MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte said on Wednesday, November 9, that he had given the go signal to bury former president Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani just hours after the Supreme Court allowed the late dictator a hero's burial.
Duterte said he gave the green light to former senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr, son and namesake of the late dictator, during the Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) commemoration event in Tacloban City on Tuesday.
"I saw Bongbong yesterday in Tacloban. Sabi ko (I said), 'It's your choice.' Sabi niya na, (He said) same question as you: 'Can we now proceed?' 'Oh yes, you can,'" said Duterte in a press conference before leaving for Thailand.
The Marcos family will shoulder burial costs and is supposed to coordinate with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, which oversees the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
Reacting to the Supreme Court ruling, Duterte repeated his stance that there is no law preventing Marcos' burial at the Libingan, a cemetery dedicated to former presidents, military men, national artists, and other esteemed Filipinos.
Asked if the late strongman can now be considered a "hero" following the High Court's ruling, Duterte said, Iit depends on the beholder."
He added: "I’m not promoting any class struggle here. But all the Ilocanos are downhearted by the decision for so long, that Marcos be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani….Buong [The whole] Ilocano nation, they are sad. Para sa kanila, walang kasalanan si Marcos [For them, Marcos was not at fault] and he was true to his word of – now, what happened during the New Society. Sabi ko [I said], can that be judged now?”
Duterte said some people wrote about sufferings and being jailed during Marcos' rule but there are also “those who saw some great things that happened.”
“Well, of course the discipline, the cleanliness, initially, but towards the end of his term or rule for that matter, nag – said, deteriorate, because he lost control of the governmental machinery for being sick. ‘Di na niya kaya. So doon nagka leche-leche ang sitwasyon (He couldn't handle it anymore. That's when the situation took a turn for the worse)," he said.
'I followed the law'
While Duterte acknowledged the abuses during the Marcos regime, he said, "That part of the sins of Marcos has yet to be proven by a competent court."
The millions of pesos the Marcos family is accused of stealing is "all together another different issue," said the President.
"But as far as the right or privilege to be buried sa Libingan ng mga Bayani, I simply followed the law....The law itself says, well it fits the completion to the T. He was a president and he was a soldier. I am limited to that issue," said Duterte.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court, by a vote of 9-5, rejected petitions that sought to stop the burial of the late dictator, clearing all legal obstacles to the controversial burial.
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.