So the saga of the Marcos family continues.

This time, it has taken the eventful turn with the Duterte Administration finally allowing the burial of the late President Marcos’ remains at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. It was expected to happen as Duterte has been very vocal about his stance on the matter earlier on during the election campaign. It is a decision that has created a stir between two opposing parties.

Recent checks and surveys have shown the softened stance of majority of Filipinos regarding this issue and there is a huge chance that it is an indication of the same stand regarding the Marcoses, as well. This discourse prompted me to look into arguments closely. It was easy to get confused with the rebuttals being thrown left and right so I think it is necessary to screen out the facts from all that is being said.

An Entitlement

I guess the first question that needs to be answered is the question on who is entitled to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani and whether the former President is entitled to it. As explained earlier on by the AFP, the agency mandated to oversee the management of the cemetery, the following are entitled to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani:

• Recipients of the Medal of Valor;
• Veterans of World War 1, World War 2, the Philippine Revolution, and recognized guerrillas;
• Government dignitaries, statesmen, and National Artists;
• AFP Chiefs of Staff;
• Active or retired military personnel;
• Active and Former Secretaries of National Defense;
• Deceased persons that were approved to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani by the
Commander in Chief, Congress, or Secretary of the National Defense;
• President of the Philippines; and
• Former Presidents and their widows.

There are different arguments on the case of former President Marcos. Marcos loyalists have argued that the late President qualifies under three conditions – being a former President, a former soldier, and a medalled World War 2 veteran. The other party argues that Marcos as a medalled World War 2 veteran was a hoax citing US findings as their basis.

But then again, Marcos’ World War 2 exploits were never questioned in local courts or even by local government agencies. It was never debunked by the Philippines. As per our records, Marcos was a medalled hero of World War 2. Until now, the claim against his heroism is cradled on American findings. Should we allow US findings to be the sole basis to give judgement on this case considering that the Philippines is an independent state? If the answer is affirmative then we should be wary that it can be a predecessor for future legal arguments.

My answer to this is NO.

As we are an independent state, we should make use of our own findings as a basis for our legal claims in our own country. Again, we need to be consistent when we cite these references because we should not use it only when it is convenient.

Even if we take Marcos’ heroism out of the equation, we cannot discount the fact that he was a former President of the country. This fact can never be argued even by those who are against the interment at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. This fact alone stands that the late President is entitled to be buried there as mandated by the guidelines set in 1986.

Marcos: Good or Bad?

But then there is also the argument of the late President being a dictator. He was accused to be the man responsible for thousands of deaths during Martial Law and the alleged plunder of millions, probably billions, of pesos. This argument is being put to the front by those who are against it.

Looking back into the mandate that was signed in 1986, it had “safety” measures to guarantee the sanctity of the Libingan ng Bayani. The mandate indicated two reasons that can nullify the entitlement:

• Those who were honorably discharged or separated from service; and
• Those who were convicted by the courts on cases that involved moral turpitude.

Although those who are against the decision are claiming that the murder and plunder accusations against the former President are enough to render the entitlement void, let us be clear that Marcos was never convicted criminally. The cases that favored the victims were all civil cases.

The mandates for the nullification is only valid if done under the rule of law. That means that Marcos should have received a guilty verdict on a criminal case or should have been dismissed from service after due process. We know that the Philippines never won a criminal case against Ferdinand Marcos under a court of law. Hence in legality, the former President is presumed innocent at this point and it will remain that way as his death has dismissed any possible criminal charges against him.

So that means that the all the accusations of murder or plunder, despite its possible truth, have no bearing to nullify the entitlement to bury the Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. President Duterte was right in saying that there is no law that prohibits the burial of the late President at the LNMB.

The Agreement

We also know of the said agreement between then President Fidel Ramos and the Marcos Family regarding the return of the body of the late President to the Philippines. Former President Ramos had four conditions set to allow the return of the body of Ferdinand Marcos to which one remains still to be fulfilled – that of the burial of Marcos in Ilocos instead of the Libingan ng Bayani.

Again, an agreement cannot supersede a mandate so to use it as a basis for the denial of the entitlement will be a mistake. Yes, there is an agreement but, at the end of the day, what is mandated needs to be followed. Furthermore, why even enter into an agreement if burying the remains of the late President at the Libingan was not allowed by Philippine laws?

Interestingly, Fidel Ramos and the late Corazon Aquino were part of the committee who signed the Libingan ng mga Bayani mandate in 1986. It outlined what it is now being used to defend the stance for Ferdinand Marcos. Why did they not outline a more stringent guideline that would deny the entitlement to the former President who they accuse of being the man behind the death of Ninoy Aquino? Why did previous administrations not modify the rules so that it would prohibit the burial of Ferdinand Marcos in the esteemed cemetery?

Definitely it is something to ponder on.

Politics More than Legality

With the legalities on the issue of Marcos’ claim on the Libingan ng Bayani swinging in favor of the Marcoses, we can then conclude that the issue is really an issue of politics rather than legality. It is safe to say that the previous administrations’ decision was driven by their political agendas. In the case of Duterte, he has no politics to consider and just looks at the merit of the case legally and he is right in saying that there is nothing illegal with the interment.

I believe that the Marcos family knew these facts all along. They knew about the entitlement and the weakness of the agreement that they arranged with the Ramos administration. They knew that the favour was with them. They were just waiting for the right time. It was either someone will be doing it for them or they will be doing it themselves for their patriarch. Have you ever wondered why they were stubborn enough to keep the remains in a refrigerated crypt? Better yet, why are they back in power?

Too bad though that our previous leaders, especially those that we expected to take concrete actions, failed us by playing with politics rather than working on the legalities of the case. Ironically, these are the same people who call on us to “not to forget” and yet they are the ones who never took the steps to help us not to forget. We are now left to work on what small space that we can go around just to help re-live what the present generation missed out. Whether they admit it or not, they contributed to the glorification of their supposed “dictator”.

I have maintained a middle stance on this issue for a long time. In fact, after researching about the case, I am more inclined now to just bury the remains of the late President Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. I am sure that some would ask me how about the victims of Martial Law? I would have to return the question to them, what concrete legal actions have they done in the past 20 years to stop it from happening?

The name Libingan ng mga Bayani is a misnomer. It is not for heroes alone and burying Ferdinand Marcos in a lot within the premises will NOT make him a hero. In the same way, the argument that by finally laying him down within the grounds does not mean that we are forgetting the horrors of Martial Law. A dead man, neither a tomb, cannot rewrite history. It really depends on us, the living, on how we will educate the younger generation about Martial Law to which I would have to admit that we have not achieved much, seeing the Marcoses back in power.

Taking out the drama of the case, it has been an issue that has divided the nation for decades. It is the same issue that hounds incoming Philippine Presidents on their first months in office and has been turned down repeatedly until now. President Duterte was right in taking a step on finally putting an end on this matter. He is the head of a government body that is responsible in the execution of laws and mandates and that is exactly what he is doing. He once again shakes our core as we anticipate the actual transfer of the remains from Batac, Ilocos Norte to Libingan ng Bayani this coming September or whether Filipinos can stop it, with finality through the courts.

I guess I would like to end my argument with my recent FB post – “Denying someone his or her entitlement without due process is NOT justice. It is vengeance. Denying someone his or her entitlements as a direct result of due process is justice.”

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