The Supreme Court’s majority ruling (9-5-1) has upheld President Duterte’s oral order to the Armed Forces of the Philippines to bury the remains of former president-turned-dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. The alleged aim is “national unity and healing.” Instead it has stoked anew public protests and indignation across the nation – and justly…
A day after the decision was announced and a summary was given to the media, the Philippine STAR and the Philippine Daily Inquirer came out with highly critical editorials.
In part, the STAR editorial declares:
“There is no closure for these [human rights violations] victims who have seen no one brought to justice for the atrocities of the dictatorship. The Philippine government has seized billions in bank deposits, jewelry, real property, precious artworks and other assets illegally owned during the Marcos years, but has failed to send the owners of the assets to prison. There is an obvious crime, but where is the criminal? Where is justice?”
For its part, the PDI editorial states: “The (SC decision) is a betrayal of both the Court’s noblest traditions and of the animating spirit of the  Constitution. We share the view that the majority’s version of judicial restraint in the face of presidential prerogatives has allowed evil to slip through the thicket of technicalities – and triumph.”
Asserting that Marcos isn’t qualified to be buried at the Libingan, the editorial adds:
“His family today speaks of unity and healing, but has never once apologized for the well-documented, large-scale plunder and systemic violence of the Marcos years. If there is anyone who should not be buried in what ordinary people understand is the cemetery for heroes, if there is any outlaw the Constitution should protect us from, it is Marcos.”
The tribunal’s majority decision, penned by Justice Diosdado M. Peralta, centers on its finding that President Duterte didn’t commit an abuse of discretion in ordering Marcos’ burial at the Libingan. Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, who dissents, describes it as a “regrettably myopic view.” I agree.
For instance, the ruling (yet to be fully made public) states, in effect, that Marcos’ having been a president and commander-in-chief who violated human rights does not disqualify him from being buried at the Libingan. Why so? It says:
“For his alleged human rights abuses and corrupt practices, we may disregard Marcos as a President and Commander-in-Chief, but we cannot deny him the right to be acknowledged based on the other positions he held [as legislator, secretary of national defense, soldier]. In this sense, we agree with the proposition that Marcos should be viewed and judged in his totality as a person. While he was not all good, he was not purely evil either. Certainly, just a human who erred like us.”
Coming from the highest court, this view and judgment on Marcos as “just a human who erred like us” practically whitewashes – and casually dismisses – the dictator’s “well-documented, large-scale plunder and systemic violence,” as the PDI editorial states. What criteria for measuring the good and the evil acts of Marcos did the majority of the court use to arrive at such a judgment?
You’ve probably heard or read earlier of this “proposition” with which the SC majority concurs. Yes, from Imee Marcos. While her mother Imelda and brother Bongbong have claimed countless times that Marcos had done no wrong – thus “What have we to apologize for?” – Imee has taken a different tack. Saying that her father may have committed some misdeeds, just like anybody else, she enjoins those opposing her father’s burial as a hero to let him go, “so we can all move on.”
Obviously self-assured she had gotten Duterte and the majority of the magistrates behind her proposition, Imee was brimming over with triumphalism as she called on Marcos loyalists gathered near the Supreme Court last Tuesday:
“Let us help Apo President Duterte. Let us help him achieve his wish for unity, that the Philippines be whole and be healed. Thank you! Marcos pa rin! Duterte pa rin! Let the Supreme Court decision be upheld.”
The majority also disputes Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio’s assertion, in his dissenting opinion, that Marcos is disqualified from burial at Libingan because his ouster in February 1986 was “the strongest form of dishonorable discharge from office” since it was meted out by the direct act of the sovereign people.
Although conceding Marcos’ ouster was undeniable, the majority ruling argues that the “political act of the people should not be automatically given a particular legal meaning other than its obvious political consequence – that of ousting him as President.” In this regard, it adds, “it is not the function of the Court… to divine the exact implications or significance of the number of votes obtained in elections, or the message from the number of participants in public assemblies.”
Yet Justice Jose P. Perez, who concurs, blatantly contradicts this majority stance. He avers that the issue of Duterte’s alleged abuse of discretion was “answered by the evidently substantial [Bongbong] Marcos votes” in the 2016 vice presidential race. He claims that “there is no longer a national damnation of (President Marcos), that the constitutionalization of the sin and personification is no longer of national acceptance.” Divining the election results, he adds that Bongbong’s votes were “substantial enough to be a legitimate consideration in the executive policy formulation…”
Whew! One reads this to mean that the “substantial” number of votes for Bongbong has negated the “national damnation” of his father and provides Duterte legitimate ground to order Marcos’ burial at the Libingan.
There, you got a peep into how the SC majority has constructed its ruling. Let’s wait for the full text. It might provide us more enlightenment.
* * *
Published in The Philippine Star
Nov. 12, 2016