MANILA, Philippines – Former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile believes the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos, in whose Cabinet he served as defense minister, deserves to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani or Heroes’ Cemetery.
“Dapat ilibing si President Marcos doon sa libingan ng mga Pilipino kung saan nakalibing 'yung mga kababayan nating nagserbisyo sa bayan tulad niya,” said Enrile in a press conference at the Manila Hotel on Monday, August 22.
The former senator said he cannot understand why Marcos’ burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani remains an issue when the rules of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) allow Marcos to be buried there because he was a former president and soldier.
This is a stand similar to that of President Rodrigo Duterte, who is supporting a hero’s burial for Marcos on September 18.
Enrile is considered as the architect and implementer of Martial Law as Marcos’ defense minister. But after the 1986 snap elections, Enrile and then-Lieutenant General Fidel Ramos withdrew their support from Marcos. This was one of the key events that led to the EDSA People Power Revolution.
Now, Enrile said his defection against Marcos decades ago should not be included in the discussions whether or not Marcos deserves a hero’s burial.
“Ibang salitaan 'yun. Ibang issue ‘yun (That's a different discussion. That's a different issue)…. We are talking of Marcos the president, okay? Whether he is entitled to be buried in the cemetery called Libingan ng mga Bayani, that is only a characterization of that place,” said Enrile.
“Not all the people buried there can be considered as heroes. Whether they have medals or not, they are entitled to be buried there because the law says they have to be buried there. They have the right to be buried there,” he added.
Preparations are underway for the transfer of the remains of Marcos, who ruled the Philippines for 21 years with an iron fist, from his home province of Ilocos Norte to the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
This has since caused public outcry both online and offline, with critics equating Marcos’ burial to burying the sins of Martial Law that included killings, torture, disappearances, corruption, and media oppression.
Petitions to stop the burial have been filed before the Supreme Court (SC) by Martial Law victims, their relatives, and some lawmakers. (READ: Lawmakers, NGO file 2nd petition vs Marcos hero's burial)
‘Marcos a hero’
Asked if he considers Marcos a hero, Enrile replied: “Why not? He was given a medal of honor. And it is not a fake medal.”
A website under the name of Marcos’ wife Imelda says the late president received 32 medals, 3 of which were given to him for his services during World War II. (READ: Marcos' World War II 'medals' explained)
The National Historical Commission of the Philippines, however, said Marcos’ World War II record is “fraught with myths, factual inconsistencies, and lies.”
“Some people are saying that he has fake medals, but of all the medals he received, I don’t think all of them are fake. One medal of honor is enough for you to be buried in that piece of land,” said Enrile.
AFP rules say that those who have been dishonorably discharged from service, or personnel convicted of an offense involving moral turpitude, do not qualify for interment at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
For Enrile, this does not apply to Marcos’ ousting in 1986.
“Was he dishonorably discharged? No he was not! My God. When you are dishonorably discharged, there must be a case filed against you. They can’t just discharge you and say ‘you’re dishonorably discharged,’” said Enrile.