MANILA, Philippines – Martial law human rights victims now in government should make the strongest statement against the Libingan ng mga Bayani burial of ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos by resigning, former senator Rene Saguisag said yesterday.
Speaking before a crowd of anti-Marcos groups and activists at the University of the Philippines College of Law, Saguisag said Cabinet officials – especially those who had been active in the anti-dictatorship struggle – should not take the matter sitting down.
“Like in the case of Supreme Court spokesman Theodore Te – instead of saying that the decision is final and that Marcos can be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, it would be good to hear, from where I stand, that he is resigning,” Saguisag, a human rights victim, said.
“My advice goes to other members of the government, especially those who were with us in the struggle, that they may consider resigning from their posts,” he added.
Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo said on Friday she was against the burial but would rather keep quiet in deference to President Duterte.
Another prominent leftist in the Cabinet is Rafael Mariano of the Department of Agrarian Reform.
“We cannot go on like this, that there is this sense of deja vu of what happened in 1972, and that it took the salvaging of Ninoy Aquino before the Filipino people was awakened. I hope more and more will be made aware of the truth behind all these,” the former senator pointed out.
Saguisag described the first few months of the Duterte administration as worse than during Marcos’ time.
“During that time, many were arrested and tortured but not many were killed in the beginning. To me, every human life matters,” he said. “With the way things are going now – threat of suspending the privilege of writ of habeas corpus, threat of martial law – we don’t know what will happen next,” he warned. “It is best for the President to review and consider a change of course. We, in the tiny HR (human rights) community, are very worried,” he pointed out.
For his part, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) secretary-general Renato Reyes said the so-called good relations between the administration and the leftist movement are now being put to the test.
“As to what will happen next, we’ll see. But definitely, we are very dismayed of what had just happened. We will have the President answer for this,” he said.
He added the development would affect the commitment of the government to indemnify martial law victims.
Bonifacio Ilagan, spokesman for the Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses to Malacañang (CARMMA), called on the President to sever his alliance with the Marcoses.
“We are set to come out with this unity statement that will gather millions of signatures to send a strong message that we oppose the burial of the dictator at the LNMB,” he said referring to the Libingan by its initials.
‘Exorcism’ might work
If it would take the rites of exorcism to “fully reverse” the burial of Marcos, then so be it, said National Union of People’s Lawyers president Edre Olalia.
He made the pronouncement to emphasize the determination of groups opposed to the burial to have the Supreme Court withdraw the interment.
“We will leave it to the court to order the most practical and decent mode to reverse and revert (the burial), including exorcism rites if allowed,” he said.
Olalia represents petitioners contesting Marcos’ Libingan burial. Former lawmakers Satur Ocampo and Neri Colmenares led the petitioners.
Rep. Edcel Lagman on Friday said he would file a motion asking the SC to order the exhumation of Marcos’ body.
The lawmaker, one of the petitioners in the case, last week asked the High Court to stop the Marcos burial until the magistrates have decided on the appeals.
The petitioners said they would proceed with the filing of appeal against the SC ruling that paved way for the Marcos burial at the heroes’ cemetery.
Olalia said an exhumation of the remains of Marcos “is the most logical consequence” of a favorable SC order.
The petitioners – based on rules – have until Nov. 26 to file a motion for reconsideration.
They said they will also file a motion to cite in contempt the military and the Marcos family for what they called premature execution of the Nov. 8 SC decision, which they argued was not yet final and executory.
In the absence of an MR, Olalia filed on Nov. 11 an “extremely urgent motion” to hold in abeyance the execution of the SC ruling and sought the re-issuance of the status quo ante order. The High Court did not act on the motion.
For Olalia, not stopping the burial could indicate that cases that are not yet final can be “executed and pre-empted unilaterally” even without waiting for the mandatory 15-day period for an appeal.
Aside from a contempt case against the military and the Marcoses, torture victim and former Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chair Loretta Ann Rosales said they might also ask the SC to conduct a forensic examination on the buried supposed remains of Marcos.
“Marcos should not be buried there, more so his wax figure,” Rosales, who is currently in the United States, told The STAR in a phone interview.
The former CHR chief was referring to rumors that the supposed “preserved body” of Marcos displayed in a glass crypt in Batac, Ilocos Norte was actually a wax figure.
The Marcoses had been claiming the one on display was the dictator’s skillfully preserved remains.
There were reports the body in the glass crypt was still in the mausoleum during the burial.
If there is ever a silver lining in the burial controversy, Rosales said it is the fact that the youth have awakened and are protesting the “sneaky” burial of the late dictator.
