Gov’t panel set to defend Marcos burial in LNMB

MANILA — The government panel will be given its chance to air side on Sept. 7 during the continuation of oral arguments of the Supreme Court on six petitions questioning the planned burial of former President Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani in Taguig City.

The government’s oral argument will be headed by solicitor general Jose Calida.

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno directed Calida to request former President Fidel Ramos to lend the SC the original copy of the agreement forged during Ramos’ term allowing the return of the remains of Marcos to the country from Hawaii.

The oral argument ended after seven hours. It was set to continue on Wednesday next week, Sept. 7 at 10 a.m.

During the oral arguments Wednesday, several magistrates indicated lack of jurisdiction on the part of the Supreme Court to decide over who are supposed to be buried at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani.

Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo de-Castro based on existing rules and regulations pertaining to the LNMB, “there seems to be no established guidelines as to who are heroes, who are disqualified.”

De Castro also asked the petitioners whether the Court should be the one to decide who are entitled to be interred at the LNMB due to the absence of clear guidelines.

De Castro also observed that those interred in the LNMB were mostly those who had connection with the military establishment and that later on other persons without any military background were allowed to be buried.

But, the magistrate said it was the Commander-in-Chief and the Secretary of the Department of National Defense who have the final say who can be buried in the LNMB.

Associate Justice Perlas Bernabe noted that there was no issuance that declares LNMB as national pantheon while Associate Justice Jose Perez noted that “there is no established body or agency who can determine who is a hero or not.”

Perez also noted that Republic Act 289, an Act on providing for the construction of national pantheon for presidents of the Philippines, national heroes and patriots of the country does not specify any criteria on who are “worthy of inspiration and emulation of this generation and of generations still unborn”.

Perez believed that Duterte’s decision to allow the burial is an election issue that had the approval of the 16 million electorate who voted for the President last May.

Sereno also questioned the petitioners whether the judiciary is authorized under the Constitution to enact remedies for the petitioners.

Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco also noted that there has been no declaration by any government agency of a national pantheon and that there is no existing board of National Pantheon.

Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo focused his questioning on where the petitioners would want Marcos to be buried if they were against at the Libingan.

“So, where do you want President Marcos to be buried? Where do you want him to be buried?,” del Castillo asked during interpellation to former Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares with the latter replying that it should not be in government land and it’s up to the Marcos family to decide but definitely he added not at the Libingan.Asked by del Castillo if he concurred that Marcos has done good things for the country in his first term, Colmenares said he wouldn’t know.

However, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said that Marcos was dishonorably discharged as commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces and had lost his right to be buried at the Libingan ng mega Bayani.

“President Marcos was dishonorably separated from the people in 1986… When President Marcos was ousted, he was removed as a president and was also removed as commander-in-chief,” Carpio stressed during interpellation of Colmenares, one of the petitioners.

Citing AFP regulations covering interment at the Libingan, Carpio said Marcos may have forfeited his entitlement to be buried at the heroes’ cemetery, which is considered a national shrine by the National Historic Commission.

Colmenares said he fully agreed with Carpio adding that Duterte’s move allowing heroes’ burial for Marcos could not change the objectives of Republic Act 289.

RA 289 provides that the purpose of the construction of a national pantheon is to perpetuate the memory of all the Presidents of the Philippines, national heroes and patriots for the inspiration and emulation of this generation and of generations still unborn.

The petitioners insisted that allowing Marcos to be buried at the Libingan would distort history, fosters division instead of unity and even glorify him despite the numerous human rights violations and rampant graft and corruption during his term.

Among the petitioners were Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Satur Ocampo, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman and former Commission on Human Rights chair Etta Rosales; a group led by former senator Heherson Alvarez; a group of University of the Philippines students; and former Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao human rights chair Algamar Latiph.

The SC earlier issued a 20-day status quo ante order enjoining the Department of National Defense (DND) from implementing its memorandum allowing the burial of former strongman Ferdinand Marcos to the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

Senator Leila De Lima on Tuesday filed the seventh petition but the SC said it had not been admitted.

De Lima even asked the Court not to include her petition in the oral arguments. Christopher Lloyd Caliwan/PNA/