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Public rift deepens over Marcos burial

MANILA (SE): A decision by the Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte, to allow the burial of the body of former martial law dictator, Ferdinand Marcos, in the Heroes Cemetery in Manila is not healing the public rift over his final resting place, but serving only to deepen divisions on the controversial topic.

“As a former soldier and former president of The Philippines, I see nothing wrong in having Marcos buried at the cemetery,” Duterte said in a statement released on August 7.

The president dismissed protests by human rights advocates and victims of the Marcos regime, saying they can demonstrate all they want, but it will not affect his decision.

Malacañang announced that preparations for the burial are underway in close coordination with the Marcos family, and the chief of staff of the armed forces was ordered to undertake the necessary planning and preparations on August 7.

However, Risa Hontiveros claims in a resolution filed in the senate on August 9 that Marcos is unfit for burial in the Heroes Cemetery, as it has been created “to honour the memory of our brave countrymen who fought for freedom and liberties even in the face of superior force, so that the present generation may remember and emulate their legacy.”

While Hontiveros points out that the regulations of the Armed Forces of The Philippines do allow former presidents to be buried there, they also stipulate an important exception, barring those convicted of “offences involving moral turpitude.”

In her resolution, Hontiveros points to the case of Hilao versus the Estate of Marcos in which the court found in favour of 10,059 plaintiffs against Marcos for actions involving torture, summary execution and forced disappearance.

“This conviction should suffice to disqualify Marcos from being buried at the Heroes Cemetery,” she states in her resolution filed in  the senate.

She added that the finding of the court against Marcos is sufficient evidence to show that he is guilty of moral turpitude, as well as violations against human rights that occurred during his reign as president.

She said that he should be buried in a place where the presence of his body will not distort history or serve as an assault on democracy, or as a slap in the face to those who fought bravely to put an end to the dictatorship of a tyrant.

Hontiveros is also accusing Duterte of playing hypocritical politics. She pointed out that he rode to power on the back of a promise not to pander to the oligarchies of Philippine politics and even declared war on them.

UCAN reported that Bishop Arturo Bastes warned the Marcos family that it would regret the decision to bury the late dictator at the cemetery in Manila.

“The majority of Filipinos will never cease their opposition to the burial. More shame will befall the Marcos family,” Bishop Bastes said.

The bishop of Sorsogon called burying the late dictator in the cemetery a great insult to the nation.

“Ferdinand Marcos is no hero,” Bishop Broderick Pabillo said. “We should not forget his abuse of power.”

Carlos Isagani Zarate, a member of the congress from Bayan Muna, said, “No amount of embellishment can whitewash the plunder, terror and grave human rights violations perpetrated during the reign of Marcos, a dictator and certainly not a hero.”

A petition circulated by human rights groups urged Duterte to reconsider his decision.

“Given the gravity of Mr. Marcos’ crimes against the people and country, his burial at the cemetery will not heal or foster unity,” the letter, signed by students, teachers, priests and sisters, reads.

“We look forward to your promise of change being fulfilled, of old wrongs being redressed. We ask that you take the biggest step in rectifying one of the country’s oldest wrongs,” the petition, which was sent to Duterte, says.

Marcos’ body is schedule to be transferred from Ilocos Norte to the cemetery in Manila on September 18.

But like all previous presidents of The Philippines, Duterte is beholden to many people and, despite his ambiguous relationship with the Marcos family, he cannot ignore it.

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