By: Elena Grace Flores
The Supreme Court under Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno weighs the balance to allow the burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani of Ferdinand Marcos. Protests against it are happening by alleged martial law victims.
Would it be right and just if public honors are accorded both to the victims of human rights violations and the one allegedly responsible?
These, in effect, were the related questions that Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno posed to Solicitor General Jose Calida. He represents the administrators of Libingan. This is evident in her questioning before the end of oral arguments at the Supreme Court last Wednesday.
Second Round of Oral Arguments
It was the second round of oral arguments on the petitions to stop the burial of Marcos’ remains at the Libingan. It is authorized by President Rodrigo Duterte. A week earlier, the petitioners had argued their case. The Court allows four women to narrate their horrible experiences of torture and detention under martial law.
RA 10368 in 2013
The Chief Justice premises her questions on the fact that Congress has enacted a law (RA 10368 in 2013). It declares as State policy “. The law recognizes the heroism and sufferings of all Filipinos who were victims of summary execution, torture, enforced or involuntary disappearance. It also includes other human rights violations committed during the regime of (Marcos). It covers the period from September 21, 1972 to February 25, 1986 and restore the victims’ honor and dignity.”
Government’s Moral Obligation
The same law also declares that the State “acknowledges its moral and legal obligation to recognize. Also to provide reparations to said victims and, or their families for the deaths, injuries, sufferings, deprivations. and damages they suffered under the Marcos regime.”
Monetary and non-monetary Reparations
Sereno went as far as to say that the recognition and reparations (both monetary and non-monetary) provided under the law may not suffice to make up for the losses and sufferings of the victims.
Aggravating the victims’ plaint is the fact that the implementation of RA 10368 . It took over a decade to be approved by Congress – has yet to yield benefits to them. No one has yet received any monetary reparation since the compensation board created. It is still going through the 75,000 applications filed to determine who should be paid and the amount to be paid corresponding to the type or degree of violation each one suffered.
Memorial of Victims
The law also provides for the establishment of a memorial/museum/library (initially funded with P500 million) wherein the names of the HRV victims will be inscribed in a roll and their records of sufferings shall be preserved and made accessible to the public via the Internet. This too has yet to be established.
More Injustice after Marcos’s Hero Burial
Thus it would truly heap more injustice on the victims if the body of Marcos were allowed to be buried at the Libingan. May it be before or after the provisions of RA 10368 have been carried out.
Respecting Collective Injuries
Adding further pain to the victims’ collective injuries were the statements by Calida and the private lawyer representing the Marcoses that the former’s emotions and feelings have no relevance to the burial issue because they could seek remedies under other laws.
Under questioning by the magistrates, Calida cited varied reasons for Duterte’s decision, among them being what he called the “wisdom and propriety of the President’s well-meaning desire to put closure to this divisive issue.”
Marcos as a hero
He got himself in a knot by first averring that the President doesn’t intend to bury Marcos as a hero, but as a soldier and former president. Later he asserted that, having been awarded a Medal of Valor for alleged World War II gallantry (given when he was already President in 1966), the dictator has effectively been declared a war hero. Worse, under Justice Marvic Leonen’s rapid-fire questioning, Calida was compelled to admit, impliedly, that it was Marcos himself who issued Presidential Decree No.1687 recognizing a Medal of Valor awardee as a hero, on March 24, 1980.
AFP Rules and Regulations
Sereno upbraided Calida for repeatedly citing mere AFP rules and regulations to justify Marcos’ burial at the Libingan. The solicitor general kept referring to AFP Regulation No. G161-375. (Coincidentally, an online petition and house-to-house campaign launched in Ilocos Norte. It’s the Marcos’ home province, to collect a million signatures to support his burial at the Libingan. It cites as authority AFP Regulation No. G161-137.)
“You’re using AFP regulations to force upon this Court your definition of a hero,” Sereno told Calida. “You are reducing us to a court that will legitimize everything due to a regulation by the AFP; she added. Are our pronouncements so meaningless to you. That all of them will be set aside so you can justify under just an administrative issuance [the burial at Libingan] so the President can fulfill a promise made during his [electoral] campaign?”
Peppering him with questions, to which Calida answered yes to some. He disagreed in two others. The chief justice induced the solicitor general into admitting that AFP regulations don’t carry the same weight or authority as laws enacted by Congress.
No Heroes Burial on September 18
Meantime, Marcos’ body won’t be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani on September 18, as set by his family.
The Supreme Court has extended until October 18 its 20-day status quo ante order which originally would have lapsed in mid-September. Lawyers of both sides have been given 20 days to submit their respective memoranda (summation of written arguments).