During the 2016 campaign, lameduck President Benigno Aquino III urged voters not to elect then-Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., who was running for vice president. Aquino warned that electing the son will resurrect the authoritarian government of the father.
Despite Aquino’s nationwide hate campaign, Bongbong got millions of votes, enough to land him in first place during the first three days of the election tally, and onward until the Commission on Elections and its controversial foreign contractor tampered with the counting machines.
The millions of voters who supported Bongbong at the polls not only gave him their blessings for his quest for higher office; they also repudiated the martial law bogeyman—the scarecrow repeatedly used by the Aquinos to instigate continuing public scorn and hatred for the Marcoses.
President Ferdinand Marcos may have stepped down from office in February 1986 unceremoniously, but soon thereafter, the Filipino people reinstated his family to power. Former first lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos has repeatedly won congressional seats. Eldest daughter Imee leads her dad’s Ilocos Norte. Bongbong was elected senator. From this perspective alone, whatever anti-Marcos sentiment there was in the Philippines in 1986 has been extremely diluted today.
The anti-Marcos petitioners contesting President Marcos’ burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani insist that Marcos was a criminal who plundered the nation’s wealth—enough reason, they say, to stop the burial. They cite several decisions of the Supreme Court which contain passages that label the former president and his martial law regime as corrupt and abusive.
Their argument has a flaw—there is no Philippine court decision on record which convicted President Marcos for the crimes the anti-Marcos petitioners now attribute to him. The Constitution mandates that every person is, in the absence of a final criminal conviction, presumed innocent. Therefore, to insist otherwise, as the anti-Marcos petitioners want to, is to violate the Constitution. That makes the Marcos accusers violators of the fundamental law.
Indeed, there are statements in past decisions of the Supreme Court which do not put President Marcos and his strongman administration in a very good light. Those statements, however, were made in civil (not criminal) cases decided while Marcos was stranded in Hawaii, or had already passed away there. Where is the fairness in those statements?
For the record, President Marcos wanted to leave Hawaii and go home to the Philippines to face the music, but President Corazon Aquino refused to give him a passport, a refusal sustained by the Supreme Court. This deprived Marcos of his right to defend himself. Thus, it is unfair for the anti-Marcos petitioners to invoke those cases against Marcos.
Anti-Marcos remarks in past decisions of the Supreme Court, made while President Marcos was stuck in Hawaii, or had already died there, cannot take the place of the requisite final judgment by a Philippine court, rendered after due trial, finding Marcos guilty of the crimes attributed to him. There being no conviction by final judgment that may be cited against Marcos, the criminal label against him is in violation of due process.
The anti-Marcos petitioners may argue that it is not their fault that Marcos died in Hawaii before he could be accused of and convicted for crimes he allegedly committed against his country and his people. It’s not Marcos’ fault, either. Remember, Marcos wanted to return to the Philippines but Mrs. Aquino did not permit his repatriation.
Republic Act No. 10368, enacted in 2013 (long after President Marcos passed away) calls for the payment of reparations to persons who allegedly suffered during the martial law years. It does not prohibit Marcos’ burial at the Libingan.
Even if Republic Act No. 10368 were to contain a provision categorically declaring Marcos a criminal and prohibiting his burial at the Libingan for that reason, that provision is unconstitutional because it amounts to class legislation, and convicts an individual without a prior trial.
Whether or not regulations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines regarding burials at the Libingan are binding on the Supreme Court is immaterial. President Duterte is the commander-in-chief of the AFP, and he has the discretion to amend AFP regulations any time. His recent decision to allow the Marcos burial at the Libingan repeals all prior AFP regulations. As such, and as stated in last week’s column, the only issue to be resolved in the anti-Marcos petitions in the Supreme Court is whether or not President Duterte committed a grave abuse of his discretion when he allowed the Marcos burial at the Libingan. From all indications discussed in this column, President Duterte did not commit a grave abuse of discretion.
Finally, it is speculative to say that President Marcos was dishonorably discharged from office by the Filipino people in the so-called 1986 Edsa Revolution.
First, stories about the events which led to the 1986 Edsa Revolution were written by Aquino allies. Those stories praised the event as a bloodless revolt, but failed to mention that the event was bloodless precisely because President Marcos refused to use military force on the people assembled at Edsa. The television coverage of the event reveals that Marcos rejected the idea of hurting his own people, despite his trusted generals’ repeated insistence that violence is the only feasible way to disperse the people.
Second, the less than one million people who went to Edsa in February 1986 are a mere fraction of the millions more who voted for the Marcoses in elections held after 1986. Evidently, the present has disavowed the past.
Hopefully, when the time comes for the Supreme Court to rule on the Marcos burial issue, the high tribunal will confine the issue to whether or not President Duterte acted arbitrarily in allowing President Marcos to be buried at the Libingan, dismiss the anti-Marcos petitions, and let justice be done though the heavens fall.