“The youth who are gradually rising in protest were not born in the days of dictatorship but are waking up to the ways of martial rule which ignore democratic processes and gloss over the rules of the court,” she said.
Even if the body of Marcos has already been buried, it can still be exhumed if the SC rules in favor of various petitions against his burial at the Libingan, said Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and Sen. Francis Escudero in separate interviews.
“If the petitions and motions for reconsideration will succeed, the SC can order to undo what has been done,” Pimentel said in an interview with dwIZ.
He said some officials should be held in contempt if the temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the SC on Duterte’s burial go-signal was still in force despite the court’s ruling upholding the Chief Executive’s power to do so.
“If the TRO is still there, then there may be some people guilty of contempt,” Pimentel said.
“There have been many instances the SC has reversed itself,” Escudero said.
Marcos’ body was buried at the LNMB on Friday under shady circumstances just days after the SC upheld Duterte’s discretion to order the interment.
The petitioners in the case as well as the general public only learned of the burial as the Marcos remains were being flown from Batac, Ilocos Norte on a military helicopter.
When news of the burial spread, Sen. Francis Pangilinan, president of the Liberal Party, immediately called for the exhumation of the remains and their transfer to another place.
“He may have been buried there but this does not mean he will remain buried there,” Pangilinan said. “Because as long as there are people fighting against abuse and dictatorship, we will push that his remains be transferred,” he said. “We will work tirelessly to undo this monumental injustice inflicted upon the tens of thousands of victims and upon the nation.”
Lagman, who was among the petitioners against a hero’s burial for Marcos, earlier said their next move was to file a motion to exhume the remains.
He said they would try to determine whether the remains “precipitately and stealthily interred at the LNMB” was really the body and not the wax figure housed in the Marcos mausoleum in Batac.
“If the ‘remains’ of the dictator are exhumed, then it is opportune that a forensic examination be conducted to determine whether what was buried were his mortal remains or a mere wax replica,” Lagman said in a statement.
He also rebuffed the SC spokesman’s statement that nobody has submitted an appeal to the Supreme Court to stop the burial.
“That’s not correct because on Nov. 10 I filed a manifestation at the Supreme Court that even if we have not received the Supreme Court’s decision we will file for a motion for reconsideration and ask the Supreme Court to do all remedies available so it will not become moot and academic – our motion for reconsideration for the premature burial of Marcos,” he said.
Akbayan party-list Rep. Tom Villarin said “no amount of state-sponsored revisionism will erase the fact that he is a dictator who was ousted by popular will and died in ignominy and infamy as a villain.”
“The enemies of freedom who buried Marcos yesterday will be held accountable tomorrow,” he said.
“The dictator may be dead and buried but those who benefited from his rule still live and continue to flourish in scandalous lifestyles at the expense of the people,” he added.
“We will never forget, and we will exact justice until the winds of change truly come to our shores.”
Youth group Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan (SPARK) also denounced the hasty burial of Marcos.
“When the dictator divested the rights of thousands if not millions of our countrymen, he deserves no just merit to any special privileges,” SPARK said in a statement.
SPARK also warned the public of “yellow opportunism,” apparently referring to allies of the former Aquino administration who were seen joining the protests Friday, to “hijack the event.”
“The culture of impunity was not invented only months ago, they too are guilty of its proliferation. The yellows are just as culpable and repulsive as the sitting president,” the group said.
Party-list group Sanlakas criticized Duterte for reducing the Marcos burial issue to just a clash of political clans – Marcos and Aquino.
“The President cannot simply reduce the issue to a clash of political clans, especially if he is aware of the injustices and crimes committed by the Marcos dictatorship,” Sanlakas secretary-general Aaron Pedrosa said.
In Bacolod City, San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza called for massive protests against the burial. Alminaza called for the ringing of church bells at 3 p.m. on Nov. 25 in protest.
“Let us not forget. We will always remember: no peace, no closure, without justice and reparation,” Alminaza said. – Non Alquitran, Paolo Romero, Giovanni Nilles, Gilbert Bayoran, Celso Amo
Tags: anti-dictatorship, anti-Marcos groups, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, Bayan, Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses to Malacañang, CARMMA, Duterte, exhumation, exorcism, Ferdinand Marcos, human rights, Libingan ng mga Bayani, Marcos burial at the heroes’ cemetery, martial law, Ninoy Aquino, Philippines, President Duterte, Renato Reyes, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, threat of martial law, University of the Philippines College of Law, writ of habeas corpus