos — former president and dictator, bemedalled soldier and holder of a Guinness citation as the world’s biggest thief — deserves a plot of honor at the Libingan.

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THAT stand of Estrada has stoked anti-Marcos feelings all over again and sparked demonstrations not only against the Marcoses but also against the Marcos loyalist set to become president on June 30.

The protesting groups have coalesced into a new KKK — Kalampagin ang Konsensiyang Kinakalawang (Rouse up that rusty or sleeping conscience). The coalition includes such groups as the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines, Kilosbayan, Kaakbay and the Desaparecidos. Among its vehement speakers is Cory Aquino.

Some of the newspapers have taken positions. Inquirer of the Prietos is editorially questioning the planned Marcos burial, while the Manila Standard of the Sorianos sees nothing wrong with it.

My own opinion, not that it matters, is that Mr. Marcos should be buried elsewhere as agreed upon when President Ramos approved his body’s return to the Philippines. Dumping his remains at the Libingan will desecrate its sacred soil.

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THE widespread assumption is that Estrada had struck a deal with former first lady Imelda R. Marcos, who withdrew her presidential candidacy in the last days of the campaign in favor of Estrada.

Deal or not, however, I would credit Estrada for being forthright about his sentiments. Instead of quietly springing the Marcos interment on an unsuspecting nation, he openly talked about it during the campaign. In fact, he also broached the possibility of his pardoning Mrs. Marcos in case she is finally convicted of graft.

We must assume, therefore, that when 10.7 million Filipinos voted for Estrada, thereby giving him a resounding mandate, most of them were aware of his plans for the Marcoses.

By extension, the impending Marcos burial in the Libingan, scheduled July 11 (or 7-11 in the overworked numerology of the Marcoses) may be said to enjoy the stamp of approval of Estrada’s fans, or most of them.

If he is going to do it anyway, I think Estrada is smart in giving Marcos an honorable burial right way. That’s taking advantage of the traditional honeymoon period when presidents are allowed the benefit of the doubt in their early probing days in the Palace.

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THE guessing game continues: Will Estrada force it?

My wary reply: Even when sober, Estrada is the type who would dare do such a thing.

First of all, he enjoys a clear mandate. Estrada got 10,722,295 votes in the last elections, way ahead of Jose de Venecia’s 4,268,483 and third-placer Raul Roco’s 3,720,212. Cory Aquino’s anointed Fred Lim limped to the finish line with only 2,344,362.

While Fidel V. Ramos squeaked through with a plurality of 23 percent in the 1992 polls, Estrada copped 34 percent last May. This is not a majority (50 percent + 1), but it is an impressive showing in a derby where 10 presidential candidates stayed to slug it out after Mrs. Marcos withdrew.

Secondly, while protesting members of the middle class and the economic elite whine and whimper, most of them are not willing to march in the streets and expose themselves to the scorching sun and polluted air. They will lose the fight against Marcos by default.

This is the same tragedy that bedevils our democracy. Many affluent voters do not bother to come out to cast their ballots, abdicating their right and obligation, yet they complain the loudest when crooks and nincompoops get elected to office.

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OTHER significant news:

  • The peso, as you may have heard by now, dropped to P42.45 to the US dollar last June 15, pulled down by the falling Japanese yen. It crept up to P41.90 the next day.

While this may be a bit of dubious good news to you dollar-earners in the States, it is bad for the folks back home since a cheapened peso will mean rising prices, ballooning interest rates and an inflated foreign debt.

  • Scrambling to keep the sputtering airline airborne, Philippine Airlines is laying off 5,000 employees, or 37 percent of its 13,500 work force, to cut losses running to some P2 billion since its pilots struck June 5. Some of the women workers given termination notices wept.

But while many employees were blaming the striking pilots for the sudden sad turn of events, no one has been heard to blame the pilot union’s legal counsel. The lawyers had assured the pilots of the legality of their strike and the attainability of their demands, and led the pilots step by legal step into the black hole. Nadamay lahat.

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