Public Attention shifts to SC as justices rule on Marcos hero’s burial

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Public attention shifts back to the Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday as the justices are expected to resolve the issue on whether former President Ferdinand Marcos Sr. deserves a spot in the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

The voting will take place in the high tribunal’s weekly session, its first since taking a three-week break which pro- and anti-Marcos hero’s burial groups used to make public appeals to the justices to rule in their favor.

Fourteen out of 15 justices will decide on the matter since Associate Justice Bienvenido Reyes, who administered the oath of office to President Rodrigo Duterte on June 30, inhibited due to “close relations” with a party in the case.

At least eight votes are needed to block the burial that is being pushed by Duterte while those in favor only have to muster seven votes.

In case of a deadlock, Section 7, Rule 56 of the Rules of Court provides that the SC en banc shall deliberate on the case again.

If the voting remained the same after re-deliberation, the consolidated petitions against the planned hero’s burial for the late strongman are deemed denied.

Remember Martial Law victims

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Optimistic about their chances, Barry Gutierrez, counsel for one of the petitioners, hoped that the justices “remember the sacrifice of everyone who died fighting the Marcos dictatorship and decide against the Marcos burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.”

“It is our wish that the Supreme Court, as final arbiter of constitutionality, remember its history and spirit, and not reward the tyrant with a false and undeserved place in history,”  Gutierrez said in a statement.

Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos, a daughter of the late strongman, also expressed confidence about a favorable outcome.

“Legally, we are very confident. On the other hand, there are so many political aspects to this case and we should be mindful and prayerful,” she told reporters on the eve of the SC deliberations.

Marcos was supposed to be interred in the heroes’ cemetery on September 18, but the SC halted the defense department’s preparations for the burial through a status quo ante order (SQAO) to give way for thorough deliberations, including oral arguments, on the case.

Issued on August 23, the stay order has been extended twice and is due to expire on Tuesday.

Burial won’t make Marcos hero

Petitioners had argued that Marcos was no hero, citing his dubious record as a war soldier and massive human rights violations and corruption that tainted his 20-year rule.

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They also said that the Libingan burial violates the law giving compensation to Martial Law victims and the 1992 agreement between former President Fidel Ramos and the Marcos family to allow the return of the former president’s body to the Philippines but to have it buried in his home province of Ilocos Norte.

The petitioners, some of them claiming to be human rights victims during Martial Law, also said the burial will reopen the wounds of the dictatorial rule, where thousands had been killed, tortured and disappeared for opposing Marcos.

The government, however, said there is no law prohibiting Marcos from being buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, a cemetery reserved for soldiers, former presidents, national artists and statesmen, and that it is within Duterte’s power and prerogative to allow the burial.

“The interment of the remains of former President Marcos does not and will not make him a hero,” the Office of Solicitor General (OSG) said in its comment submitted to the high court.

“On the contrary, the interment of his remains at the Libingan was due to the fact that the late Ferdinand Marcos was a former President of the Republic, statesman and soldier, whose remains may be and are to be interred at the Libingan.”

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A World War II veteran, Marcos was also neither dishonorably discharged nor convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude despite his ouster from office through a People Power revolt in 1986, according to the government.

The government also said the petitioners’ claims for compensation as human rights victims are “distinct and separate from, and cannot in any way be connected to, the intended burial” because the process of vetting their claims under Republic Act 10368 is still ongoing.

Lastly, the government said the burial will promote national healing and closure to one of the most contentious chapters of the nation’s history, a belief shared by the Marcos family and their supporters who held an overnight vigil in front of the high court ahead of Tuesday’s vote.

Marcos died while on exile in Hawaii in 1989.

His remains, brought home in September 1993, lie inside a glass coffin and on public display at the Marcos Museum and Mausoleum in Batac, Ilocos Norte.

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