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Monday 26 August 2019

Anger as Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos buried in heroes' cemetery

Supporters of the former Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos cheer as they stand outside the Hero's Cemetery where he was buried in Taguig, south of Manila (AP)
Supporters of the former Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos cheer as they stand outside the Hero's Cemetery where he was buried in Taguig, south of Manila (AP)
Former Philippines president Ferdinand Marcos and his wife Imelda Marcos

Former Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos has been buried at the country's Heroes' Cemetery in a secrecy-shrouded ceremony that has sparked anger among opponents.

The move was approved by President Rodrigo Duterte but has infuriated supporters of the "people power" revolt that ousted the long-dead Marcos three decades ago.

His daughter, Imee, expressed relief after her father's interment at the heavily guarded cemetery in metropolitan Manila, which she said fulfilled his last wish.

Pro-democracy activists stressed the debate over the ex-president's final resting place was far from over and protested across the metropolis.

Bonifacio Ilagan, a left-wing activist who was detained and tortured during Marcos's rule, said the dictator was buried "like a thief in the night".

A politician considered asking the Supreme Court to exhume the newly buried Marcos.

"It's very much like when he declared martial law in 1972," Mr Ilagan said. "This is so Marcos style. I want to rush to the cemetery to protest this. I feel so enraged."

Marie Hilao Enriquez, a former political detainee whose sister, a fellow activist, was raped and killed by policemen, wept upon learning the news.

Marcos "died in the arms of his family" but many Marcos-era activists remain missing after being allegedly abducted by state forces, Mr Enriquez said at a protest.

"We are still searching for the victims' bodies, trying to find out where they buried the bodies."

Ms Marcos thanked those who "were with us in hoping and praying for nearly three decades to see this day", while Mr Duterte called for calm.

"Hopefully, both sides will exercise maximum tolerance and come to terms with the burial," Mr Duterte's spokesman, Ernesto Abella, quoted him as saying.

The president is in Peru, where he is attending a summit of Asia-Pacific leaders.

Military spokesman brigadier general Restituto Padilla said Marcos's remains were flown by air force helicopter from his northern Ilocos Norte hometown for burial at the military-run cemetery in Manila.

Marcos's widow, Imelda, and her children attended the simple ceremony, along with dozens of relatives and friends. After landing at an air base, Marcos's remains were brought by a black limousine to the cemetery.

His flag-draped wooden coffin was carried by military pallbearers to the grave, military spokesman brigadier general Restituto Padilla said. A 21-gun salute by military honour troops rang out.

"We rendered the simplest of honours befitting the former president in compliance to the desire of the family," Mr Padilla said.

Asked why the burial was kept from the public, he said it was the Marcos family's desire "to keep it private".

The burial shocked many democracy advocates and human rights victims who had planned protests against Marcos's interment at the cemetery unaware that funeral plans were under way.

Burying someone accused of massive rights violations and plunder at the heroes' cemetery has long been an emotional and divisive issue in the Philippines.

Marcos was ousted by a largely nonviolent army-backed uprising in 1986. At the height of the political turbulence, he flew to Hawaii, where he lived with his wife and children until he died in 1989.

The powerful family has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

Mrs Marcos and two of her children ran for public office and won stunning political comebacks. One son, Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr, ran for vice president earlier this year and lost by a slim margin.

In 1993, Marcos's body was taken to his home town in Ilocos Norte, where it has been displayed in a glass coffin and became a tourist attraction. But his family fought for his remains to be transferred to the heroes' cemetery.

Mr Duterte, who took over the presidency in June, backed Marcos's burial, saying it was his right as a president and soldier. It was a political risk in a country where democracy advocates celebrate Marcos's removal each year.

Last week, the Supreme Court dismissed seven petitions, including from former torture victims, which argued that his honourable burial was "illegal and contrary to law, public policy, morals and justice".

Opponents planned to appeal the court decision within a 15-day period but were pre-empted by the surprise burial. They said the Marcos family should be cited by the court for contempt.

The court ruled that Marcos was never convicted by final judgment of any offence involving moral turpitude, adding that the convictions cited by anti-Marcos petitioners were civil.

While critics may disregard Marcos as president due to his human rights abuses, the court said he cannot be denied the right to be acknowledged as a former legislator, a defence secretary, a military member, a war veteran and a Medal of Valour holder.

"While he was not all good," the 15-member court said, "he was not pure evil either."


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