THE Supreme Court resolved the burial of former President Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani along political lines, citing the overwhelming acceptance by the electorate of President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign promise to allow the interment at the heroes’ cemetery.
Associate Justices Arturo Brion and Jose Perez, two of the nine magistrates who voted to uphold the legality of President Duterte’s order for the Marcos burial at LNMB, cited the results of the last national elections.
In their separate concurring opinions, Brion and Perez said the enormous support of Filipino voters to Duterte and Marcos’ son and namesake, former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., was very telling and relevant to the consideration by the Court in finding that the President did not commit grave abuse of discretion in allowing the burial.
Brion said the necessity of Marcos’ burial was a political question that had been decided by the President, with support from the Filipino electorate.
In the oral arguments on the case in September, Solicitor General Jose Calida argued that the burial of Marcos at LNMB was a campaign promise of President Duterte, who won the presidency with 16.6- million votes, under his platform of national reconciliation.
Perez agreed with Brion’s opinion, saying “a Libingan burial for Marcos was a promise made by Duterte, which promise was opposed by petitioners, in spite of which opposition, candidate was elected President.”
“All in all, the redemption of an election pledge and the policy which has basis in the result of the election, cannot be tainted with grave abuse of discretion,” Perez said.
Perez also considered the 14-million votes garnered by Marcos Jr. in the vice presidential race last May as an indication that the Filipinos have already moved forward from the Martial Law nightmare.
“Whether the policy of healing and reconciliation over and above the pain and suffering of the human rights victims is in grave abuse of discretion or not is answered by these evidently substantial Marcos votes during the fresh and immediately preceding national elections of 2016,” Perez noted.
Perez said he believes that this “Marcos vote” was “substantial enough to be a legitimate consideration in the executive policy formulation.”
“The election result is a showing that, while there may have once been, there is no longer a national damnation of President Ferdinand E. Marcos; that the ‘constitutionalization’ of the sin and personification is no longer of national acceptance,” Perez said.
Perez said petitioners presented to the Supreme Cout a political question “cloaked in legal garb” after they failed to prevail in opposing Duterte’s candidacy in the polls.
In its decision last Tuesday, the Supreme Court said the order of Duterte for the Marcos burial is well within his presidential power provided under Article VII, section 17 of the Constitution.
The ruling written by Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta held that Marcos possessed the qualifications to be interred at the Libingan as a “former president and commander-in-chief, a legislator, a secretary of national defense, a military personnel, a veteran and a Medal of Valor awardee.”
The Court ruled that there is no law prohibiting Marcos’ burial at LNMB.
It also rejected the claim of petitioners that Duterte’s decision was motivated by his debt of gratitude and payback to the Marcoses for supporting his presidential candidacy in the elections last May, saying they failed to establish factual basis for this.
Duterte on Wednesday told members of the Marcos family to proceed with the burial as he refused to take back his campaign promise amid strong opposition from critics and some allies.
Speaking to reporters before leaving for an official visit to Malaysia and Thailand, Duterte insisted that the abuses of the Marcos dictatorship—an issue raised by many of the critics of the burial “cannot be determined at this time” and has yet to be proven.
He said Marcos asked him in Tacloban if they could proceed.
“Oh yes, you can,” Duterte told him. “I’ve said it before. I will not take my word back.”
Despite attempts even by his Senate allies to get him to reconsider, Duterte stood firm on the burial.
“As I have said, as a lawyer, I stick by what the law says. The law says that soldiers and ex-presidents, if you die, as long as you’re a president, that’s where you’ll be buried,” he said.
By a vote of 9-5-1, the 15-member Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed consolidated petitions seeking to stop the burial of the late dictator at the heroes’ cemetery 27 years after he died in exile in Hawaii.
In denying the consolidated petition, the high court pointed out that Duterte is not bound by the 1992 agreement entered into between former President Fidel Ramos and the Marcos family to have the remains interred in Batac, Ilocos Norte.
The Court said that as incumbent President, Duterte has the right “to amend, revoke, or rescind political agreements entered into by his predecessor” and to come up with policies that he thinks will be effective in fulfilling his mandate.
Duterte tried to distanced himself when asked about the number of abuses committed during Marcos’ 14-year strongman rule, which saw thousands of people murdered, tortured and jailed and the nation’s coffers looted, claiming that the issue “has yet to be proven by a competent court.”
“Now the question about the dictatorship of Marcos is something that cannot be determined at this time,” he said. “It has to have history.”
“Just saying that the money was lost is altogether a different issue,” he added.
“But as far as the right and privilege to be buried sa Libingan ng mga Bayani, I simply follow the law,” he said. “There is nothing we can do about that.”
Duterte described the politically charged events leading to the downfall of the Marcoses in the 1980s as a “power struggle” of the “ruling political families in this country,” which is still unresolved up to this day.
Duterte also contended that things started to go awry during the dictatorship when Marcos “lost control of the governmental machinery because he got sick.”
The late strongman’s eldest daughter, Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos assured people yesterday that their family does not plan a grand state funeral.
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said the decision to allow Marcos to be buried in the heroes’ cemetery did not automatically make him a hero.
“It should be made clear, however, that the Supreme Court ruling does not make the former President a hero. What is clear from public sentiment is that he will remain a scoundrel to some and a hero to others,” said Panelo, a former stalwart of Marcoses’ Kilusang Bagong Lipunan.
“The truth is: heroes are heroes whether they are buried at the Libingan or under a pile of rocks; and ditto for scoundrels. It is each Filipino’s opinion of the former president, and not his final resting place, that will ultimately cement his status as hero or scoundrel,” he added.