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  • By Mar-Vic Cagurangan

A tale of two countries

It was the worst of times…

Protests against President-elect Donald Trump are erupting across the United States. Demonstrators are furious and insulted that a man who is unfit to run the nation and can’t be trusted with the nuclear codes is now the next president. “Not my President,” they say.

Protests against the burial of the ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Heroes’ Cemetery are erupting in the Philippines. Demonstrators are furious and insulted that the remains of the man who plundered the nation for 21 years and sanctioned the killings of 3,500 people during the martial law period are now buried, and honored with a 21-gun-salute, among the country’s true heroes. “Not a hero,” they say.

The circumstances surrounding the protests against Trump presidency and Marcos’ burial are certainly not the same but the ostensible parallelism is quite unsettling.

Trump’s victory was a shocking surprise. Hillary Clinton clinched the popular vote but Trump won the mandate by electoral landslide. The Electoral College doesn’t seal the final tallies until Dec. 19, a month and a day before the presidential inauguration, but the margin – Trump’s 290 vs. Clinton’s 232 — doesn’t promise a reversal of the election result.

The Philippine Supreme Court voted 9-5 in favor of the Marcos burial in the military cemetery, holding that President Rodrigo Duterte acted within his mandate when he authorized such burial. The court held that Marcos' remains, under the rules of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, can be interred at military cemetery because he was a former president, commander-in-chief, soldier and legislator. Where there is a conflict, the Supreme Court is the last resort; its word is the


Trump becoming the next American president and Marcos getting a hero treatment may be offensive to our sensibilities but they were both sanctioned by the institutions of an imperfect democracy. They function based on the rule of law and inference of numbers, not on the fervor of our moral sentiments. Logic doesn’t always conform to how we feel or our individual ideas of what is right and wrong.

The sadder part is that both undesirable — though logical — outcomes were consequences of complacency and copping out of responsibilities.

Among those marching in the streets admitted they did not vote for Clinton — the only candidate who could’ve blocked Trump’s foray into the presidency. “Elections belong to the people,” Abraham Lincoln said. “It's their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.”

Thirty years since the revolution that ousted the Marcoses, none of the subsequent administrations established a law— other than former President Cory Aquino’s fleeting policy statement — that would have officially banned a hero’s burial for Marcos, who died in Hawaii in 1989. His body remained in Ilocos Norte, his home province, since 1991. Duterte finally laid the matter to rest.

We may not like it, but legal institutions don’t make considerations for afterthoughts.

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