OSG: Burial for Marcos at LNMB won’t make him a hero
MANILA — The Office of the Solicitor-General defended, on Monday, the plan to bury dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, claiming the interment of his remains there would not confer upon him the status of a “hero.”
Even as the government acknowledged the “dark pages of history during Martial Law,” the Marcos family in its separate comment flatly denied human rights violations raised by the petitioners and other people “in general.”
Although the Supreme Court’s deadline for the Philippine government and the Marcos family to respond to the petitions was on Monday morning, two more groups added to the legal challenges and brought the number to a total of five so far.
In an 86-page comment before the high court, the OSG said President Rodrigo R. Duterte and other government officials “are not attempting to re-write our nation’s history.”
“The interment of the remains of former President Marcos does not and will not make him a hero,” the comment read. “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.”
The OSG argued that the petitioners misappplied Republic Act No. 289 to the LNMB.
The petitions claimed Marcos should not be buried in the LNMB because R.A. 289 reserved it for heroes and patriots worthy of “inspiration and emulation” by succeeding generations.
The OSG, however, disagrees and has stated in its response that the LNMB is not the National Pantheon referred to by that law. It claimed that cemetery was supposed to be erected along East Avenue, Quezon City, although it has not materialized so far.
As the National Pantheon law did not cover the LNMB, the OSG argued that the heroes’ cemetery in Taguig City was not actually reserved for heroes.
“Despite the name, ‘Libingan ng mga Bayani,’ the long history of said cemetery tells us that its purpose has neither been to confer the people buried therein with the title of ‘hero’ nor to require that only those buried therein should be treated as ‘heroes,'” the comment read.
In order “to quell any doubts,” the OSG said the interment at the LNMB would not confer the status of a hero upon Marcos, noting that “as it is written now, Philippine history is on the side of… everyone who fought and died for democracy.”
“No amount of heartfelt eulogy, gun salutes, holy anointment, and elaborate procession and rituals can transmogrify the dark pages of history during Martial Law,” the comment read.
Even as it claimed that the burial would not make Marcos a hero, the OSG defended the choice of President Rodrigo R. Duterte for being well within his powers under the Constitution and the Administrative Code.
It described Marcos as “a former president and soldier” who was also qualified for burial at the LNMB under Armed Forces of the Philippines Regulations G 161-375.
“In the exercise of his powers under the Constitution and the Administrative Code, President Duterte, in his wisdom, deems it appropriate to inter the remains of former President Marcos in a parcel of land of the public domain devoted for the purpose of being a military shrine, and recognize his being a former President, a Medal of Valor Awardee, a member of the retired military personnel, and a war veteran,” the comment read.
Besides his recognition as a retired army personnel, the OSG also cited the Medal of Valor awarded to him in October 1968 (when he was already President) for preventing the decimation of withdrawing troops amid the looming fall of Bataan during World War II.
The OSG argued that prior to his death, Marcos did not possess any disqualification under AFP Regulations G 161-375, as he was neither dishonorably discharged, nor was he ever actually convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude.
It noted the questions surrounding the veracity of Marcos’ other military distinctions, but pointed out the Medal of Valor was never revoked.
The petitioners had cited the National Historical Commission of the Philippines’ study that questioned Marcos’ military accomplishments. But, the OSG gave more weight to official records, and said that while the NHCP study was exhaustive, it was “nonetheless incomplete with respect to his entire military career.”
Although it used primary sources, the NHCP failed to cite and include the AFP’s official records, according to the OSG. Because of this, it reminded the historical body “to remain objective and faithful in their statement and interpretation of historical facts.”
“This goes without saying that they should not neglect to provide a complete depiction of former President Marcos’ military career, lest they be accused of bias and prejudice,” the comment read.
Likewise, the OSG argued that Marcos was never convicted of any crime involving moral turpitude.
The petitioners cited the civil suit for compensation won before the Hawaii District Court, as well as a contempt suit before the United States Court of Appeals and a Swiss case for the recovery of alleged ill-gotten wealth to the government.
