THE Supreme Court (SC), in a vote of 9-5-1, on Tuesday paved the way for the burial of the late strongman Ferdinand E. Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (LNMB) in Taguig City, 27 years after his death.
SC Spokesman Theodore O. Te said the majority of 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 late dictator at the LNMB. The Court denied all the seven petitions earlier filed questioning the legality of Duterte’s order allowing Marcos’s burial at the LNMB.
Te announced that the Court also lifted the status quo ante order (SQA) it earlier issued to stop Duterte from ordering the remains of Marcos to be buried at the LNMB.
Te explained that the SC found that the President committed no grave abuse of discretion in ordering the remains of the former President be buried in the LNMB, because this was done in the exercise of his mandate under Article VII, Section 17 of the 1987 Constitution.
“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 jus…. And not to deny Marcos his rightful place at the LNMB,” the Court said in a decision written by Associate Justice Diosdado M. Peralta.
Concurring with the decision were Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco, Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Arturo Brion, Lucas Bersamin, Mariano del Castillo, Jose Perez, Jose Mendoza and Estela Perlas-Bernabe. Those who dissented from the majority decision were Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, Francis Jardeleza and Alfredo Benjamin Caguiao.
Associate Justice Bienvenido Reyes recused from the case.
Te said the justices did not say if the ruling was immediately executory, and said the petitioners may still file a motion for reconsideration. In addition, the SC explained that Duterte is not bound by the 1992 agreement entered into by former President Fidel V. Ramos and the Marcos family to have the remains interred in Batac, Ilocos Norte.
The Court pointed out 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.
Likewise, the Court 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.
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 in allowing the late strongman’s burial at the LNMB.
“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 ruled.
“While petitioners may disregard Marcos as President and Commander in Chief owing 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 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 added.
The Court 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 that were decided with finality by local and foreign courts, the SC 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 Party-list Rep. Satur Ocampo of Bahay Muna, Liberal Party Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay and former Commission on Human Rights Chairman Loretta Ann Rosales; a group led by former Sen. Heherson Alvarez; a group of University of the Philippines students; and former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Commission on Human Rights Chairman Algamar Latiph; and Sen. Leila de Lima. In a nutshell, petitioners argued that the planned burial of the late dictator is “illegal and contrary to law, public policy, morals and justice.” Former Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., son of the late strongman, immediately welcomed the SC 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 toward healing, as we endeavor to move the country forward to give every Filipino a better life,” he added.
Lawmakers, meanwhile, welcomed the SC decision allowing the burial of Marcos at the LNMB. Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, PDP-Laban Rep. Alfredo Benitez of Negros Occidental, Lakas Rep. Danilo Suarez of Quezon, Party-list Rep. Lito Atienza of Buhay and United Nationalist Alliance Rep. Toby Tiangco of Navotas City in separate statements, said it is time for the nation to move on and set aside animosities caused by the Marcos burial issue.
“The rule of law prevailed over partisan emotions,” Alvarez said.
For his part, Visayan bloc leader Benitez said, “Let’s move on. Let history be the judge of the person not the place of burial.”
House Minority Leader Suarez said, “It’s about time that we allow the burial of former President Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. Let us bury emotions, once and for all.”
Atienza asked the public to respect the Court’s decision.
“Now that the SC has spoken, we hope everyone respects the decision. It’s about time we bury Marcos wherever the family want him to be buried,” he added. Tiangco said, “I have always been consistent in saying that we should always respect the wisdom of the ruling of the Supreme Court at all times.”
For his part, House Appropriations Committee Chairman and National Unity Party Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles of Davao City said the SC’s 9-5 decision favoring the burial of Marcos should put to rest all legal questions pertaining to his burial at the LNMB and allow time to heal the wounds that divided so many people because of the Marcos issue.
Nograles said the time has come for Filipinos to set aside personal feelings regarding the Marcos burial issue and work together in nation-building.
“We should stop wallowing in the past and start looking forward to our future. The Supreme Court has spoken about the Marcos burial issue, and we should accept its decision. The President was found not to have committed any grave abuse of discretion, but was only inspired by national unity and reconciliation. No law prohibits the Marcos burial in LNMB. As the President has always said, ‘Let us all just follow the law’”, Nograles added.
“This pro-Marcos and anti-Marcos political division should now be a thing of the past. What we need to do is to rally behind our present government to ensure the success of this growing national movement to create a better and more independent Philippines,” Nograles said. Lagman, however, said he is set to file motions for reconsideration for a reversal of the SC decision.
“While I respect the decision of the Supreme Court, I am puzzled to no end why the majority of the Court would allow the burial of a judicially and historically confirmed despot, plunderer and transgressor of human rights in the Libingan ng mga Bayani,” he said.
“Pending resolution of the motions for reconsideration, the Supreme Court needs to reissue or extend the status quo ante order against the Marcos burial in the Libingan ng mga Bayani to prevent the case from being rendered academic by a precipitate Marcos internment and to accord due respect to the final decision of the Supreme Court,” he added.
With Jovee Marie N. dela Cruz