FORMER President Ferdinand Marcos will finally be allowed a hero’s burial, President-elect Rodrigo Duterte said on Monday, in what would be a huge win for the late strongman’s family as it pursues a return to power.
Duterte also said he will pardon ex-President Gloria Arroyo, who is being detained at a military hospital while on trial for graft and vote fraud.
The announcements by Duterte, who takes office on June 30, are sure to enrage critics who warned ahead of his landslide election win on May 9 that he was a dictator in the making with no regard for the rule of law.
But, according to the mayor, he was prepared to risk nationwide unrest on the flashpoint issues surrounding two of the nation’s most controversial figures.
“I will allow protests,” he said, when asked about the expected reaction.
Duterte added that he will grant the long-standing wish of the Marcos family to have the patriarch buried at a Manila cemetery for some of the nation’s most revered war heroes.
“I will allow the burial of Marcos in the Heroes’ Cemetery, not because he was a hero but because he was a Filipino soldier,” the mayor told reporters.
Marcos and his family fled to US exile in 1986 after millions took to the streets in a famous “People Power” revolution.
Marcos, who was accused of overseeing massive widespread human rights abuses and plundering $10 billion from state coffers, died three years later in Hawaii.
His embalmed body is now stored in a crypt at the family home in Ilocos Norte province in northern Philippines.
The late leader’s son and namesake has led a remarkable political comeback for the family, rising to become a senator in 2010 and running for the vice presidency in the latest elections.
The Marcos clan has insisted the late ruler deserves to be buried at the cemetery, arguing he was a World War II hero for resisting the Japanese occupiers.
American and local historians have disputed his military credentials, however.
Duterte said allowing Marcos to be buried at the cemetery did not necessarily make him a hero, pointing out other soldiers without gloried reputations were also there.
President Benigno Aquino 3rd, whose parents led the democracy movement against Marcos, did not allow the burial, arguing it would be the “height of injustice.”
Duterte said also on Monday that he believed Arroyo, who has been detained since 2011, should be free.
“I’m ready to grant a pardon to Arroyo. Arroyo to my mind should already be released,” he added.