MANILA, Philippines – If the Supreme Court halts the burial of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani, President Rodrigo Duterte said on Wednesday, August 17, that he would follow the order.
"I would follow what the highest court will order," Duterte said in a news briefing, when asked what he would do if the Supreme Court granted the petition of some groups to stop the hero's burial for Marcos.
He gave a press conference at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 on Wednesday after speaking with the family of a Navy officer slain during an anti-drug operation.
Responding to an earlier question, Duterte said he would prefer to wait for the decision before elaborating on his stand on the matter.
"I would not want to speak actually. I would not want to preempt the court. But short of working out my position in the matter I would rather, that I will just wait for [the decision]," he said.
Duterte also said he might attend the burial in September if he is able to.
"If I am in good health and there is no pressing matter to attend to, I might," he said.
Uphold the law
He reminded the public that his decision to allow the burial is because of the law governing who can be buried in Libingan ng mga Bayani.
"I would just like to emphasize this to everybody: I allowed the burial of Marcos because it is the law. He was a soldier. I said he was not a hero, fine. If he fired just one shot against the Japanese, as a soldier, he is qualified," said Duterte.
"He is not a hero, fine. But he was a president and nobody can deny that," he added.
Meanwhile, the same law Duterte is citing as his basis for allowing the burial is the same law used by petitioners against the burial.
The petitioners argued that Marcos does not deserve a slot in the national shrine because burying him there violates Republic Act 289, which created the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
They argued that only presidents "worthy of emulation and inspiration" deserve to be buried in the iconic cemetery.
The guidelines of the Armed Forces of the Philippines also state that "soldiers guilty of moral turpitude" are to be barred from burial there.
Petitioners cite human rights violations during the Marcos regime as proof of the late dictator's "moral turpitude."
The defense department said Marcos is qualified for burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani because he was a soldier, a war veteran, a former defense secretary, and a former president.
Several lawmakers, including Duterte's biggest allies such as Senators Aquilino Pimentel III and Alan Peter Cayetano, oppose the burial. Vice President Leni Robredo also does not agree with Duterte's decision, saying Marcos was not a hero and the burial would put to waste the nation's fight against the Marcos dictatorship.
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.