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‘Feelings of victims irrelevant’

12:45 AM September 08, 2016

President Duterte’s move to have Ferdinand Marcos buried at Libingan ng mga Bayani is a political decision and does not consider the feelings of victims of human rights abuses under the dictator’s rule, the Supreme Court was told on Wednesday.

Solicitor General Jose Calida and Marcos lawyer Hyacinth Rafael-Antonio presented to the court the case for Marcos’ burial at Libingan in the second round of oral arguments on petitions by victims of martial law abuses opposing the move.

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Antonio told the magistrates that the “emotions and feelings of the victims have no relevance” to the case. He said the issue was simply whether Mr. Duterte committed grave abuse of discretion, adding that the victims of martial law abuses could seek remedies under other statutes.

Calida urged the court to set aside “epithets and ad hominem arguments,” and consider the “wisdom and propriety of the President’s well-meaning desire to put closure to this divisive issue.” He said “questions of policy and wisdom” were beyond the ambit of judicial review.

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On questioning by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, Calida said he was unaware that former first lady Imelda Marcos had sent a letter to Mr. Duterte requesting a hero’s burial for the dictator.

Leonen asked if the letter sought forgiveness for the dictator’s sins. “Before God forgives Christians, there should be a request for forgiveness,” he remarked.

Marcos seeking forgiveness is not relevant to the issue, Calida said. “What’s material is political wisdom and maturity.”

Status quo ante order

After eight hours, the court adjourned and ordered the lawyers—the petitioners presented their case last week—to submit their respective position papers in 20 days.

The court also extended its 20-day status quo ante order issued on Aug. 24 to Oct. 18.

Marcos, who ruled the Philippines for 20 years, 14 under martial law, was ousted in the People Power Revolution in 1986. He died in exile in Hawaii in 1989. The remains have been on display for 23 years in a glass coffin in his Batac, Ilocos Norte province, hometown. His family wants him buried at Libingan.

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Last week, the petitioners told the court that the burial of Marcos at Libingan would be a national tragedy; that it would glorify a tyrant and aggravate the injustices heaped on his victims.

Accomplished fact

Calida said the court had respected the decisions of past Presidents on the disposition of Marcos’ remains. “If the prerogatives of these former Presidents were respected by this honorable court, so must it be with President Duterte,” he said.

Justice Alfredo Benjamin  Caguioa questioned Calida if the burial of Marcos at Libingan would “retraumatize” his regime’s victims.

While he feels for them, Calida said, there are other venues for that pain to be expressed. “Making them recount their experience is also a form of retraumatization,” he replied.

Justice Francis Jardeleza asked if Duterte committed grave abuse of discretion by disregarding existing court rulings. Calida said the cases against Marcos were civil and not criminal.

Since the strongman died without being convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude, Calida said there was no reason to disqualify him from burial at Libingan under Armed Forces of the Philippines Regulation No. G161-375.

Citing the same rules, Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro noted that a Medal of Valor awardee like Marcos was entitled to a burial at Libingan.

She asked if there were rules that provided for the revocation of the medal.

 

Vox populi

Retired Brig. Gen. Restituto Aguilar, chief of the Veterans Memorial and Historical Division, said there were none.

Picking up on this interpellation, Calida said that “once it is awarded, it cannot be diminished or nullified, because it’s a fait accompli.”

But Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno railed against the repeated citation of the AFP rules, after Calida admitted that the awarding of a Medal of Valor to Marcos makes him effectively a war hero.

“You’re using AFP regulations to force upon this Court your definition of a hero,” she told Calida. “You are reducing us to a court that will legitimize everything due to a regulation by AFP.”

“Are our pronouncements so meaningless to you … that all of them will be set aside so you can justify under just an administrative issuance, just so the President can fulfill a promise made during his campaign?” Sereno asked.

The justices also zoomed in on Calida’s argument that Duterte was simply exercising his presidential discretion to fulfill his campaign promise to bury Marcos.

“The sovereign people responded, the vox populi is too definite to ignore,” Calida said.

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TAGS: Libingan ng mga Bayani, Marco burial, Nation, News, Solicitor General Jose Calida
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