By Christopher Lloyd T. Caliwan
MANILA, Aug. 23 (PNA) — The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued ‘status quo order’ to stop the government from proceeding with the interment of late President Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Taguig City as ordered by President Rodrigo Duterte.
In an en banc decision, the Supreme Court issued a status quo order to grant immediate relief sought in the petitions against the Marcos burial case and enjoining the orders of the Department of National Defense and Armed Forces of the Philippines, prohibiting them from burying him at the Libingan ng mga Bayani for the next 20 days or until September 12.
The order was directed to DND Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Ricardo Visaya.
The SC also postponed the oral arguments on the case which initially scheduled on, Wednesday at 9:00 a.m. to Aug, 31 at 10:00 a.m.
The high court has consolidated the six petitions filed by groups of martial law victims led by former 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 against the planned burial at the heroes’ cemetery.
The petitioners argued that the planned burial of the late dictator is “illegal and contrary to law, public policy, morals and justice.”
They alleged that allowing the burial of the former leader would violate Republic Act No. 289 (law regulating the Libingan ng mga Bayani) and R.A. 10368 (Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act) and also argued that the burial would also violate constitutional provision on state policies.
On Monday, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) said the decision to bury former President Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City is within the executive powers of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte.
Solicitor General Jose Calida submitted Monday an 86-page comment on the three petitions and the application for Temporary Restraining Order filed by victims of human rights violation during the Martial Law years before the Supreme Court.
In an 86-page comment, the Department of National Defense (DND) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) claimed that the decision of President Duterte to allow hero’s burial for Marcos was a valid exercise of his prerogative power under the Constitution and the Administrative Code.
“Petitioners question the memorandum and directive with respect to the interment of former President Marcos arguing that the Libingan is ‘reserved only for the decent and the brave.’ Petitioners’ thesis readily reveals the political, and, hence, non-justiciable nature of their petitions,” said in the comment.Calida also said that Marcos was entitled to the privilege of interment at the Libingan under AFP rules – being a former president, commander-in-chief, retired military veteran and Medal of Valor awardee, adding that the late dictator did not possess any of the disqualifications provided in the same rules.
He also explained that President Duterte, in his wisdom, deems it appropriate to inter the remains of former President Marcos in a parcel of land of the public domain devoted for the purpose of being a military shrine, and recognize his being a former President, a Medal of Valor awardee, a member of the retired military personnel, and a war veteran.
Calida further argued that the decision to allow Marcos’ burial at the heroes grave is not contrary to public policy, does not contravene the principles and policies enshrined in the Constitution and does not violate the country’s obligations under international laws.
The Solicitor General explained that President Duterte is not bound by the 1993 agreement between then President Fidel Ramos and the Marcos family to have the remains of former President Marcos interred at Batac, Ilocos Norte, which was invoked by petitioners.
He also assured that the burial would not affect claims for compensation under RA No. 10368 (An Act Providing for Preparation and Recognition of Victims of Human Rights Violations During the Marcos Regime), since the PHP10-billion funds for the reparation remain intact and will be released upon approval of the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board (HRVCB).
He pointed out that Marcos need not be a hero to be entitled to such privilege as the Libingan ng mga Bayani is not exclusive to fallen heroes.
Calida also rebutted petitioners’ citation of Republic Act No. 289 (law regulating a heroes’ cemetery), saying such law covers not the Libingan but rather the national pantheon, which was supposed to be built at East Avenue in Quezon City by virtue of Proclamation No. 431 issued by President Elpidio Quirino on Dec. 23, 1953 but did not materialize.