Dela Rosa brushes off criticism over secret Marcos burial

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa on Monday, November 21, brushed off criticism against the police following the surprise burial of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani on Friday, November 18.

"Sala sa lamig, sala sa init. Eh kung hindi kami nag-prepare, sabihin naman balasubas itong pulis natin, hindi nag-prepare (Damned if you do, damned if you don't. If we didn't prepare, they'll say the police didn't do their job because they were unprepared)," said Dela Rosa during a press conference at Camp Crame.

The PNP chief was asked about criticism – including those coming from Vice President Leni Robredo – because the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) kept the burial a secret, apparently at the request of Marcos heirs.

The AFP operates and secures the Libingan ng mga Bayani while the police were tasked to secure its perimeter and manage any demonstrations that could happen outside.

Burying Marcos inside the Libingan ng mga Bayani, the resting place of several former presidents and Filipino soldiers, was among Duterte's promises in the 2016 elections. Despite the outcry of several sectors, including victims of Marcos' dictatorship, Duterte has insisted that the burial was lawful.

The burial, which was kept a secret from media and even some Marcos supporters, sparked demonstrations in several key cities. Hundreds gathered at the People Power Monument, located near the PNP and AFP headquarters, Friday night. (READ: Behind the scenes: 12 hours to prepare for Marcos burial)

'No politics'

"Wala kaming pakialam kung ililibing si Marcos o hindi, kung saan siya ililibing, kailan at paano siya ilibing, basta ang sa amin lang, kapag may gulo andiyan kami to respond to the gulo. Secret or not secret, wala akong pakialam. Importante, prepared kami. 'Yung decision to make it a secret or not nasa pamilya na 'yan at sa military," added Dela Rosa.

(We do not care if Marcos is buried or not, where he's buried, when and how he's buried. Our only concern is if there's chaos, we're there to respond to that chaos. Secret or not secret, I do not care. The important thing is that we're prepared. The decision to make it a secret or not was up to the family and the military.)

Dela Rosa was informed of the Marcos family's decision to bury the late strongman late Thursday, or a little over 12 hours before the actual burial took place. Speaking to reporters on Monday, Dela Rosa said National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) director Chief Superintendent Oscar Albayalde was told by the AFP about the Marcos family's decision on Thursday.

Albayalde was the first public official to confirm Marcos' burial on Friday. He confirmed this to media roughly an hour before Marcos' remains were finally laid to rest at the Libingan.

Asked if this was a case of the PNP putting the Marcos family's concerns before that of the public, Dela Rosa said: "Well, paano ba? Kahirap ng sitwasyon ng pulis talaga. Kung nag-ingay si General Albayalde na ililibing namin ngayon magagalit 'yung family. Anong klaseng RD ka, ni-request namin na huwag mag-ingay para walang gulo. Ngayon, nag-ingay, nagkagulo tuloy, maraming nasaktan. So ano ngayon?"

(How do I explain this? The police are in a tight situation. If Albayalde announced that the burial would happen that day, the family would get mad. What kind of regional director are you, we requested you not to announce it so there would be no chaos. If something did happen and people got hurt, what now?)

"Ang sa amin lang, wala kaming politics behind our actions. Ang sa amin lang, public service. Ayaw namin magkagulo. That's it," he added.

(As far as we're concerned, there is no politics behind our actions. Our concern is public service. We don't want things to turn violent. That's it.)

Planned protests

Dela Rosa vowed "maximum tolerance" would be exercised by police as anti-Marcos groups plan to continue holding demonstrations until the end of the month. On November 25, various groups are set to hold a big rally to protest Marcos' burial.

"Smile, wave, and be happy. Kung pupukpukin – 'di ba may placards na mahaba – smile pa rin. Kalimutan 'nyo 'yung pain. Smile pa rin," he added in jest.

(Smile, wave, and be happy. If they hit you with their placards, keep on smiling. Forget the pain. Continue smiling.)

Incidentally, both Dela Rosa and Albayalde are members of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class of 1986, the first batch to have graduated after the People Power Revolution which ended Marcos' decades-long reign over the country. – Rappler.com