The Supreme Court on Wednesday extends Status Quo Ante Order (SQA) in connection with the burial of late President Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (LNMB) in Taguig City as ordered by President Rodrigo Duterte.
Marcos was reportedly set to be buried at the LNMB on Sept. 18.
The high tribunal initially issued the SQA, which stopped the government from proceeding with the planned burial of Marcos at the Libingan, last Aug. 23, effective for 20 days or until Monday next week, Sept. 12.
The order, which was directed at Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Ricardo Visaya, will lapse days before the scheduled burial on Sept. 18.
After the two oral arguments sessions on the consolidated petitions filed by groups of martial law victims against the planned burial at the heroes’ cemetery, SC spokesman Theodore Te said that the SQA, which is set to expire on Monday, has been extended until Oct.18 to allow the justices to resolve the case on merits.
”After the oral arguments were concluded, the Court En Banc met and agreed to extend the Status Quo Ante Order issued on 23 August 2016 (served on 24 August, expiring on 13 September 2016) up to 18 October 2016,” Te said.
The justices made the decision after the government defended before the high court the decision of President Duterte to allow Marcos’ burial at the Libingan.
The SC concluded the oral arguments at 5 p.m. and ordered parties to file their respective memorandum in 20 days before they resolve the case.
During the continuation of oral arguments, Solicitor general Jose Calida, who head of the government’s counsel assured that the interment would have no effect on claims of human rights victims during martial law as well as pending cases against the Marcoses before the Sandiganbayan as already confirmed in previous session by the human rights victims claims board and office of the Ombudsman.
Calida made assurance during the interpellation with Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno that the burial of Marcos will not affect the claims of the human rights victims.
Calida reiterated the government’s position that Marcos is qualified to be buried at the Libingan considering that he is not only a former president but also a former soldier and war veteran.
“From the vantage point of the government, of President Duterte, it is the fact that Marcos was a former president and also a soldier and military veteran,” Calida said in response to Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen’s interpellation, prompting the latter to say that “when we bury somebody, it has to be the whole person viewed from what he is in history, what to his relatives, family and friends.’
But Calida said that while the Duterte administration acknowledged the numerous human rights violations committed during the martial law, it had nothing to do with his decision to allow Marcos to be buried at the Libingan and that the reparation of the martial law victims was already ongoing.
For his part, Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza was apparently not convinced by the arguments raised by Duterte for allowing Marcos to be buried at the Libingan.
“You have to convince me as to why a President who was a dictator, plunderer and human rights violator deserves to be buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani,” Jardeleza told Calida during his interpellation.
Calida said the matter rest “solely and exclusively” on presidential prerogative under residual powers and that Marcos is not disqualified to be buried under AFP regulations.
He also said that cases against the Marcoses would not be affected even if the SC allowed Marcos burial.
SC Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa asked Calida on the effectivity of Presidential Decree 105 signed by Marcos in 1973 which declares national shrines as “hollowed and sacred places” due to their significance and importance in the lives of the country’s heroes and eminent leaders and as such must never be desecrated.
Caguioa said that since the Libingan was a national shrine, it was the policy of the State to hold it as a hollowed and sacred ground but Calida pointed that the Libingan did not fall under the definition of national shrine under the said decree.
“It is our position that the Libingan is not covered by PD 105. This proclamation states that national shrines are the sites of the birth, exile, imprisonment, detention or death of great and eminent leaders of the nation and the Libingan clearly does not fall under this,” the Solicitor General answered.
Calida argued that Marcos, being a former president and duly recognized soldier and war veteran, should be entitled to interment at the Libingan.
He said the Libingan is not exclusive for heroes as the national pantheon under Republic Act No. 289 was never really built.
Calida explained that the decision of President Duterte is not really to honor Marcos as a hero but rather “to accord him a simple mortuary rites befitting a former president, commander-in-chief and soldier.”
He stressed that it was a campaign promise of the President, who won in the elections with over 16 million votes.
During interpellation, however, he clarified that the government does not plan to accord state honors for Marcos burial but “only a simple graveyard military honor.”
The top government counsel invoked the President’s authority under the Constitution and Revised Administrative Code to decide on political question that does not involve any justifiable issue for the high court to resolve.
The petitioners insisted that allowing Marcos to be buried at the LNMB would distort history, foster division instead of unity and even glorify him despite the numerous human rights violations and rampant graft and corruption during his term.
Among the petitioners were Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Satur Ocampo, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman and former Commission on Human Rights chair Etta Rosales; a group led by former senator Heherson Alvarez; a group of University of the Philippines students; and former Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao human rights chair Algamar Latiph. (MANILA, Sept. 7/PNA)