PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday vowed to stick to his decision to allow the burial of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani amid protests from militant groups and human rights victims.
Reacting for the first time to Tuesday’s Supreme Court ruling allowing Marcos’ interment at the military-run “heroes’ cemetery,” Duterte said he was simply following the rules allowing soldiers and former presidents to be buried at the Libingan.
“As a lawyer, I stick by what the law says. The law says that soldiers and ex-presidents should be buried there,” he told reporters in a mix of English and Filipino before leaving for his official visits to Thailand and Malaysia.
Duterte made the statement a day after the Supreme Court struck down petitions to bar Marcos from being buried at the Libingan in Taguig City.
The President said he had talked to Marcos’ son and namesake, former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., in Tacloban on Tuesday during the third anniversary of the devastation brought about by typhoon “Yolanda.”
“Sabi ko [I said], ‘It’s your choice.’ Sabi niya na [He said], ‘Same question with you. Can we now proceed?’ I said, ‘Oh, yes you can,’” Duterte said.
“I’ve said before, I will not take my word back,” the President added, recalling his promise to the Marcoses to allow the burial during the election campaign.
But as to whether or not the late president can be considered a “hero,” Duterte said, “it depends on the beholder.”
Duterte noted that Marcos’ fellow Ilocanos had been unhappy over previous governments’ decision not to bury the former leader at the heroes’ cemetery.
“Almost everyone, the Ilocano nation, they are sad. For them, Marcos wasn’t to blame and he was true to his word,” he said.
Tuesday’s court ruling paves the way for the transfer of Marcos’ remains to the military cemetery from the Marcos mausoleum in Batac, Ilocos Norte.
Marcos’ remains were put on display there after being flown to the Philippines from Hawaii in 1993, four years after the former president’s death in exile because of various ailments.
Addressing criticism that burying Marcos at the heroes’ cemetery would mean forgetting the atrocities of his Martial Law regime, Duterte said there were “many stories to tell and to weave.”
Some people, he pointed out, saw the discipline and cleanliness on the streets during the Marcos years, which spanned from 1965 to 1986.
But he added that “towards the end of his term or rule for that matter, it deteriorated, because he lost control of the governmental machinery for being sick. ‘Di na niya kaya. So doon nagka leche-leche ang sitwasyon [He couldn’t handle it. So it became a messy situation].”
Duterte said the question of the Marcos dictatorship was “something which cannot be determined at this time,” and that “the sins of Marcos have yet to be proven by a competent court.”
The Marcos family’s alleged plunder of government funds is “all together a different issue,” he added.
At the Senate, a resolution declaring Marcos unfit for burial at the Libingan was pushed by Sen. Paolo Benigno Aquino 4th and Sen. Risa Hontiveros, but was shelved because voting ended in deadlock.
“This resolution allows us to voice out the sense of the senators on the matter,” Aquino said.
Proposed Senate Resolution 86 states that “the crimes of former president Ferdinand Marcos to the Republic, and the human rights violations committed under his regime render him unfit to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.”
At the House, Buhay party-list Rep. Jose Atienza said Marcos’ burial at the Libingan was “in the nation’s best interest – to unite finally and put this issue to rest once and for all.”