Despite massive human rights abuses during his three decades of martial law, former Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos will be granted a heroes burial.
The ruling by Supreme Court, the highest court in the country, has cleared all legal petitions and obstacles filed against moving his remains to the Heroes Cemetery in Manila.
But as Madonna Virola reports, the decision has sparked uproar and division.
After several extensions, the Supreme Court, on a vote of 9-5, finally cleared the way for former President Ferdinand Marcos to be buried at the Heroes’ cemetery in Manila.
According to the Supreme Court of the Philippines, there is no law that prohibits the burial of the
Marcos’ remains at the Libingan Ng Mga Bayani.
The Libingan ng mga Bayani or Heroes’ Cemetery is reserved for soldiers, former presidents, national artists and statesmen.
The Supreme Court ruled that it is President Rodrigo Duterte's prerogative to allow the burial, a promise the current president made during his election campaign earlier this year.
“I will allow the burial of Marcos in the Heroes’ Cemetery, not because he was a hero but because he was a Filipino soldier,” Duterte told reporters after the decision.
But the decision sparked protests across the country, and outpourings of criticism on social media.
Activist Mags Maglana is among the leaders at the rally from the president’s hometown – Davao City in the southern Philippines. She is adamant that she will continue to engage President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on his discourse about historical grievances.
“We will remind him that he cannot rail against the historical injustices committed by colonisers against Filipinos, particularly the Bangsamoro and Indigenous peoples, without acknowledging and also standing against the large-scale and systematic abuses and violations during the time of Marcos,” stated Maglana.
During the decades of Marcos rule, media outlets were closed, curfews were imposed and thousands of critics were rounded up, tortured and forcibly disappeared. Meanwhile the Marcos’ stand accused of plundering up to $10 billion from the state.
Activists say they will file a motion for reconsideration with the Supreme Court.
Mags Maglana is especially concerned about making sure young Filipinos never forget what happened during the years of martial law.
“We will apply ourselves towards educating more effectively other Filipinos, particularly the young, about our history and struggles,” she said.
“We have come to this sordid point because, among others, previous administrations had not been diligent in dismantling the belief system that propped up the dictatorship,” argued Maglana.
To know how young people are taking the Supreme Court ruling, I checked on in with a local college – the Divine Word College of Calapan.
Like the men and women I asked in the streets outside, a class on Political Science shows they are divided on the decision of the Supreme Court.
Let’s hear it from the Millennials.
Diosa Bermudez believes the Supreme Court followed the legal procedures. The accomplishment of Marcos during his term, she says, should not be junked.
“Marcos did a lot, like road constructions. If protestors say his family should first apologise for human rights violations, I don’t agree because it was not them who did that,” said Bermudez.
She believes that the Philippines needs to move on by respecting the highest court’s decision.
“The issue will anyway soon be forgotten,” Bermeudez commented.
But her classmate James Gullion says the perspective of the courts was misguided.
“The Majority in the Supreme Court focused on the qualification of Marcos to be buried but didn’t look at the obligation of the country to give justice to the human rights victims,” Gullion told me.
Their Professor Don Zian Encarnacion said he respects the decision of the Supreme Court but the ruling has opened up a wound that will be difficult to soothe.
“Healing is a difficult process. The old wounds have been opened. It will take time, it will take acceptance,” he explained.
Encarnacion says that he is more concerned about the Marcos family and their continued involvement in the country’s politics.
Marcos’s son, Ferdinand Marcos Jr, or ‘Bongbong,’ is a former senator who lost the vice presidential elections this year by only 200,00 votes. While his mother Imelda and sister Imee were elected to posts.
“Yes, the Marcoses are the bad guys. But why are they still in power?” asked Encarnacion.
“Filipinos tend to forgive easily.”
Reacting to the court ruling Bongbong says the heroes burial is the first step toward forgiveness.
“The family would like to thank President Duterte for his unwavering support and the in recognition of my father’s right to be buried in the Libingan Ng Mga Bayani. That decision is essentially a first step in the healing, in the unification of our country,” stated Bongbong.
He concluded, “sometimes we are still embedded if the issues that have been going for many, many years.”
But not everyone shares the same view.
Vice-president, Leni Robredo, said the ruling would “keep the wounds of the past unhealed”.