DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 08 November) – The Supreme Court on Tuesday voted 9-5 with one abstention, to dismiss the petitions opposing the Duterte administration’s decision to give the late dictator, Ferdinand E. Marcos, a hero’s burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (LNMB).
“While he was not all good, he was not pure evil either. Certainly, just a human who erred like us,” the majority decision penned by Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta said, adding, among others, that Marcos had the right to be acknowledged for his service as a President, Commander-in-Chief, retired military veteran and Medal of Valor awardee, “and thus may be interred at the Libingan” pursuant to Armed Forces of the Philippines Regulations G 161-375.
Marcos, elected President in 1965, was reelected in 1969. His second and last term was supposed to have ended in 1973 but he declared martial law in 1972 until he was ousted by a People Power revolt in February 1986. During his dictatorship, thousands of Filipinos were arrested, tortured, killed or disappeared.
He was flown to Honolulu, Hawaii by the United States government on February 25, 1986 and passed away on September 28, 1989. It took four years before his body could be flown back to the Philippines – on September 7, 1993, under the administration of Fidel Ramos, Marcos’ cousin.
Marcos’ remains are still encased in a glass for public viewing at the Marcos Museum and Mausoleum in Batac, Ilocos Norte.
On August 7, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana issued a memorandum on the Marcos burial at the LNMB, following President Rodrigo Duterte’s announcement in the early hours that Sunday morning, that he had given the go signal for the burial of Marcos’ remains.
Lorenzana directed General Ricardo Visaya, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to “undertake the necessary planning and preparations to facilitate the coordination of all agencies concerned specially the provisions for ceremonial and security arrangements” for the Marcos burial, in compliance to the President’s verbal order on July 11 “to implement his election campaign promise.”
Duterte in a past midnight press conference that day said the former President and soldier, is qualified to be buried there.
“We are a divided nation. Out of 10, maybe nine nagsentimyento. Only one hates Marcos, but that is not the point. The point is, he is qualified … his family has that right to bury their father or husband because he was president of the Republic of the Philippines and he was a soldier at one time of his life,” he said.
Voting 9-5 with Associate Justice Bienvenido Reyes inhibiting, the High Court dismissed the seven consolidated petitions opposing the Duterte administration’s move to allow the burial of Marcos at the heroes’ cemetery.
Reyes, an appointee of then President Benigno Aquino administered Duterte’s oath on his inaugural as President on June 30, 2016. Reyes is a friend of Aquino and a fraternity brother of Duterte.
An ABS-CBN News report said the original ponente was Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa, an appointee and former cabinet member of then President Aquino, “who, in his draft decision, disallowed the burial of Marcos at the LNMB” but “Caguioa failed to convince the majority; his penned draft decision will be the main dissenting opinion.”
Voting to dismiss the petitions are Justices Estela Perlas-Bernabe, Lucas Bersamin, Arturo Brion, Teresita de Castro, Mariano del Castillo, Jose Mendoza, Jose Perez, Diosdado Peralta and Presbitero Velasco Jr.
Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Justices Caguioa, Antonio Carpio, Francis Jardeleza and Marvic Leonen voted against.
In her dissent, Sereno said: “Respondents may deny the implications of their actions today, but the symbolism of the burial will outlive even their most emphatic refutations. Long after the clarifications made by this administration have been forgotten, the gravesite at the LNMB will remain. That is the peculiar power of symbols in the public landscape—they are not only carriers of meaning but are repositories of public memory and ultimately, history.”
Sereno added: “For the Court to pretend that the present dispute is a simple question of the entitlement of a soldier to a military burial is to take a regrettably myopic view of the controversy. It would be to disregard historical truths and legal principles that persist after death. As important, it would be to degrade the State’s duty to recognize the pain of countless victims of Marcos and Martial Law. Regardless of the promised national unity that the proposed burial will bring, I cannot, in good conscience, support such an expedient and shortsighted view of Philippine history.”
Carpio said the ouster of Marcos in February 1986 amounted to “the strongest form of dishonorable discharge from office since it was meted out by the direct act of the sovereign people.”
Leonen said “we forget the lessons of the past when we allow abuse to hold sway over the lives of those who are unrelated to us. Silence in the face of abuse is complicity.”
The burial of Marcos in the LNMB, he said, “is not an act of national healing” but “an effort to forget our collective shame, to bury our inaction for many years. It is to contribute to the impunity against human rights abuses and the plunder of our public trust.”
“To deny the petitions is to participate in the effort to create myth at the expense of history,” said Leonen.
Marcos, Jr. speaks
Former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. thanked the Supreme Court the decision and President Duterte for pushing for the burial of his father at the LNMB.
“We are deeply grateful to the Supreme Court for its decision to allow the burial of my father, former President Ferdinand E. Marcos, at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. Once again, the Supreme Court has taken a magnanimous act to uphold the rule of law,” Marcos Jr. said in a statement.
“We also would like to extend our sincerest gratitude to President Rodrigo Duterte as his unwavering commitment to this issue sustained us these past several months. Our family will forever be thankful for his kind gesture,” he said.
“It is our sincerest hope that this will lead the nation towards healing as we endeavor to move the country forward to give every Filipino a better life,” the statement added.
Duterte has not kept secret his friendship with the Marcoses. He said his father Vicente, who had served as governor of undivided Davao, served under Marcos as one of his cabinet members.
Duterte had earlier said he was not inclined to appoint Vice President Leni Robredo to a Cabinet post because he did not want to offend Marcos, Jr., who was second to Robredo in the vice presidential race. Robredo was later appointed to a Cabinet post. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)