The Supreme Court on Ferdinand Marcos, 1989

Dissenting opinions

Senior dissenting Justice Gutierrez, Jr, for his part, puts it in terms of human rights for all:  “…It was precisely the banning by Mr. Marcos of the right to travel by Senators Benigno Aquino, Jr., Jovito Salonga, and scores of other ‘undesirables’ and ‘threats to national security’ during that unfortunate period which led the framers of our present Constitution not only to re-enact but to strengthen the declaration of this right.  Media often asks, ‘what else is new?’  I submit that we now have a freedom loving and humane regime. I regret that the Court’s decision in this case sets back the gains that our country has achieved in terms of human rights, especially human rights for those whom we do not like or those who are against us.” Might we hear that again not being set back these days:  “the gains that our country has achieved in terms of human rights…”

Dissenting Justice Cruz, a renowned constitutionalist and libertarian, said: “It is my belief that the petitioner, as a citizen of the Philippines, is entitled to return to and live — and die — in his own country. I say this with a heavy heart but say it nonetheless. That conviction is not diminished one whit simply because many believe Marcos to be beneath contempt and undeserving of the very liberties he flouted when he was the absolute ruler of this land.” 

Dissenting Justice Sarmiento, whose son and himself were martial victims, was the most gallant to his tormentor, a despot nonetheless:  “The power of the President, so my brethren declaim, ‘calls for the exercise of the President's power as protector of peace.’…. This is the self-same falsehood Marcos foisted on the Filipino people to justify the authoritarian rule. It also means that we are no better than he was…. . I am for Marcos' return not because I have a score to settle with him.  [My son] Ditto's death or my arrest are scores that can not be settled….I feel the ex-President’s death abroad (presented in the dailies as ‘imminent’) would leave him ‘unpunished’ for his crimes to country and countrymen. If punishment is due, let this leadership inflict it. But let him stand trial and accord him due process…. Now that the shoe is on the other foot, let no more of human rights violations be repeated against any one, friend or foe. In a democratic framework, there is no such thing as getting even.”  Wow!

Finally, for whatever it may be worth for the Marcos Libingan burial issue at hand, dissenting Justice Paras had this practical suggestion then:  “It is therefore clear to me, all other opinions to the contrary notwithstanding, that the former President should be allowed to return to our country under the conditions that he and the members of his family be under house arrest in his hometown in Ilocos Norte, and should President Marcos or any member of his family die, the body should not be taken out of the municipality of confinement and should be buried within ten (10) days from date.” 

As we said early on, the above quoted passages from the SC Decision in Marcos vs. Manglapus are mere obiter dicta, and were not decisive for that case. 

But as judicial pronouncements in a SC decision that is already “part of the legal system of the Philippines,” what value if any do they have for the Marcos Libingan burial issue at hand pending in the SC?  

Some judicial notice had already been given 27 or “one score and seven years” ago to “the case of a dictator forced out of office and into exile after causing twenty years of political, economic and social havoc in the country.” 

Has change come after 27 years to that historical verdict of sorts?  We do not think so. The historical verdict should stand. What perhaps remains in the Marcos Libingan burial case in the SC is to place that historical verdict in a constitutional frame. There appears to be sufficient constitutional grounds to do so, starting with the history itself of that Constitution.  May law and history collaborate in its resolution. –


Soliman M. Santos Jr is presently the Judge of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 61 in Naga City.  He is the author of a number of books, including Justice of the Peace: The Work of a First-Level Court Judge in the Rinconada District of Camarines Sur (Quezon City: Central Books, 2015).  He has been a political activist and martial law detainee; a long-time human rights and international humanitarian lawyer; legislative consultant and legal scholar;  peace advocate, researcher and writer