One of the irritating inane comments against the planned burial of strongman Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani is that we would be the laughing stock of the world. Such view only points to the commentators’ astonishing ignorance about the recent history of our neighbors.
Let’s look at what happened to Indonesia’s strongman Suharto, who ruled his country as dictator for 33 years, toppled in 1998 in a people-power kind of revolution. Compared with Suharto, Marcos was a liberal, setting up a legislative body in 1978, though, of course, he controlled it. His dictatorship lasted only 13 years, given that the first part of his rule from 1965 to September 1972 was based on electoral politics.
While I doubt the accuracy of its figures, which are based on newspaper accounts, Transparency International in 2013 ranked Suharto as the most corrupt leader, allegedly embezzling $15 to $35 billion. It ranked Marcos number 2 (and Estrada No. 10) allegedly embezzling $5 to $10 billion. Suharto’s cronyism was incomparable to that of Marcos, and the wealth and monopolies held by his closest crony — Soedono Salim, father of Anthoni who now has a public utility-based empire in the Philippines — were more enormous than those of all of our local cronies combined.
The starkest contrast, though, is in terms of human rights abuses. A study released in July by an international panel of judges concluded that the Indonesian military under Suharto in 1965, when he assumed power through a coup d’état, massacred over 500,000 Indonesians, mostly of Chinese ethnicity, on the pretext that they were communists. Another one million Indonesians were incarcerated, tortured, and/or raped. The report only served to confirm several counts over the years written by scholars.
How many, even by the most rabidly anti-Marcos propagandists’ account, were killed under Martial Law? Some 4,000 “extrajudicial killings” and 40,000 incarcerated after the declaration of Martial law, with only 3,000 remaining in detention centers by 1975, according to an Amnesty International report.
Suharto was buried 23 hours after his death in January 28, because of Islamic teachings that a corpse must be buried within 24 hours after death.
While there were pockets of protest against the state honors given Suharto, the account by the New York Times, I think, entitled “Tributes flow at burial of Suharto state funeral,” describes the more dominant atmosphere at that time. Excerpts:
New York Times account
“SOLO, Indonesia — Suharto, the former strongman of Indonesia, was buried Monday in a family mausoleum near here with a military honor guard, Islamic prayers and an overlay of the Javanese mysticism that, for some people, had given him the aura of a king.
Twenty-three hours after his death in Jakarta following a three-week hospitalization, Suharto’s coffin was lowered into the ground in a crypt on a sacred mountain just outside Solo, beside the tombs of his wife, Siti Hartinah, and of three other relatives.
It was a state funeral fit for a president, or a king, as if Suharto had not been driven from office 10 years ago by rioting, demonstrations and a rejection by his military chief and cabinet ministers.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who was one of those military officers, and a roster of the nation’s most powerful people, flew here Monday in a small fleet of government aircraft.
‘We offer his body and his deeds to the motherland,’ Yudhoyono said at the funeral, where he gave a military salute. ‘His service is an example to us.’
He asked Indonesians to ’open our hearts for everything he has done,’ noting that Suharto had ‘made mistakes because no one is perfect.’
No one since (Suharto’s fall) then has so dominated Indonesia, and his death seemed for some people to stir a longing for a strong and even overpowering leader.
‘I feel that Suharto is the king in the hearts of the people, and I also feel that Suharto is different from other leaders in Indonesia,’ said Emha Ainun Najib, a prominent cultural historian. ‘It seemed that Suharto had the aura of a Javanese king.’
As tiny birds swirled around the entryway, a military honor guard delivered the coffin, which was draped in a red and white Indonesian flag and preceded by a portrait of Suharto in the full, medal-laden uniform of a five-star general.
The coffin was opened briefly and then lowered into the grave next to the polished marble tomb of his wife. Beside it was her portrait on a stand, with what appeared to be a warm, welcoming smile. There was quiet background music, a dirge called ‘Falling Flowers,’ about the death of a hero.
Standing at a microphone, their eldest daughter, Siti Hardiyanti Rukmana, offered an apology for what she called her father’s mistakes, as she had, Sunday, when his death was announced at the hospital
Then, addressing him directly, she said, ‘Only God can repay you for your goodness. Farewell, father. We send our prayers.’
She was in tears when she finished, along with the family members who stood near her. One sister, Siti Hediati, raised a tiny camera and took a picture of the grave.
An Islamic prayer was said, a bugler played taps, and the family gathered around the tomb to toss in handfuls of white and pink flower petals.
Outside, behind a cordon of military security, villagers had climbed through the woods to watch from a distance.
The farmers here are beneficiaries of Suharto’s economic policies, and as with some other repressive leaders around the world, the harshness of his rule seems to have faded in their memories.
Standing last week by the bright green rice fields below the hill, a farmer named Sukanto, 50, said he longed for a return to what he remembered as the stability of Suharto’s rule.
‘Suharto is the only president I admire, among them all,’ he said, leaning on a motorbike and smoking a clove cigarette. “He’s the one who gave us a better life. He gave us rice seed to plant, and he developed our country.”
On a street in Solo, a parking attendant named Gio, 45, said, ‘I know that people got wealthy in Suharto’s time, but we are only small people, and that is not our business.’ (end of the New York Times article)
I’m sure that the Yellow Cult, in our case, would be shocked when the Ilocano-speaking Filipinos crowd the Marcos funeral, and more so when they cry their hearts out at their idol, as is likely to happen.
And if you think that Indonesians are so backward as to have adulated a mass murderer, consider these figures: our neighbor country’s GDP per capita in 2015 amounted to $3,834 (in constant 2010 US dollars), bigger by a third than our $2,635. During all of Marcos’ time, our GDP per capita was bigger than that of Indonesia. Indonesia overtook us in 1989, after four years of the first Yellow Regime.
One more intriguing point: Does the Indonesians’ forgiving attitude find its root in intense nationalism — the need to unify the nation — or from their Islam faith?
We have neither of those.
My book, which just came off the press, provides more detail on Suharto’s biggest crony, Soedono Salim, and his son Anthoni Salim’s building of an empire in the Philippines, which made a breakthrough right after their patron fell in 1998, the year he captured PLDT. For orders, go to rigobertotiglao.com/book.