THE remains of former President Ferdinand Marcos can now be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani after the Supreme Court on Tuesday junked seven petitions seeking to stop the burial.
Voting 9-5, with one abstention, the Court dismissed the consolidated petitions seeking to stop the decision of President Rodrigo Duterte to allow the Marcos burial at the heroes’ cemetery, 27 years after his death.
Court spokesman Theodore Te said the justices found no grave abuse of discretion on the part of President Duterte in granting the plea of the Marcos family to bury the former leader at the cemetery for soldiers and former presidents.
“There is no law that prohibits the burial,” Te said as he read a summary of the verdict and hundreds of Marcos supporters outside the court cheered.
The majority decision written by Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta said: “President Duterte…acted within the bounds of law and jurisprudence. Notwithstanding the call of human rights advocates, the Court must uphold what is legal and just.”
With the ruling, the tribunal lifted its status quo ante order on the burial.
Te said there was no abuse of discretion on the part of the President, because he was exercising his mandate under Article VII, Section 17 of the 1987 Constitution.
Those who concurred with Peralta’s ruling were Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco, Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Arturo Brion, Lucas Bersamin, Mariano del Castillo, Jose Perez, Jose Mendoza and Estela Perlas-Bernabe.
Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, along with Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, Francis Jardeleza and Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa dissented, while Associate Justice Bienvenido Reyes inhibited himself.
Te said the petitioners may still file a motion for reconsideration.
In denying the consolidated petition, the 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.
The Court also recognized the President’s power under the Administrative Code to reserve for public use and for any specific public purpose any of the lands of the public domain.
“The majority found that the allotment of a cemetery plot at the LNMB for former President Marcos 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, whether recognizing his contributions or simply his status as such, satisfies the public use requirement,” Te said, in a press briefing.
The Court also held that the petitioners failed to back their claims that Duterte was motivated by debt of gratitude and payback to the Marcoses for their support in the last elections.
“As the purpose is not self-evident, petitioners have the burden of proof to establish the factual basis of their claim. They failed. Even so, this Court cannot take cognizance of factual issues since we are not a trier of facts,” the Court said.
While petitioners may disregard Marcos as president and commander-in-chief due to his human rights abuses, the Court said he cannot be denied the right to be acknowledged as a legislator, a secretary of National Defense, a military personnel, a war veteran and a Medal of Valor awardee.
“We agree with the proposition that Marcos should be viewed and judged in his totality as a person. While he was not all good, he was not pure evil either. Certainly, just a human who erred like us,” the Court said.
The tribunal also did not give credence to the arguments of the petitioners that Marcos was disqualified from burial at the LNMB because he had been convicted of crimes involving moral turpitude.
In fact, the Court noted Marcos was not convicted by final judgment of any offense involving moral turpitude.
While the petitioners cited various cases which were decided with finality by local and foreign courts, the Court said these have no bearing on the issue since these cases were merely civil in nature and do not establish moral turpitude.
The seven petitions that were junked were filed by groups of Martial Law victims led by former Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Satur Ocampo, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman and former Commission on Human Rights chairwoman Etta Rosales; a group led by former senator Heherson Alvarez; a group of University of the Philippines students; and former Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao human rights chairman Algamar Latiph; and Senator Leila de Lima.
Petitioners argued that the planned burial of the late dictator is “illegal and contrary to law, public policy, morals and justice.”
Former Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., son of the late strongman, welcomed the ruling, describing it as “a magnanimous act to uphold the rule of law.”
“We also would like to extend our sincerest gratitude to President Rodrigo Duterte as his unwavering commitment to this issue sustained us these past several months. Our family will forever be thankful for his kind gesture,” Marcos Jr. said.
“It is our sincerest hope that this will lead the nation towards healing as we endeavor to move the country forward to give every Filipino a better life,” he added.
Marcos ruled the Philippines for two decades until 1986, when millions of people took to the streets in a “People Power” revolution that forced him and his family into US exile.
Government investigators and historians say Marcos, his wife Imelda, and their cronies plundered up to $10 billion from state coffers during his rule.
The dictator also oversaw widespread human rights abuses to maintain his control of the country and enable his plundering, with thousands of people killed and tortured, previous governments said.
Anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International in 2004 named Marcos the second most corrupt leader of all time.
Marcos died in Hawaii in 1989 and his family had since tried to have him buried at the heroes’ cemetery, where other presidents and celebrated military figures are interred.
The family has enjoyed a remarkable political comeback that saw his son and namesake become a senator, then almost win the vice presidency this year.
However, previous presidents had refused to allow the burial because of Marcos’s crimes, and the preserved body had been kept in a glass casket at his home in the northern province of Ilocos Norte.
The family’s fortunes changed with the election of Duterte, a longtime ally of the Marcos family, as president in May this year.
He said Marcos deserved to be buried at the heroes’ cemetery based simply on the fact he had been a president and a veteran of World War II.
Duterte also said he owed loyalty to the family because his father served in the Marcos government and the family had helped to fund his election campaign. With AFP