SC issues 'status quo' order on Marcos remains

MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – Don’t bury him yet at the Libingan ng mga Bayani without a court order.

In an en banc decision on Tuesday, August 23, the Supreme Court issued a status quo ante order (SQAO) to all parties involved in the Marcos burial case, prohibiting them from burying him at the Libingan ng mga Bayani for the next 20 days.

Albay Representative Edcel Lagman told reporters that they were informed about the SC decision Tuesday. “That means to say the present situation, where there is no burial of the late President Marcos, will be respected by all parties concerned,” Lagman said. “Effectively, it would be similar to a TRO.” 

In a briefing early Tuesday afternoon, SC spokersperson Theodore Te explained: "[SQAO] tells the respondents not to perform actions as of particular period. In this case, I would presume here that the status quo order here would pertain to the period before the [Department of National Defense] memorandum." 

The order will be for a period of 20 days, from August 23 – including weekends and holidays – until September 12. 

The Supreme Court also postponed the oral arguments on the case, initially scheduled for Wednesday, August 24, to next week – August 31.

Asked what would happen when the order expires, Te said it will be assessed from there, since there will also be the oral arguments set for next week. 

Lagman welcomed the Court's decision.

"We truly appreciate this favorable development," said Lagman, whose family fought the Marcos dictatorship. "That means to say that the Supreme Court will look very keenly on the arguments proffered by the petitioners."

The remains of Marcos are in his birthplace in Batac, Ilocos Norte.

Duterte has ordered Marcos' burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, triggering protests from anti-Marcos groups. Victims of Martial Law then asked the SC to stop the burial. 

Due to time constraints, the SC has consolidated all the petitions against the planned burial at the heroes' cemetery. 

Duterte said he will abide by the SC decision. (READ: Duterte to abide by SC decision on Marcos burial)

‘National healing’

In his response to the petitions, Solicitor General Jose Calida argued that a hero’s burial for Marcos will promote national healing, consistent with President Rodrigo Duterte’s argument.

Calida insisted that both the Constitution and the Administrative Code empowers the President to order the interment of the remains of a former president and soldier at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

He argued that the President only exercised his executive powers under the Administrative Code to set aside lands of the public domain for public use, and his power of control over the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO), the agency tasked to administer military shrines.

Calida also brushed aside the argument of the petitioners that burying Marcos at the heroes’ shrine would have a negative impact on government efforts to recover the Marcoses’ ill-gotten wealth.

He said that the petitioners’ claims for compensation as human rights victims of the Marcos regime  are "distinct and separate from, and cannot in any way be connected to, the intended burial.” 

Calida also argued that the President decision does not go against public policy, does not contravene the principles and policies enshrined in the Constitution, and does not violate Philippine obligations under international laws.

He also said that Duterte is not bound by the 1993 agreement between then President Fidel Ramos and the Marcos family to have the remains of former President Marcos interred at Batac, Ilocos Norte, which was invoked by petitioners.

Malacañang has not announced any specific date for the planned burial but the Marcos family wishes to hold it on September 18 – the birthday of the late strongman.  – with reports from Mara Cepeda and Patty Pasion/Rappler.com