The imminent interment of the remains of deposed President Ferdinand Marcos in the Heroes’ Cemetery, also known as the Libingan ng Mga Bayani, in conformity to President Rodrigo Duterte’s verbal instruction, has its opponents seeking for ways and means to prevent its execution. The opponents are utilizing whatever means, legal and extralegal, to persuade the President to reconsider his directive. Protest rallies have been held and will be held by family members of the human rights violations victims and their supporters in the hope that the plan would not push through.
For purposes of this column, I will focus on the legal arguments raised in the petition certiorari or prohibition now pending before the Supreme Court. The petition was filed by martial law victims led by Saturnino Ocampo to enjoin the execution of the Executive Department’s decision to allow the burial of the deposed President Marcos at the LNMB. Clearly, these petitioners, having suffered from the dictatorship, have standing and cause of action to file this case.
The public respondents are Rear Adm. Ernesto Enriquez, as Chief of Staff for Reservists and Retiree Affairs of the AFP, General Ricardo Visaya as chief of staff of the AFP, and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana. The heirs of Marcos are also included in the suit, represented by his widow Imelda Marcos.
Procedural issues aside, the petition alleges that the public respondents committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in allowing the burial. These are based on the following theses: First, existing laws prohibit the burial of President Marcos at the LNMB. Second, the disputed interment is contrary to public policy. Third, the disputed interment is contrary to the Constitution. Finally, the AFP regulations that allows the interment is contrary to the Constitution and Republic Act No. 289 and are therefore void.
On the petition’s first proposition, petitioners allege that while Marcos was a former president and a soldier who allegedly valiantly fought during WWII—a claim that is more a concocted self-serving and grandiose fable—the interment is contrary to law. Specifically, AFP Regulations G 161-373 is a listing of those entitled to be interred in the LNMB. It also clarifies that “those who have been dishonorably discharged, or personnel convicted of an offense involving moral turpitude, do not qualify for interment at the cemetery.” Moreover, public respondents who ordered and will cause the interment are not even members of the Board of National Pantheon as listed in Section 2 (c) of RA 289.
It is also argued that the planned burial is contrary to Republic Act No. 10368 or the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013. That law declared the martial law era a time of human rights excesses and abuse of power.
On the second proposition that the planned burial is contrary to public policy, petitioners argue that to be collectively ousted from office for moral decadence and depravity is dishonorable enough. Such political action by the Filipino is far, far greater than a judicial conviction for a crime that involves moral turpitude. The crimes of Marcos against the Filipinos and even against humanity are crimes against moral turpitude. Hence, public policy dictates that he should not be buried.
As to the third proposition, petitioners point out that public office is a public trust. Obviously, the plan by public respondents to give Marcos a hero’s burial is to give him a free ride to immortality and not the notoriety that a dictator and plunderer so richly deserves. Corruption is sanctioned and rewarded with this burial.
As always, I will leave it to the Supreme Court to decide the legality of actions of the executive or legislative branches of government. But morally and politically, I echo the words of my colleague from various Jesuit institutions: Institute of Social Order, John J. Carroll Institute of Church and Social Issues and Simbahang Lingkod Bayan:
“Burying the dictator in the Libingan ng mga Bayani buries human dignity by legitimizing the massive violations of human and civil rights, especially of the right to life, that took place under his regime.
Burying the dictator in the Libingan ng mga Bayani buries truth by perpetuating the myth of Marcos’s achievements as a leader, distorting the valuable lessons of history that we pass on to our young, and confusing them about what constitutes heroism.
Burying the dictator in the Libingan ng mga Bayani buries justice by justifying the shameless corruption of the dictator, his family, and the oligarchy of cronies he created. It violates the moral values we cherish as a nation by rewarding wrong and making it seem right.
Burying the dictator in the Libingan ng mga Bayani buries solidarity by denying the pain and anguish of the many victims of human rights violations and their families, the misery of the poor who suffered most under Marcos’s development policies, and the sacrifices of those who fought to restore the country’s fallen democratic institutions.
Burying the dictator in the Libingan ng mga Bayani buries peace by erasing the memory of the violence that his regime inflicted on our nation.
“Burying the dictator in the Libingan ng mga Bayani buries genuine empowerment by legitimizing the concentration of power in a single leader and the suppression of democratic rights and participation under his regime, and by negating the triumph of the empowered popular movement that unseated him.”
Burying the dictator in the Libingan ng mga Bayani will not heal our wounded country.
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