But, the OSG said that “the cited foreign jurisprudence have no bearing” in the issue of his burial, and the abovementioned civil cases did not indicate a conviction of a crime.
Marcos’ burial at the LNMB would not violate the “anti-dictatorship” 1987 Constitution, and the country’s obligations under international agreements on human rights, the OSG claimed. For one, it cited the Charter’s silence regarding Marcos’ burial.
“It is simply not the purpose of a constitution to determine how and where the mortal remains of a person should be buried,” the comment read.
Lastly, the OSG claimed that the Ramos administration’s agreement for the Marcoses to bury his remains in his hometown of Batac City, Ilocos Norte, did not bind the current government.
“It is doctrinal that incumbent Presidents are free to determine policies which they believe will be most effective in carrying out their mandate,” the comment read.
The OSG also said the petitions did not pose a justiciable issue, or a matter that must be raised before the courts.
It said the Supreme Court should not pass upon petitions “political” in nature. The claim that Marcos could not be interred in a cemetery reserved only for the decent and the brave “readliy reveals the political, and, hence, non-justiciable nature of their petitions,” it argued.
“It is concerned with issues dependent upon the wisdom, not legality, of a particular measure,” the comment read.
According to the OSG, the petitioners, who were identified as victims of atrocities under the Marcos regime, do not have the legal standing to question his impending interment.
The OSG said their claims for compensation as human rights violations victims (HRVVs) were “distinct and separate” from the burial plan. “The undeniable fact is that they will not sustain any legal injury by virtue of the former President’s remains being buried at the said military shrine,” it said.
On the basis of these arguments, the OSG asked the high court to deny the petitions for “fatal procedural infirmities and utter lack of merit.”
Meanwhile, the heirs of Marcos were represented by former First Lady and incumbent Ilocos Norte Second District Rep. Imelda R. Marcos in the cases before the Supreme Court.
Their 12-page comment described the human rights violations under the Marcos regime as allegations “irrelevant” to the issue of his burial.
“Allegations of the human rights [sic] personally experienced by petitioners and of others, in general, after the declaration of Martial Law on September 21, 1972, and for three years thereafter are denied,” the comment read.
Attacking the petitioners’ legal standing to question the burial, the comment said their claims to being victims of abuses were mere “allegations” that should not be assumed as facts but should be backed up with evidence too.
The comment also countered that the petitions failed to show how his burial would affect their claims for reparation.
The Marcos family likewise cited his presidency and his track record in the military as basis for his burial in the LNMB.
Although the comments were ordered submitted on Monday morning, two more petitions followed the three already filed last week and scheduled for oral arguments this Wednesday.
The fourth batch of petitions consist of members of the academe who joined Ninoy Aquino Movement founding chairperson and 1971 Constitutional Commission delegate Heherson T. Alvarez.
Other petitioners include: director Joel C. Lamangan, businessman Francis X. Manglapus, former Education secretary Edilberto C. de Jesus, columnist Belinda O. Cunanan, former National Commission for Culture and the Arts executive director Cecilia Guidote-Alvarez, Futuristics Society of the Philippines member Rex Degracia Lores, Sister Arnold Maria Noel, Carlos Manuel, University of Santo Tomas political science professor Edmund S. Tayao, Movement Against Political Dynasties chairman Danilo P. Olivares, actor Noel F. Trinidad, Jesus dela Fuente, lone witness to Ninoy Aquino assassination Rebecca M. Quijano, Fr. Benigno Beltran, SVD, social activist Roberto S. Verzola, former Ninoy Aquino Movement International secretary-general Augusto A. Legasto, Jr., and Julia Kristina P. Legasto.
Meanwhile, youth group Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan (SPARK) filed the fifth petition against the burial plans.
In a statement, SPARK noted that millennials have been often blamed for the return of the Marcoses to power.
“For us long as civil liberties and human rights are being threatened or being trampled upon, the idealistic youth must lend its intellect, its talent and time in order to achieve social justice with social progress,” said SPARK spokesperson Joanne Lim. SFM
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