‘Nothing illegal’ with Marcos burial – supermajority lawmakers

Mara Cepeda
Deputy Speaker Eric Singson doubts the remains of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos would be exhumed, saying Filipinos regard burials as 'sacred'

BURIAL IS OK. Deputy Speaker Eric Singson, DIWA Representative Em Aglipay-Villar, and Deputy Speaker Fredenil Castro hold a press conference on November 21, 2016. Photo by Mara Cepeda/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Three ranking legislators who are allied with President Rodrigo Duterte all agreed that no law was breached when the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos was buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

Deputy Speakers Fredenil Castro and Eric Singson as well as DIWA Representative Em Aglipay-Villar said on Monday, November 21, that the Marcoses were already free to bury the former president following the Supreme Court (SC) decision that allowed the interment.

All 3 lawmakers are part of the House supermajority bloc.

“‘Yun namang paglibing ay pagkatapos ng nagkaroon ng desisyon ang Supreme Court. Sa tingin ko, at sa tingin namin, ‘yun naman ay walang iligal na nagawa dahil ‘yun na nga. Dahil una merong [status quo ante order (SQAO)] na in-issue ang Supreme Court at in fact, na-extend nga ito. After that, finally, [the] Supreme Court made that decision. And that decision, I think, will now allow the burying of the former president,” said Singson, Ilocos Sur 2nd District representative.

(The burial was done after the Supreme Court made its decision. I think, and we all share the same view, there’s nothing illegal there. First, the status quo ante order was issued by the Supreme Court and it was, in fact, even extended. After that, the Supreme Court finally made that decision. And that decision, I think, will now allow the burying of the former president.)

Martial Law victims and other activists had urged the SC to bar Marcos’ burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani because of the abuses that occurred during his 21-year rule. The petitions were thumbed down by the SC justices on November 8 with a vote of 9-5. 

The petitioners, who had 15 days to file their motion for reconsideration, submitted manifestations before the SC urging the justices to issue another SQAO on the burial while they draft their motion for reconsideration. 

But on November 18, just 10 days after the SC ruling, the Marcos family buried the late dictator in a peaceful and private ceremony, with the plans kept secret from the public until the last minute. (READ: Behind the scenes: 12 hours to prepare for Marcos burial

Despite the criticism against the Marcoses, Castro reasoned that the family already had the right to push through with the burial given the SC decision.

“Nalalaman na ng lahat na anytime na unless baguhin ng SC ang desisyon nito, malilibing na si Pangulong Marcos sa Libingan ng mga Bayani. Kaya ‘di ako naniniwala na ‘yung paglibing ay panloko sapagkat ito ay libing na masyadong simple. At ang pagkasimple ay naayon sa hingil ng pamilya ni Marcos,” said the Capiz 2nd District representative. 

(Everyone knew that unless the SC changes its decision, former president Marcos could already be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. I don’t think it was deceitful because the burial was too simple. And the simplicity was in accordance with the wishes of the Marcos family.) 

Aglipay said it was the responsibility of the petitioners to file their motion for consideration at the soonest possible time.  

“Since there was none… there was no obligation imposed on them (the Marcoses) to wait for an MR since the [SQAO] was already lifted,” she said. 

Singson also questioned why the petitioners allowed 10 days to pass without filing their motion. 

“So nagtataka ako na if they really want pala na pigilan, bakit ‘di sila nag-file ng MR, ng motion for reconsideration. Meron silang day 1, day 2, day 3, day 4, day 5, day 6, day 7, day 8, day 9, day 10. Nung nilibing, saka sila nagsabi na magfa-file kami. So mukhang ‘di rin naman tama ‘yun,” said the lawmaker.

(So I’m wondering why they didn’t file the MR, the motion for reconsideration, if they really wanted to stop the burial. They had days 1 to 10 to do so. They said they would file only when the burial was done. That’s not right.)

No less than Duterte himself had promised to the Marcos family as early as the campaign season that the late strongman’s remains would be transferred from Batac, Ilocos Norte, to the Libingan ng mga Bayani. On the day of the interment, the President said in a statement that he only upheld the rule of law when he allowed a hero’s burial for Marcos. 

Exhumation? Burials are ‘sacred’

On Monday, leaders of leftist groups asked the SC to cite in contempt the Marcos family, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the Department of National Defense for proceeding with the burial even as the SC decision on the matter is not yet final and executory. 

Petitioner and Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman also filed a motion for the exhumation of the late strongman’s remains. 

But Singson doubts Lagman’s motion would be granted.

“Para sa akin, kahit sa inyo, ang patay na nailibing at pagkatapos ay i-e-exhume (For me, and even for you here, burying the dead and exhuming him or her)…It will do something that will create something very hard for the family to accept, not only the family but everyone,” said Singson.

“Hindi ata pumapayag ang Filipino na ang mga patay nila ay huhukayin na lang uli. It is something that is sacred to us, ‘yung paglilibing. Medyo mabigat ata ‘yung huhukayin uli ‘yung bangkay,” he said. 

(Filipinos do not allow their dead to just be exhumed. Burials are sacred to us. Exhumation is such a heavy burden.)

The surprise burial of Marcos on November 18 outraged his critics, who staged protests across Metro Manila the same day. Another major demonstration is in the works for November 25. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.