FORMER strongman Ferdinand Marcos was buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani at noon on Friday in surprise but carefully planned rites befitting an ex-president, three decades after his ouster and subsequent death in exile.
Protests erupted in campuses and across Metro Manila and major cities hours after the burial at the military-owned “heroes’ cemetery,” which was attended by about a hundred mourners led by former first lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos.
Members of the media were barred from entering the Taguig City cemetery at the request of the Marcoses to keep the burial a “confidential” affair, a military spokesman said.
But Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos let social media in to what she described as a “simple, private and solemn burial,” posting videos and photos of the event on her Facebook page within minutes after the wooden coffin containing the remains of her late father was lowered to an underground chamber.
Flown by helicopter
A military helicopter, escorted by two choppers, brought Marcos’ remains to the Libingan past 11 a.m. from his hometown of Batac, Ilocos Norte, where they had been preserved and put on public display after being flown home from Hawaii in 1993.
The pine casket was brought by honor guards to a black hearse, then transferred to a caisson for a funeral procession to the gravesite just beside those of three other former presidents – Elpidio Quirino, Carlos Garcia and Diosdado Macapagal.
Artillery fire was heard at exactly 12 noon as officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) provided the former president and World War 2 veteran military honors during the rites that lasted for about an hour.
“Upon arrival there [of the remains]the last rites were heard, led by our chief chaplain, and appropriate final honors were rendered, which included a 21-gun salute,” AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla told reporters in a news conference at Villamor Air Base, near the cemetery.
The casket was lowered as the last taps were sounded, which Padilla said was a final salute to any soldier laid to rest. The flag flew half-mast.
Marcos’ 87-year-old widow Imelda, a member of Congress, received the folded Philippine flag that draped the coffin from acting AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Glorioso Miranda, accompanied by other military generals who served as ceremonial pallbearers.
The area of entombment, which had a “simple marble finish,” was sealed, and the mourners left behind a flame lit from a cauldron, Padilla said.
Marcos’ tombstone read: “Ferdinand E. Marcos, 1917-1989, Filipino.”
Security was very tight in and out of the Libingan, with 2,000 military and police forces barring “unauthorized people” from entering the cemetery and desecrating the Marcos grave.
Marcos loyalist Cherry Cobbarubias said details of the interment were withheld to prevent a violent a clash between anti- and pro-Marcos groups.
The police and military were informed of the burial at 5 p.m. on Thursday. The military however is capable of providing a funeral service on short notice, officials said.
Work on the late strongman’s final resting place was completed weeks ago, the military said, even before the Supreme Court’s order to temporarily suspend the burial and eventual decision last November 8 to allow it to proceed.
The Marcos burial at Libingan came 27 years after his death in Honolulu, Hawaii on September 28, 1989.
President Rodrigo Duterte, during the election campaign, vowed to overturn his predecessors’ decision not to allow Marcos to be interred at the Libingan. He ordered the military to proceed with the burial last July 11.
Duterte’s verbal order was questioned by victims of Marcos’ Martial Law regime and militant groups before the Supreme Court, which ruled 9-5 in favor of the Marcoses.
Court spokesman Theodore Te said there was nothing to prevent the burial as the petitions against it were dismissed and the status quo ante order was lifted last November 8.
“The legal status is that there is no order that stops the act at the moment,” Te said.
At Villamor Air Base, Marcos’ eldest child Gov. Imee Marcos, accompanied by siblings former senator Ferdinand Jr. and Irene, read a short statement thanking the President and the Supreme Court. They did not take questions.
Governor Marcos apologized to their supporters who were unable to get into the Libingan.
“At last our beloved father Ferdinand Edralin Marcos’s final instruction to be buried alongside his fellow soldiers was carried out today,” she said.
President Duterte, who was in Lima, Peru for a summit of Pacific rim leaders, urged anti-Marcos protestors to forgive the late strongman.
“Well, it seems to be a very raucous issue for the nation but I would like to pray that everybody would find a space in his heart for forgiveness,” he said in a video message.
FERNAN MARASIGAN, MICHAEL JOE T. DELIZO, JOMAR CANLAS, CATHERINE S. VALENTE AND AFP