Supreme Court decision on Marcos burial at heroes' cemetery expected November 8

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The Supreme Court is set to hand down Tuesday its decision on a petition against the burial of the late President Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

Preparations for the burial were underway on orders of President Rodrigo Duterte, following Duterte's assumption to the presidency on June 30.

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

But in August, the Supreme Court issued an order known as the status quo ante stopping burial preparations after victims of human rights abuses during Marcos' rule filed six petitions against it.

Also read: Supreme Court stops preparations for Marcos burial at LNMB

The court heard the petitions, even extending the status quo ante order on September 7, to allow the justices more time to deliberate and write their opinions on the issue, which has long divided Filipinos.

Also read: Supreme Court postpones vote on Marcos hero's burial

During his campaign, President Duterte promised to allow Marcos to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani "not because he was a hero, but because he was a Filipino soldier."

Marcos undeserving of burial at heroes' cemetery

The Libingan ng mga Bayani was established in 1947 to pay tribute to Filipino soldiers and fallen heroes, and serve as a final resting place for former Philippine presidents, war veterans, notable government statesmen, dignitaries, and national artists.

Those against the burial of Marcos there have argued that his burial in the Libingan ng mga Bayani violates the 1987 Constitution, which was crafted as an "anti-dictatorship" constitution after Marcos was deposed in the People Power revolution of February 1986.

Representative Edcel Lagman of Albay, one of the petitioners, also argued before the court that the Libingan ng mga Bayani, as a national shrine designated under Republic Act 289, is sacred, and the honor of being buried there can be accorded only to those who are "worthy of emulation."

Therefore, they say Marcos cannot be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani because of numerous atrocities committed during the Martial Law era.

Lagman's brother was one of the thousands who disappeared under Martial Law.

Marcos was in power from 1965 to 1986. Nearing the end of his second presidential term, Marcos declared Martial Law in 1972 on the grounds of nationwide lawlessness and the threat of armed rebellion by communist rebels.

Former human-rights commissioner Etta Rosales, a prominent activist during Marcos' rule who was herself a victim of human rights abuses, said burying Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani is a distortion of Philippine history.

"It is rubbing salt on raw wounds that still need to be healed," she said. "That is what it is doing. Because it is making a mockery of the struggle of the Filipino people to restore democracy."

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

Marcos eventually died in exile in Hawaii on September 28, 1989. Former President Fidel Ramos allowed Marcos' widow, Imelda, to bring the body home, but refused a heroes' burial for him.

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Marcos's remains have been interred in an air-conditioned mausoleum in Ilocos Norte since 1993.

Legally qualified

But for Marcos' family and supporters, as well as President Duterte, the issue is a purely legal one.

They argued that an Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) regulation allows former presidents and war veterans to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. Marcos was also a soldier during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines in the 1940s.

"He is qualified to be buried there. Kung ayaw ng ibang Pilipino, fine," Duterte said in early August. "Mag-demonstrate kayo, go ahead. You can use the streets."

[Translation: He is qualified to be buried there. If other Filipinos don't want this, fine. You can demonstrate, go ahead. You can use the streets.]

University of Santo Tomas Law Dean Nilo Divina meanwhile said from a purely legal perspective, there is no law stopping Marcos from being buried at the heroes cemetery.

He also said the idea of "moral turpitude" - which human rights advocates and martial law victims raise - cannot easily be used as the AFP regulation only prohibits those convicted of a criminal offense to be buried at the cemetery.

"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.

A Swiss and a Hawaiian court found that Marcos was liable for damages committed during the Martial Law era. Under Republic Act 10368, the ₱10 billion awarded by the Swiss court in 1997 will be used to compensate Martial Law victims through the Human Rights Victims Claims Board.