House leaders: Marcos' burial will not wash away sins of martial law

MANILA, Philippines – Deputy speakers of the House of Representatives rejected the view that burying the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani would mark the end of the fight against atrocities during his regime.

"This is a different issue that should not be mixed with the issue of burial. Because even if Marcos has already been buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani, the illegal wealth or ill-gotten wealth or the other issues relevant may still be discussed," said House Deputy Speaker Fredenil Castro in a press conference on Monday, August 8.

"But the only issue here is whether or not physically he will be buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani. And his burial there does not carry with it the burial of any other relevant issues," added the Capiz 2nd District representative. 

He was joined by Deputy Speakers Eric Singson, Mercedes Alvarez, and Miro Quimbo during the press conference. They all belong to the House supermajority led by President Rodrigo Duterte's party, Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban).

Preparations are underway for the transfer of Marcos' remains from Ilocos Norte to the Libingan ng mga Bayani or the Heroes' Cemetery. Duterte himself promised Marcos' burial there "because he (Marcos) was a Filipino soldier, period." (READ: Duterte: 'Ex-soldier and president' Marcos deserves Libingan burial)

Killings, torture, media oppression, and corruption were rampant during Marcos' 21-year rule before the dictator was toppled in the 1986 EDSA Revolution.

Various groups and also relatives of those buried at the Libingan have protested against the transfer of Marcos' remains, saying doing so would be injustice to martial law victims. (READ: Relatives mull move out of Heroes' Cemetery to protest Marcos burial

Deputy Speaker Miro Quimbo stressed, however, that Marcos' burial will not end the fight against the injustices during martial law.

"Ang madalas ko ngang sinasabi, kung akala ng mga tao ay nagbibigay ito ng katahimikan sa mga kasong dapat kaharapin ng mga Marcos, nagkakamali sila… dahil hangga't ang mga kaluluwa ng mga tao [na naging biktima] ay 'di pa nakikita, 'di pa nabibigyan ng katarungan, ay hindi magkakaroon ng katahimikan," said Quimbo. 

(What I often say is that if people are thinking this would silence the cases the Marcoses need to face, they are wrong... because as long as the souls of the victims are not given justice, there will not be peace.) 

"Ngunit pakiusap ko rin po sa ating ibang mga kasama, na bagama't ito ay importanteng gawain, hindi rin ito ang katapusan, meaning for the human rights activists. Kung mangyari man ito, ito ay desisyon ng ating Pangulo. Hindi nangangahulugan na tapos na 'yung laban sa usapin ng paghahanap ng katarungan para dun sa biktima ng martial law," he added. 

(But I also tell my colleagues and even human rights activists that this is not the end. If this happens, it is because it is the decision of the President. This does not mean that the talks about justice for martial law victims will stop.)

Other lawmakers in the 17th Congress have a different view, however. They said Marcos' burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani can be likened to burying the "atrocities" committed during his term.

'Marcos is qualified'

During the press conference, Alvarez said Republic Act Number 289 could be used as justification for Marcos' burial.

Under the law, Philippine presidents are to be buried at a "national pantheon," which is equivalent to the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

"So the only qualification for this law so that you can be buried in the national pantheon is actually for one to become a president. This was a law that was passed in the '40s. And there's no other disqualification stated," said Alvarez. 

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) also earlier explained that Philippine presidents, Filipino soldiers, national artists, scientists, dignitaries, and AFP chiefs of staff can be buried there. 

But those who have been dishonorably discharged from service, or personnel convicted of an offense involving moral turpitude, do not qualify for interment at the cemetery.

For Castro, the law clearly states that Marcos is qualified to be buried at the Libingan.

"Well, the legal principle is that if the law does not qualify, we should not qualify. Ang sinasabi ng batas na qualification lamang o elemento lamang na kailangan ay siya ay pangulo. At wala nang ibang sinasabi pang batas na condition bago siya ilibing sa Libingan ng mga Bayani," said Castro. 

(Well, the legal principle is that if the law does not qualify, we should not qualify. The law only requires that he is a former president. The law did not cite other conditions that must be met before he can be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.)

"Otherwise, we would be amplifying the language of the law. At saka kapag ang batas ay clear (And when the law is clear), the literal meaning should not lie," he added.

The National Historical Commission of the Philippines, however, said Marcos should not be buried at the Libingan because his record as a World War II soldier is "fraught with myths, factual inconsistencies, and lies." – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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