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Sunday 21 January 2018

Philippines government defends decision on 'hero' burial for dictator Marcos

Anti-Marcos protesters hold pictures of victims of the martial law era in a rally outside the Philippines Supreme Court (AP)
Anti-Marcos protesters hold pictures of victims of the martial law era in a rally outside the Philippines Supreme Court (AP)

Ferdinand Marcos, the late dictator of the Philippines, is qualified to be buried in a heroes' cemetery as a former president and war veteran despite opposition from victims of his regime, government lawyers and his heirs have said.

Solicitor-General Jose Calida defended President Rodrigo Duterte's decision to allow Mr Marcos to be buried at the military-run Heroes' Cemetery at the resumption of Supreme Court hearings on petitions against the burial.

Memories of Mr Marcos, a dictator who ruled under martial law, still divide the country. He was accused of ruling through fear, with opponents jailed or disappearing, and amassing billions of dollars in ill-gotten wealth.

He was ousted in a 1986 "people power" revolt and died in exile in Hawaii in 1989. His remains are displayed in a glass coffin in his hometown, but his family want him to be buried in the Heroes' Cemetery in the capital, Manila.

Mr Calida said the cemetery is not reserved only for heroes, saying its name is a misnomer because there is no standard or body defining who is a hero. Burying Mr Marcos there, where three former chief justices and even widows of former military chiefs of staff are buried, will not confer the title of a hero on him, he said.

He added that the court should give Mr Duterte latitude to exercise his political discretion and carry out his campaign promise to bury Mr Marcos there for what he says would be national healing.

One judge appeared not to agree.

"In light of executive, legislative and judicial pronouncements that characterise President Marcos as a dictator, plunderer, human rights violator, can you explain how his burial in the Heroes' Cemetery can further the policy to hold and keep the cemetery sacred and hallow or with people to be esteemed?" asked Justice Alfredo Caguiao.

Mr Calida said those labels were used on Mr Marcos as a president and not as a military officer.

The head of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines also gave evidence on a study by the commission which shows that Mr Marcos's military record from the Second World War is fraught with myths and lies, including about receiving US medals.


Press Association

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