Carlos H. Conde
Over the weekend, while passing through the Philippine Army base in Taguig City, I spotted this tarpaulin poster hanging outside the base. It was one of the dozen or so similar posters that exalt the Philippines’s “Medal of Valor” awardees.
I was driving and I had to do a double take when I saw the poster. “Was that Ferdinand Marcos?” I thought to myself. Just to be sure, I went back to check.
True enough, the man in the picture was the dictator himself. “3LT FERDINAND E. MARCOS Medal of Valor Bataan -1942,” it reads.
Above the photo, in all caps, are the words “A GALLANT DEFENDER OF OUR DEMOCRACY.”
Now, I understand that the government gives out the “Medal of Valor” award to men in the army who deserve it. And there are few quite a few of them who do.
But in Marcos’s case, his war medals – at least 30 of them, he claimed, which was an astonishing number – had been disputed prior to his downfall in 1986.
According to Raymond Bonner, in his authoritative and well-researched book on Marcos,Waltzing with a Dictator, there was never any mention of Marcos’s supposed heroic act in Bataan in official US government lists of Filipinos and Americans who were awarded medals for their bravery during World War II.
“It was all a monumental fraud,” Bonner wrote, “and Marcos was nothing if not daring in perpetuating it.”
This fraud was one of the issues that led to the ouster of the dictator. And it is one of the reasons why, to this day, the Marcos family’s efforts to have the tyrant’s remains interred at the Libingan ng mga Bayani failed.
Apart from this fraud, I find it extremely in bad taste for the army to now praise the dictator, who savaged this nation during its darkest days, for having been “a gallant defender of our democracy.”
I don’t know if this is historical revisionism by the army or if the guy tasked with producing the posters was simply a moron. But this poster hangs outside the army base along a busy road leading to The Fort and to the airport, for all the public to see, a few days before the commemoration of Marcos’s declaration of martial law on Sept. 21.
It is offensive. It dishonors not only the other men in those posters who genuinely defended this country but the whole Filipino nation as well who suffered under Marcos’s tyranny.