THE Philippine Supreme Court on Tuesday gave President Rodrigo Duterte the go signal to proceed with the burial of former President and strongman Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes Cemetery).
Voting 9-5, the high tribunal brushed aside the petition of human rights groups and the victims of Marcos’ martial rule seeking the overturn of Pres. Duterte’s decision allowing the burial of the dictator at the LNMB. The petitioners claimed Marcos and his dictatorship was responsible for the deaths of at least 3,000 people, the incarceration of more than 70,000 and torture of at least 34,000 others.
The petitioners led by former Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Satur Ocampo said allowing the dictator to be buried at the LNMB violates Republic Act (RA) No. 289, “An Act Providing for the Construction of a National Pantheon for Presidents of the Philippines, National Heroes and Patriots of the Country,” is tantamount to the condonation of “abuses committed by the Marcos regime” and human rights violations during Martial Law; and a violation of a written agreement between the Philippine government, through former President Fidel Ramos, and the Marcos family on the interment of Marcos’ remains in Ilocos Norte; among others.
However, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) in its position paper, said there is no legal obstacle in burying the former head of state at the LNMB. It pointed out that:
– Marcos was, in life, a President, Commander-in-Chief, retired military veteran and Medal of Valor awardee, and thus, may be interred at the Libingan pursuant to [Armed Forces of the Philippines] Regulations G 161-375;
– Marcos, prior to his death, possessed none of the disqualifications from being interred at the Libingan, as stated in Armed Forces of the Philippines Regulations G 161-375;
– the recognition and reparation of human rights violations victims under Republic Act No. 10368 (An Act Providing for Preparation and Recognition of Victims of Human Rights Violations During the Marcos Regime) would not be impaired by the interment of former President Marcos at the Libingan;
– the interment of Marcos’ remains at the Libingan is not contrary to public policy;
– the interment of Marcos’ remains at the Libingan does not contravene the principles and policies enshrined in the 1987 Constitution;
– the interment of Marcos’ remains at the Libingan does not violate the Philippines’ obligations under International Law and norms; and
– the President is not bound by the alleged 1993 Agreement between former President Fidel V. Ramos and the Marcos family to have the remains of former President Marcos interred at Batac, Ilocos Norte.
Based on the AFP Regulation 161-375 issued in 2000, those qualified to be interred in the Libingan ng mga Bayani are Medal of Valor awardees, presidents or commanders in chiefs, secretaries of national defense, chiefs of staff, generals and flag officers of the AFP, active and retired military personnel to include draftees and trainees and Cafgu active auxiliary who died in combat operations, former members of the AFP who laterally entered or joined the Philippine Coast Guard and the Philippine National Police, veterans of Philippine revolution of 1890, World War I, World War II and recognized guerrillas, government dignitaries, statesmen, national artists and other deceased persons whose interment and re-internment has been approved by the commander in chief, Congress or the secretary of national defense.
Earlier, Pres. Duterte said he is allowing the burial of former Pres. Marcos at the LNMB because it is the law and he has no choice about it. He, however, added that he will leave the final decision concerning the legality of his decision with the Supreme Court.
Section 1 0f R.A. 289 states “To perpetuate the memory of all the Presidents of the Philippines, national heroes and patriots for the inspiration and emulation of this generation and of generations still unborn, there shall be constructed a National Pantheon which shall be the burial place of their mortal remains.”
The nine justices who voted in favor of Marcos’burial at the LNMB were Associate Justices Arturo Brion, Presbitero Velasco Jr, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Mariano del Castillo, Jose Perez, Teresita de Castro, Jose Mendoza, and Estela Perlas-Bernabe while Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, together with Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, and Associate Justices Marvic Leonen, Francis Jardaleza, and Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa dissented.
In the decision penned by Associate Justice Peralta, the high court said there was no grave abuse of discretion on the part of President Rodrigo Duterte when he ordered that the remains of Marcos be buried at LNMB because it was done in the exercise of his mandate under the 1987 Constitution.
“[There is] no clear constitutional or legal basis to hold that there was grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction which would justify the Court to interpose its authority to check and override an act entrusted to the judgment of another branch,” the high court said.
“At bar, President Duterte, through the public respondents acted within the bounds of law and jurisprudence. Notwithstanding the call of human rights advocates, the Court must uphold what is legal and just and that is not to deny Marcos his rightful place at the LNMB,” the high court said.
Duterte, the high court said, is not bound by the 1992 agreement between the Marcos family and former President Fidel Ramos which provides that the Marcos remains will be interred in Batac, Ilocos Norte.
“As the incumbent, President Duterte is free to amend, revoke or rescind political agreements entered into by his predecessors and to determine policies which he considers, based on informed judgment and presumed wisdom, will be most effective in carrying out his mandate,” the high court said.
While there are allegations of human rights violations committed by the former dictator, the high court said Marcos is still not disqualified to be buried at the LNMB because he has not been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude.
“(T)he various cases cited by petitioners, which were decided with finality by courts here and abroad, have no bearing in this case since they were merely civil in nature; hence, (they) cannot and do not establish moral turpitude,” the high court said.