Philippine presidents

FAST FACTS: Presidential funerals in the Philippines

Pauline Macaraeg
FAST FACTS: Presidential funerals in the Philippines

MILITARY HONORS. Former president Benigno Aquino III is laid to rest at the Manila Memorial Park in Sucat, Parañaque, beside his parents, democracy icons former senator Benigno 'Ninoy' Aquino and former president Corazon Aquino, on June 26, 2021.

Jay Ganzon/OVP

There are no laws that mandate presidential funerals, but there are protocols and traditions maintained

Former Philippine president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III was laid to rest on Saturday, June 26. Like when his mother, former president Corazon Aquino, died in 2009, the Aquino family also declined a state funeral for Noynoy.

Noynoy’s remains were cremated and laid to rest beside his parents, Cory and former senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., at the Manila Memorial Park in Sucat, Parañaque.

Despite not having a state funeral, Noynoy was still accorded full military honors. A helicopter showered yellow flower petals on the funeral site, and military chief General Cirilito Sobejana handed over the folded Philippine flag to Aquino’s eldest sibling, Ballsy Aquino-Cruz.

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There are no laws that mandate presidential funerals, but there are protocols and traditions maintained, according to the Presidential Museum and Library.

Here are the things to know about presidential funerals in the Philippines.

What happens when a former president dies?

When a former president dies, the incumbent president usually declares 10 days of national mourning. As a sign of mourning, the Philippine flag is flown at half-mast during this period, in accordance with the Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines. (READ: Duterte declares 10 days of national mourning for Aquino)

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Longer periods of national mourning have been declared in the past, too, according to the Presidential Museum and Library. An example is when former president Ramon Magsaysay declared a 15-day period of mourning for former president Elpidio Quirino’s death in 1956.

The state then offers the family of the deceased a state funeral.

What is a state funeral?

A government bulletin, released in 2012 for the state funeral for the late Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo, said a state funeral has four characteristics: funeral expenses are covered by the state, a book of condolence is opened for local and foreign dignitaries, a lying in state for public viewing is held, and arrival, departure, and final military honors are rendered.

The bulletin also enumerated the following elements of military honors:

  • Flag-draped casket
  • Vigil guard detail to stand guard by the casket
  • Firing detail, including a cannon for gun salutes and/or musketry
  • “Taps” or a musical piece sounded during funerals involving the trumpet and bugle

Philippine presidents also have the right to be interred at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

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Other than Philippine presidents, the state also offers the privilege to vice presidents (former and current), the current Senate president, and the current speaker of the House of Representatives.

In 1993, former president Fidel V. Ramos signed Executive Order No. 131, giving national artists and scientists of the Philippines the right to a state funeral as well.

The president, in his capacity, also has the power to order a state funeral for any citizen he/she deems deserving of the honor. This is what happened when Robredo died in 2012.

The president appoints a Committee on Funeral Arrangements and Burial to facilitate state funerals. The Presidential Museum and Library says that in previous funerals, it typically consisted of the executive secretary, the secretary of foreign affairs, the secretary of national defense, the governor of the deceased president’s home province, a member of the deceased president’s family, and representatives from the Senate, the Supreme Court, and the House of Representatives.

The most recent state funeral for a Philippine president was held for Diosdado Macapagal in 1997, according to the Presidential Museum and Library.

What happened the last time a former Philippine president died?

The last Philippine president to die before Noynoy was his mother Cory in 2009. The Aquino family declined a state funeral offered by then-president Gloria Arroyo.

Still, the funerals for both mother and son followed tradition. Like Noynoy’s, Cory’s’s funeral also had a period of national mourning, condolence books were put out in different embassies, flags were flown at half-mast, and full and highest military honors were rendered.

A 2009 Newsbreak article published on the ABS-CBN News website explained the differences between a state funeral and Cory’s presidential funeral.

Citing historian Manuel Quezon III, the report said that the family’s decision not to have a state funeral for Cory also waived her right to use the Heroes’ Hall in Malacañang Palace for lying in state.

The highest civilian officials in the country were also unable to participate in the necrological services for Cory. These are traditionally organized by the Committee on Funeral Arrangements and Burial in state funerals. – Rappler.com

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Pauline Macaraeg

Pauline Macaraeg is digital forensics researcher for Rappler. She started as a fact checker and researcher in 2019, before becoming part of Rappler's Digital Forensics Team. She writes about the developing digital landscape, as well as the spread and impact of disinformation and harmful online content. When she's not working, you can find her listening to podcasts or K-pop bops.