No September burial at Libingan for Marcos – SC
Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - September 8, 2016 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court yesterday extended until Oct. 18 its order temporarily stopping the burial of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Taguig City that was supposedly set on Sept. 18.

SC spokesman Theodore Te announced at the conclusion of the two-session oral arguments on petitions against the Marcos burial by martial law victims that the status quo ante order, which was supposed to expire on Monday, was extended to allow the justices to resolve the case on merits.

The high tribunal initially issued the order last Aug. 23, effective for 20 days, to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Ricardo Visaya as the military had started preparations for the burial.

In oral arguments yesterday, Solicitor General Jose Calida defended before the high court President Duterte’s decision to allow Marcos’ burial at the heroes’ cemetery, saying the interment would not necessarily rewrite the nation’s history and make Marcos a hero.

Calida asked the SC to dismiss the petitions, arguing that Marcos, being a former president and duly recognized soldier and war veteran, should be entitled to interment at the heroes’ cemetery.

He said the Libingan was not exclusive for heroes as the name suggested because the national pantheon for presidents, national heroes and patriots under Republic Act 289 or the law providing for its construction did not so state.

Calida explained the decision of Duterte was not meant to pay tribute to Marcos as a hero but rather “accord him simple mortuary rites befitting a former president, commander-in-chief and soldier” through the military instead of state honors.

He stressed it was a campaign promise of the President, who won in the elections with over 16 million votes.

Calida also invoked the President’s authority under the Constitution and Revised Administrative Code to decide on political questions that would not involve any justiciable issue for the high court to resolve.

He said the controversy was “beyond ambit of judicial review” and warned that granting the petitions would be tantamount to an “intrusion upon executive power.”

“President Duterte decides to begin the long overdue healing of our nation and to exorcise the ghosts of enmity and bitterness that prevent us from moving forward. Unfortunately, the wisdom and propriety of President Duterte’s well-meaning desire to put a closure in this divisive issue has pinched the nerves of some who cannot forget their travails during the martial law era,” he lamented.

Calida pointed out that the late president Corazon Aquino and her successor Fidel Ramos used such residual power on this controversy during their respective terms.

He said Ramos overturned the decision of Aquino and allowed Marcos’ remains to return to the country from Hawaii where he died in 1989.

The Solicitor General also rebutted the point made by Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio in the first session of oral arguments last week that Marcos lost his privilege to be buried at the Libingan when he was “dishonorably discharged” and ousted by the historic EDSA people power revolution in 1986.

“Marcos was never dishonorably discharged from military service nor convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude. Dishonorable discharge (of a military officer) can only happen through court-martial,” Calida stressed.

Calida likewise told the SC that the government recognized Marcos both as a soldier and a war veteran, citing the benefits accorded to his widow.

He revealed that former first lady Imelda Marcos had been receiving P5,000 in monthly pension from the Philippine Veteran’s Office since April 1994 for being a surviving wife of a war veteran. She is also receiving P20,000 pension from the Armed Forces as widow of a Medal of Valor awardee.

But National Historical Commission head Serena Diokno also informed the court that the government has received a letter from the United States showing that Marcos did not receive such award.

In the same session, Commission on Human Rights chairman Chito Gascon argued that the decision to bury Marcos at the heroes’ cemetery reopened wounds from the martial law era and “retraumatized” victims of human rights violations during the dictator’s rule.

Gascon argued that reparations of martial law victims should not only involve monetary compensation but also “symbolic” ones, which should include a policy banning a hero’s burial for Marcos.

But Calida argued that the millions of votes garnered by Marcos’ son and former senator Ferdinand Jr. in the vice presidential polls last May could prove that there was no more trauma among the Filipino people from the martial law abuses.

Calida said what was traumatizing was when petitioners recounted their ordeals during the martial law era via individual testimonials during the oral arguments last week, which he said were not relevant to the legal issues at hand.

“I was surprised that during the last hearing, the victims were made to recall the horrors they experienced… There is a place for that but not here in the Supreme Court… I am human your honor, I can feel their pain. But making them recount their horrible experiences is a form of retraumatizing them,” he added.

Calida further said that the interment would have no effect on claims of human rights victims during martial law as well as pending cases against the Marcoses before the Sandiganbayan as confirmed in previous session by the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board and Office of the Ombudsman.

The SC concluded the oral arguments at 5 p.m. and ordered parties to file their respective memorandum in 20 days before resolving the case.

The petitioners said allowing the burial of Marcos at the heroes’ cemetery would violate RA 289 because he was no hero and RA 10368 or the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act.

Earlier, parties opposing and favoring the burial of Marcos at the heroes’ cemetery expressed hopes the SC would decide on the petitions before the planned interment on Sept. 18.

Renato Reyes Jr., secretary general of leftist group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), reiterated they would like the SC to favor the petitions against Marcos’ burial at the heroes’ cemetery because “not a single cent from government funds should be spent for” someone “proven to have stolen from the funds for the people.”

Meanwhile, the Movement for Filipino Ideology insisted that Marcos deserved to be buried at the Libingan as the Filipino people favored it, as seen in their vote for Duterte. – With Ghio Ong

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