Editorial: Be a hero too, Mr. President

On the occasion of Ninoy Aquino Day on Aug. 21, 2022, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. did not deliver a speech about the late lawmaker. The presidential silence is understandable, and he cannot be forced to issue one—we are still in a democracy anyway. Had he delivered a speech about Ninoy, it would be ironic because the latter’s assassination at the Manila International Airport on the same day in 1983 sparked outrage among Filipino people and the mass unrest eventually culminated in the People Power Revolution three years later, causing the downfall of the dictator, President Ferdinand Marcos Sr., the father of the current Chief Executive.Eight days later, on Aug. 29, President Bongbong gave a speech to commemorate the National Heroes Day at the Libingan ng mga Bayani where the remains of his father were transferred in November 2016. He said Filipinos are “destined to greatness” and he urged everyone “to fulfill our own promise so that we may also be heroes in our own right and a source of pride and inspiration for the succeeding generation of Filipinos to emulate.”The National Heroes Day, in its strictest sense, honors the bravery of all Filipino heroes, known and unknown, who fought for the nation’s freedom, specifically during the Spanish colonial rule. Over time, the occasion’s meaning has evolved, with political leaders delivering speeches celebrating not just the historical heroes but also the modern-day heroes, particularly the overseas Filipino workers and everyday Filipinos. As the country is still in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, President Bongbong honored the medical and non-medical frontliners, and also the workers in the education and agriculture sectors, among others.President Bongbong himself can be a hero in his own right—by acknowledging his father or his family’s sins during the Martial Law years, paying his tax obligations, returning the ill-gotten wealth, among others.The other thing he can do is free former senator Leila de Lima, who decries the “trumped-up drug charges” filed against her still standing despite witnesses recanting their testimonies that she was involved in the illegal drug trade. He can also reconsider his decision on the Philippines not rejoining the International Criminal Court, which has launched an investigation on the violent drug war of his predecessor, President Rodrigo Duterte. And he can also abolish the serial red-tagger, the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict.To his credit, the President did not mention his father at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. Doing so would have angered anti-Marcos partisans. Not mentioning a single hero’s name is sticking to the law that put the National Heroes Day celebration into practice. The law “does not name a single one,” according to the Official Gazette. The President did a good job in following that law.