SC: ‘No grave abuse of discretion’ by Duterte on Marcos burial
The Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed the hero’s burial for the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, ruling that President Rodrigo Duterte did not commit grave abuse of discretion in ordering Marcos’ interment at the heroes’ cemetery. Junking all petitions against Duterte’s directive with a vote of 9-5, the high tribunal maintained that no law prohibits Marcos’ burial at Libingan, and that President Duterte “acted within the bounds of law and jurisprudence.”
The ponente of the decision denying the petitions is Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta. Here’s a summary of the decision as released by the SC public information office.
The ponente, in his concluding statement, noted by way of summary that:
“…(there is ) no clear constitutional or legal basis to hold that there was grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction which would justify the Court to interpose its authority to check and override an act entrusted to the judgment of another branch. Truly, the President’s discretion is not totally unfettered. ‘Discretion is not a free-spirited stallion that runs and roams wherever it pleases but is reined in to keep it from straying. In its classic formulation, “discretion is not unconfined and vagrant” but “canalized within banks that keep it from overflowing.” 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 just. And that is not to deny Marcos his rightful place at the (Libingan ng mga Bayani) LNMB. For even the Framers of our Constitution intend that full respect for human rights is available at any stage of a person’s development, from the time he or she becomes a person to the time he or she leaves this earth.
There are certain things that are better left for history—not this Court—to adjudge. The Court could only do so much in accordance with the clearly established rules and principles. Beyond that, it is ultimately for the people themselves, as the sovereign, to decide, a task that may require the better perspective that the passage of time provides. In the meantime, the country must move on and let this issue rest.”
There are certain things that are better left for history—not this Court—to adjudge. The Court could only do so much in accordance with the clearly established rules and principles. Beyond that, it is ultimately for the people themselves, as the sovereign, to decide, a task that may require the better perspective that the passage of time provides. In the meantime, the country must move on and let this issue rest.
The Court found that the President committed no grave abuse of discretion in ordering that the remains of former President Ferdinand E. Marcos be buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani (LNMB) because this was done in the exercise of his mandate under Article VII, section 17 of the 1987 Constitution to ensure the faithful execution of all laws and there is no law that prohibits the burial of the Marcos remains at the LNMB.
Finding that the President’s power of control over the Executive Branch is a self-executing provision not requiring legislative implementation, the majority also found that the President is not bound by the 1992 Agreement entered into between former President Fidel V. Ramos and the Marcos family to have the remains interred in Batac, Ilocos Norte. As the incumbent, President Duterte is free to amend, revoke, or rescind political agreements entered into by his predecessors, and to determine policies which he considers, based on informed judgment and presumed wisdom, will be most effective in carrying out his mandate.
The Court also found that under the Administrative Code, the President has the power to reserve for public use and for specific public purposes any of the lands of the public domain and that the reserved land shall remain subject to the specific public purpose indicated until otherwise provided by law or proclamation. It found that there is no law or executive issuance at present that specifically excludes the land in which the LNMB is located from the use it was originally intended by the past Presidents. 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. According to the majority, the disbursement of public funds to cover the expenses incidental to the burial is granted to compensate him for valuable public services rendered. In this regard, the majority also considered that the President’s determination to have Marcos’s remains interred at LNMB was inspired by his desire for national healing and reconciliation, stating that:
“Presumption of regularity in the performance of official duty prevails over petitioners’ highly disputed factual allegation that, in the guise of exercising a presidential prerogative, the Chief Executive is actually motivated by utang na loob (debt of gratitude)`and bayad utang (payback) to the Marcoses. 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 also found that under AFP Regulations G 161-375, the Marcos remains could be interred at LNMB as Marcos possessed the qualifications and none of the disqualifications under the Regulations. The majority pointed out that:
“Petitioners did not dispute that Marcos was 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. For his alleged human rights abuses and corrupt practices, we may disregard Marcos as a President and Commander-in-Chief, but we cannot deny him the right to be acknowledged based on the other positions he held or the awards he received. In this sense, 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 also disagreed that former President Marcos had been “dishonorably discharged” as this specific disqualification would pertain only to the military under the Articles of War and more specifically, those in the “active service.” On the contrary, the majority found that former President Marcos was honorably discharged from military service, with the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) expressly recognizing him as a retired veteran under RA 6948. The majority disagreed with the argument (in the separate dissenting opinion of Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio) that Marcos had been “dishonorably discharged” by his removal as President and Commander-in-Chief by a direct act of the people on February 25, 1986. The ponencia stated that:
“Hence, it cannot be conveniently claimed that Marcos’ ouster from the presidency during the EDSA Revolution is tantamount to his dishonorable separation, reversion or discharge from the military service. The fact that the President is the Commander-in-Chief of the AFP under the 1987 Constitution only enshrines the principle of supremacy of civilian authority over the military. Not being a military person who may be prosecuted before the court martial, the President can hardly be deemed ‘dishonorably separated/reverted/discharged from the service’ as contemplated by AFP Regulations G 161-1375. Dishonorable discharge through a successful revolution is an extra-constitutional and direct sovereign act of the people which is beyond the ambit of judicial review, let alone a mere administrative regulation.
It is undeniable that former President Marcos was forced out of office by the people through the so-called EDSA Revolution. Said political act of the people should not be automatically given a particular legal meaning other than its obvious political consequence—that of ousting him as president. To do otherwise would lead the Court to the treacherous and perilous path of having to make choices from multifarious inferences or theories arising from the various acts of the people. It is not the function of the Court, for instance, to divine the exact implications or significance of the number of votes obtained in elections, or the message from the number of participants in public assemblies. Worse, the Court may be misled by the noise of a boisterous crowd, drowning the message of the silent (or silenced) majority. If the Court is not to fall into the pitfalls of getting embroiled in political and oftentimes emotional, if not acrimonious, debates, it must remain steadfast in abiding by its recognized guiding starts—clear constitutional and legal rules—not by the uncertain, ambiguous and confusing messages from the actions of the people.”
The Court also disagreed with the argument that Marcos was disqualified to be buried at the LNMB because he had not been convicted of crimes involving moral turpitude. Relying on the presumption of innocence, the majority stated that “(d)espite all these ostensibly persuasive arguments, the fact remains that Marcos was not convicted by final judgment of any offense involving moral turpitude.” The majority also stated that “(t)he various cases cited by petitioners, which were decided with finality by courts here and abroad, have no bearing in this case since they were merely civil in nature; hence, (they) cannot and do not establish moral turpitude.” YG
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