FM Libingan burial up to SC

The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Only the Supreme Court can stop Ferdinand Marcos’ burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, Malacañang said, as it vowed to comply with whatever is decided by the high court on a petition for a restraining order filed yesterday by martial law victims.

“Since there is already a petition in the Supreme Court, as we said, we welcome a petition, we welcome any opposition. Let the court decide as to the validity. We will respect whatever the decision of the Supreme Court,” chief presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo told reporters.

In a 30-page petition, martial law victims led by former Bayan Muna party-list representatives Satur Ocampo and Neri Colmenares sought a temporary restraining order enjoining the Armed Forces from proceeding with Marcos’ burial next month at the Libingan as approved by President Duterte.

Petitioners also asked the high court to declare as null and void the memorandum issued by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana last Aug. 7 as well as the directive of AFP chief of staff Gen. Ricardo Visaya for the interment of Marcos at the Libingan, as such burial is “illegal and contrary to law, public policy, morals and justice.”

Petitioners, including members of the Samahan ng Ex-detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA), argued that allowing the Libingan burial of the former leader would violate Republic Act No. 289 (law regulating the Libingan ng mga Bayani) and RA 10368 (Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act).

They said the Libingan was built under RA 289 “to perpetuate the memory of all presidents of the Philippines, national heroes and patriots for the inspiration and emulation of this generation and of the generations still unborn.”

They argued that the law “only allows the burial of a president or soldier worthy of public inspiration and emulation.”

“The burial of Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani simply mocks and taunts Section 1 of RA 289,” read the petition filed through the National Union of People’s Lawyers.

Petitioners further argued the burial would violate RA 10368, which recognizes the massive human rights violations during martial law under the Marcos regime and gives the government the moral and legal obligation to recognize such violations and provide reparation to victims.

Ocampo and the other petitioners also said the planned burial would be contrary to public policy, citing historical records during the dictatorship of Marcos.

They said Marcos “should not be emulated and cannot serve as an inspiration to this generation and to the next generation of Filipinos.”

They recalled the arrest of more than 50,000 people during the first three years of martial law. Thousands more were tortured, summarily executed and made to disappear also during the Marcos regime.

Furthermore, the petitioners said Marcos’ ouster in a military-backed civilian uprising in February 1986 is enough justification to disqualify him from interment at the Libingan.

“To be collectively ousted from office for moral decadence and depravity is dishonorable enough and such political action by the Filipino is far, far greater than a judicial conviction for a crime that involves moral turpitude,” they pointed out.

Petitioners stressed a Libingan burial for Marcos would also violate constitutional provision on state policies.

They cited Article II Section 27 (Declaration of Principles and State Policies State Policies), which provides that the “state shall maintain honesty and integrity in the public service and take positive and effective measures against graft and corruption” and also Article XI Section 1 (Accountability of Public Officers), which provides that “public officers and employees must at all times be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty and efficiency, act with patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives.”

“For how can such honesty and integrity be promoted and defended when a dishonest and disgraced public official, such as Ferdinand E. Marcos, after his removal from power, can snatch respect and thereby rewrite not only history but his culpability via the backdoor of declaring and celebrating him a hero?” the petition stated.

The petitioners also questioned the claim that Marcos had served as a soldier during World War II, citing a study conducted by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) showing lack of historical basis for such claim.

As alternative, petitioners cited the 1993 agreement between then president Fidel Ramos and the Marcos family for the burial of the late strongman in Ilocos Norte.

The filing of the petition yesterday came a day after hundreds held a rally in Rizal Park to protest Duterte’s allowing a hero’s burial for Marcos, which is one of his campaign promises.

Marcos died in exile in Hawaii three years after fleeing the country following the 1986 People Power Revolution.

Duterte said Marcos deserved a spot at the Libingan because he was a president and a soldier during World War II.

No to FVR deal

Panelo, meanwhile, said Duterte will not honor the agreement between the Marcos family and Ramos on an Ilocos Norte burial for Marcos.

He said the agreement applies only to its signatories and does not bind the Duterte administration.

“Assuming that there is an agreement, it does not bind the President because it was entered into by a previous president. The President has the discretion to either uphold it or change it, alter or modify it,” he stressed.

Earlier, former interior secretary Rafael Alunan, who was among the signatories to the agreement between the Marcoses and Ramos, said the accord remains binding.

The agreement listed at least four conditions – Marcos’ body would be flown straight from Hawaii to Ilocos Norte; the late president and dictator would be given honors befitting a major that was Marcos’ last rank in the Armed Forces of the Philippines; the body would not be paraded around Metro Manila as it may result in violence and it would not be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

Alunan alleged that Marcos had wanted to be buried beside the grave of his mother Josefa Edralin-Marcos in Batac, Ilocos Norte.

“From what I gathered from the explanation of Raffy Alunan, that was done because (of) the circumstances at that time… Which means that those (conditions) would need to be imposed if only to allow the return. It was so fresh in the minds of people then,” Panelo said. He argued that circumstances are now different.

“Because we have given the authority to the President to bury the late president Marcos. And that authority is predicated on the overwhelming landslide win, given the fact that during the campaign, he repeatedly said that these are the things that he would do as president – one of which is to bury the late president Marcos, to put closure to this issue,” Panelo pointed out.

The election of Duterte, in effect, is an affirmation of the promises he made during the campaign, he added.

Panelo also stressed that, even assuming that the agreement is still valid, Duterte’s decision to allow the burial now has superseded the accord.

He also disagreed with the viewpoint of Sen. Grace Poe that burying Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani is in conflict with the law.

“Not necessarily, because the law is precisely silent on that. If the intention of the legislature was to disallow the burial, then it would have said so in that law. But it does not. What it says is that it recognizes the sufferings of the victims,” Panelo argued.

Although Panelo understands the viewpoint of those opposing the burial and recognizing the sufferings they went through during martial law, he said critics failed to come up with a law that prohibits the burial of Marcos at the heroes’ cemetery when they could have done so during previous administrations.

He added he does not know if the President would attend Marcos’ burial.

Never a hero

Sen. Francis Pangilinan maintained Marcos was not a hero and therefore does not deserve to be buried at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani.

“If he’s a hero, why was he ousted in 1986? Why were $4.5 billion in ill-gotten wealth recovered? He should not be emulated or be a source of inspiration,” Pangilinan said.

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV said the Marcos burial issue is a headache Duterte does not need.

“Maybe he (Duterte) wants to show he can impose his will by virtue of his popularity… that could be whimsical but this is what appears to be happening,” he said.

“He can see up to where this will go but for me he doesn’t need to test and waste political capital this early. He’ll end up problematic,” he added.

Sen. Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, for his part, has filed a resolution calling for an inquiry to determine the status of education on martial law in basic and tertiary education.

“There’s so much erroneous information in the Internet about martial law. We must find out how martial law is being taught in schools and ensure that only the truth prevails,” he said.

Aquino, chairman of the Senate committee on education, stressed that younger generations must be “made aware of the horrors of martial law, considered as the darkest years in Philippine history.”

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