Expert: No law vs Marcos burial at heroes’ cemetery

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — With the preparations for the burial of former President Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, human rights victims are asking if it’s legal to allow the former dictator to be buried at National Heroes’ Cemetery (Libingan ng Mga Bayani).

But for University of Santo Tomas Law Dean Nilo Divina — from a purely legal perspective — there is nothing in Philippine Law that prohibits Marcos from being laid to rest at the heroes’ cemetery.

"There is no prohibition from the legal perspective and because there's no prohibition, it can be allowed," Divina told CNN Philippines in an interview, Tuesday.

According to Divina, the idea of "moral turpitude" — which human rights advocates and martial law victims raise — cannot easily be used.

Divina said the Armed Forces of the Philippines' regulation on allocation of plots at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, only prohibits those convicted of a criminal offense to be buried at the cemetery.

The law expert noted, the specific decisions of the Hawaii court, Swiss court, and Supreme Court involve a civil case.

"In the case of the former President, he was found liable and the estate ordered to pay the victims of human rights during his regime, but that was a civil case. That was not a criminal case. So from the legal perspective, there is no prohibition,” Divina said.

Also read: Marcos getting highest honors at Heroes’ Cemetery burial

Human rights advocates to question hero’s burial for Marcos

Objections to the planned burial of former president Marcos at the National Heroes' Cemetery may reach the Supreme Court.

Albay Representative Edcel Lagman said he is working with a group of lawyers to come up with the petition.

As a human rights lawyer, Lagman strongly opposes the decision of the administration, alongside victims of rights abuses during the Marcos regime.

Also read: Martial law victims: Marcos burial in heroes cemetery mocks our sacrifices

His brother, Hermon Lagman, was a political activist who disappeared during Martial Law.

"The president's decision should not be arbitrary and absolute. An independent body like the Supreme Court could intervene in order to stop this projected desecration of the Libingan ng mga Bayani," Lagman said.

Former Akbayan Partylist representative and human rights lawyer Barry Gutierrez is also involved in the drafting of the petition.

Gutierrez said one of the documents they could cite in the petition is a position paper of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, which previously stated that Marcos should not be buried at the heroes’ cemetery.

Gutierrez added they are hoping to finalize the petition by next week.

“Moral Turpitude”

Divina said it may not be too late for the human rights victims and their kin to question the move of the administration on Marcos’ burial.

According to Divina, the victims may get an injunction before the Supreme Court.

Divina admits the definition of moral turpitude is broad, and the petitioners could argue that Marcos' offenses fall under the idea of "moral turpitude."

"They may argue perhaps that given the death, the crimes have already been committed, they can make a case that this is one of moral turpitude. The phrase moral turpitude is very broad. Bouncing check is also an example, rape, theft,” Divina noted.

Divina also said the President should consider what the Martial Law victims would feel with his decision.

"The president should consider all sensitivities in making that final decision."

According to Divina, if the Supreme Court decides in favor of the petitioners, it can issue an order to exhume Marcos' remains from the Libingan.

Divina added, although there's still time to stop the transfer of Marcos' remains to the Libingan, the petitioners have to do it as soon as possible— but it may be a tough battle for them to stop the transfer.

"It may be tough given the language of the law," Divina said.

CNN Philippines’ Rex Remitio and AC Nicholls contributed to this report.

Watch: Libingan ng mga Bayani: Who deserves a hero's burial?