CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 9 February 2019

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Supreme Court hearing on Marcos burial opens

MANILA (SE): August 24 saw the opening of discussions in the Supreme Court of The Philippines on the controversial issue of the burial of the body of the former martial law president, Ferdinand Marcos, in the nation’s Heroes Cemetery, which the president, Rodrigo Duterte, has okayed to take place later this month.

In an interview with Rappler.com, the vice president, Leni Robredo, described burying the late dictator at the Heroes Cemetery as being like burying the people’s victory won in the streets of Manila against his dictatorship.

She added that allowing a hero’s burial for one who is so far from being a hero would have a serious impact on the nation.

“It would have a major effect, especially on those who fought against the dictatorship. It would be a heavy burden to bear, because it would seem that their fight just went to waste,” the vice president added.

The hearing of six petitions filed with the Supreme Court began with oral arguments, many of which centred on whether public money could be spent on his burial, since he was dishonorably discharged both as head of state and commander-in-chief of the military, in addition to who has the final right to make the decision and what a hero is anyway.

Rappler.com, reported that an associate justice, Teresita de Castro, claimed that much of the controversy arises from the fact that not all of those buried in the cemetery are heroes, pointing out that the nation does not have any criteria to decide who is a hero and who is not.

She described its purpose simply as honouring those who served in war or peace.

While there was general agreement that the final arbiter in the case is the National Historical Commission of The Philippines and it has already ruled that the military records of Marcos were falsified and, even though it does not mention the Medal of Valour that was presented to him, it would presumably say that it was awarded on false evidence.

A senior associate justice, Antonio Carpio, maintained that public funds cannot be used because of his dishonorable discharge by a People Power revolt, which he called a “sovereign act of the people,” a much higher authority than an “act of a military tribunal or civilian administrative tribunal.”

Carpio asked, “If you bury someone dishonorably discharged, are you using public funds for private of public purpose?” adding the further query, “How is the public good served?”

Quite a bit of discussion revolved around the role of the current president, Duterte, in the matter, as he has stated that he is happy to allow the burial to go ahead.

However, a judge, José Perez, said that is an election issue. He asked, “Can we not say that the electorate allowed the burial of Ferdinand Marcos?” pointing out that when they voted for Duterte the electorate gave him full discretion regarding the burial.

However, Neri Colmenares, a petitioner, questioned this reasoning saying the court and not politics decides on constitutional issues. He added that election promises can only be fulfilled so long as they remain within the law and the constitution.

Six petitions, considered as one consolidated case, are being presented to the court on behalf of victims of Marcos’ martial law regime.

The respondents named in the petitions are the heirs of Marcos; executive secretary, Salvador Medialdea; deputy chief of staff of the military Reservist and Retiree Affairs; Rear Armiral Ernesto Enriquez; Armed Forces of The Philippines chief of staff, General Ricardo Visaya; defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana; and Philippine Veterans Affairs Office administrator, Lieutenant General Ernesto Carolina.

Duterte said that he would accept and obey the decision of the court. The hearing is continuing.

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