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SC: No Marcos burial in Libingan in next 20 days

Protesters light candles around stones with the names of victims of Martial Law during a rally to protest the burial of the late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Heroes Cemetery Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016, in suburban Quezon city northeast of Manila, Philippines. Various civic and anti-Marcos groups have revived their protests after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered Marcos' burial with full military honors next month. AP Photo/Bullit Marquez

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court yesterday temporarily stopped the government from proceeding with the burial of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City as ordered by President Duterte.

SC justices decided in regular session to grant immediate relief sought in five petitions against the burial and issued a status quo ante order enjoining the orders of the Department of National Defense and Armed Forces of the Philippines on Marcos’ interment.

In a press conference, SC spokesman Theodore Te said the status quo ante order is effective for 20 days or until Sept. 12. 

President Duterte vowed to comply with any directive from the Supreme Court.

“We’ll just follow,” Duterte said.

The order, which was directed to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and AFP chief of staff Gen. Ricardo Visaya, will lapse days before the scheduled burial on Sept. 18. The Court may, however, issue another order thereafter.

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The high court also decided to reset the oral arguments on the case from Aug. 24 to Aug. 31.

It also consolidated all six separate petitions filed by groups of martial law victims led by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, former Bayan Muna party-list representative Satur Ocampo, former Commission on Human Rights chair Etta Rosales, a group led by former senator Heherson Alvarez, a group of University of the Philippines students and former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao human rights chair Algamar Latiph.   

Petitioners had argued that the planned burial of the late dictator is “illegal and contrary to law, public policy, morals and justice.”

They alleged that allowing the burial of Marcos at the heroes’ cemetery would violate Republic Act No. 289 (law regulating the Libingan ng mga Bayani) and RA 10368 (Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act).

They argued that the burial would also violate the constitutional provision on state policies.

The DND and AFP as well as the Marcos family answered the petitions last Monday and asked the high court to dismiss the petitions. 

Solicitor General Jose Calida, who filed the comment for the DND and AFP, argued that the decision of President Duterte to allow a hero’s burial for Marcos is a valid exercise of his prerogative under the Constitution and the Administrative Code.

The Marcos family denied claims of human rights violations during the first three years of martial law. One of the petitioners, Lagman, yesterday hailed the order issued by the SC.

“We truly appreciate this development. The SC should look very keenly on this case,” Lagman told reporters in a news conference.  

Another opposition lawmaker, Akbayan party-list Rep. Tom Villarin, also lauded the decision.

“We laud the Supreme Court’s status quo ante order and we hope that after due proceedings, it will lead to a permanent injunction,” the neophyte party-list legislator said. 

Gabriela Women’s Party said in a statement that the SC’s issuance of a status quo ante order staying the scheduled burial of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani for the next 20 days is a welcome development.

Gabriela party-list Rep. Emmi de Jesus, one of the thousands of victims of human rights violations during martial law, said that the numerous petitions before the SC are “historically necessary to remind the nation of the horrors of a brutal dictatorship.”

Mayor Benjamin Sarmiento of San Juan, Ilocos Sur who was a former aide of the Marcos family, had reiterated his support for Duterte’s decision to bury the late president at the Libingan. 

Stating that Marcos’ burial is one of Duterte’s ways to bring peace to the country, Sarmiento, who first worked for the Marcoses in 1965 until he became a member of the Presidential Guard Battalion, said citizens should trust the good intentions of Duterte.

He said there is nothing wrong in allowing Marcos to have a space in the Libingan ng mga Bayani since he had served as a leader and president of the Philippines, adding in Filipino, “There is no perfect person. There is no perfect president.” 

He said that what happened to Marcos is a case of command responsibility for the wrongdoing that his subordinates did.

John Monterona, United Overseas Filipinos Worldwide (U-OFW), said overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) welcome the SC’s order to allow audio livestream of the oral arguments on the Marcos burial case.          

“The decision of the SC to live-stream the audio of the oral arguments would help the Filipinos, including us OFWs, to become clear and fully informed of the issue. Even the 10 million OFWs worldwide are divided on the issue,” Monterona noted.        

He said millions of Filipinos abroad are expected to follow the audio live-stream of the SC oral arguments.

Monterona said their group is against the burial of Marcos at the heroes’ cemetery.         

“It is not simply an issue of burying Marcos. It is an issue of whether we allow to bury the historical facts of the cruelties and atrocities committed by the Marcos regime against its own people. We won’t allow distortions of our history as a nation as we learned valuable lessons from the past to become a great nation of the future,” Monterona said. – With Delon Porcalla, Alexis Romero, Mayen Jaymalin, Artemio Dumlao

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