Bishop to Marcoses: Don’t use a corpse for ambitions

Paterno Esmaquel II
The late dictator Ferdinand Marcos needs prayers, not honors, says Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas in a prayer rally in Dagupan City

PRAYER RALLY. Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas (1st from left) slams the hero's burial for dictator Ferdinand Marcos during a prayer rally in Dagupan City on November 23, 2016. Photo courtesy of Sabins Studio

MANILA, Philippines – “Nananawagan ako sa pamilya ng yumaong Ferdinand Marcos. Huwag sanang gamitin ng mga buhay ang bangkay ng yumao para sa kani-kanilang pangarap at ambisyon.

(I am calling on the family of the late Ferdinand Marcos. May the living not use a corpse for their own dreams and ambitions.)

Wearing black like other protesters, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas made this appeal to the Marcoses during a prayer rally in Dagupan City on Wednesday, November 23.

Marcos was buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes’ Cemetery) on November 18 in a ceremony that critics denounced as “sneaky.” The burial proceeded more than a week after the Supreme Court voted 9-5 to allow the hero’s burial, which President Rodrigo Duterte had approved as it was his campaign promise.

Marcos critics view the burial as part of the Marcoses’ political comeback – with the dictator’s son, Ferdinand Jr, said to be eyeing the presidency in 2022.

As a result, protesters staged rallies across the country on Friday, November 25, to reject the hero’s burial for the dictator. Critics of Marcos wore black during Friday’s protests. (READ: Luneta protesters to Duterte: End alliance with Marcos family)

In his speech on Wednesday, Villegas continued: “Sa katayuan ng yumaong Ferdinand Marcos, hindi na niya kailangan ang parangal sa libingan. Ang kailangan niya ay dasal. Hindi madaragdagan ang kanyang kapayapaan sa kabilang buhay sa pamamagitan ng puntod sa Libingan ng mga Bayani.”

(In the case of the late Ferdinand Marcos, he no longer needs honors at the cemetery. What he needs is prayer. His peace in the afterlife will not increase through a tomb at the Heroes’ Cemetery.)

Honors ‘freely bestowed’

Villegas, who is also president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), is one of the main critics of Marcos’ burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

Villegas was the protégé of the late Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin, who helped oust Marcos through the EDSA People Power Revolution of 1986. He was Sin’s 25-year-old private secretary when the EDSA Revolution happened.

On Wednesday, stressing the need for prayers for the dead, Villegas cited the example of Saint Monica, the mother of Saint Augustine, one of the great thinkers of the Catholic Church who lived as a bishop in 5th-century Africa. 

Villegas said Saint Monica, when she was about to die, asked Saint Augustine to bury her body anywhere. Her only wish was that Saint Augustine would remember her always at Mass.

The bishop added, “Si Hesukristo ay inilibing sa libingang ipinahiram lamang sa kanya subalit siya ang pinakadakila sapagkat inialay niya ang buong buhay para sa mundo (Jesus was buried in a tomb that was only lent to him, but he is the greatest because he offered his whole life for the world).”

Villegas then pointed out, “Ang parangal sa yumao ay iginagawad nang kusa, hindi pinagpipilitang ibigay (Honors for the dead are freely bestowed, not demanded).”

Ang parangal sa patay ay biyaya ng bayan, hindi bunga ng labanan ng abugado (Honors for the dead are gifts of the nation, not the fruit of the battle of lawyers).” the archbishop added.

Earlier, the CBCP said a hero’s burial for Marcos is “another step to build the culture of impunity in the country.”  

Duterte, however, defended the hero’s burial as legal.

For highlights of the November 25 rallies across the country, go to Rappler’s live blog 

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at