By Imee Charlee C. Delavin, Senior Reporter

Marcos confidentially buried
 at Heroes’ Cemetery

Posted on November 19, 2016

THIRTY years after his ouster from power by his own Armed Forces, the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos was buried on Friday, Nov. 18, at the heroes’ cemetery, in unannounced military ceremonies held in keeping with the Marcos family’s request “to do this in private, and in confidentiality,” the spokesman of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said in a news conference following the surprise funeral ceremony.

Anti-Marcos ralliers at the People Power Movement on Friday, Nov. 18, when the late dictator was buried at the heroes' cemetery. Photo by Bernard Testa
Mr. Marcos was buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani 10 days after the Supreme Court decision clearing the way for his burial.

The burial was led by Mr. Marcos’s widow, Imelda, her children Imee, Irene and Ferdinand Jr., and her grandchildren.

The other attendees, according to AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto F. Padilla, Jr., “numbered about a hundred or slightly over a hundred,” including members of the different major services to include “the Army, the Navy, the Marines and the Air Force,” as well as members of the Philippine National Police (PNP), “and I heard the chief of the PNP was also present.”

Mr. Marcos’s burial at the heroes’ cemetery -- long planned by his family but equally opposed by opponents, critics, and victims of his brutal 14-year dictatorship -- was reported that day with a sense of surprise and astonishment, as not a few veterans of the anti-Marcos struggle, sought by the media for their response, reacted vehemently or with outrage at this development suddenly unfolding on Friday noon.

But 30 years after the millitary-backed People Power Revolution that toppled the dictator, public opposition to Mr. Marcos has also waned, going by the considerable showing of his son, former senator Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. in the 2016 vice presidential race. Mr. Marcos has since questioned that contest before the Supreme Court, which is set to decide on this matter as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal.

Mr. Padilla in his news conference said “There was no announcement regarding this interment, in deference to the desire of the family.”

Kaya nila kami nabigyan ng short notice, kasi [We were given short notice because] it was part of their request to do this in private, and in confidentiality,” Mr. Padilla also said, adding:

“So in keeping with the wishes, which we all complied with, even if it is a request made by an ordinary soldier, we did our part.”

“Our soldiers and the members of the installation providing [funeral] services actually can be given short notice, and they can provide the services...[because] this is part and parcel of what they have been doing all along,” Mr. Padilla explained further.

“We have a contingent that is assigned to the funeral services unit of the Philippine provide this funeral or last-rite services for our soldiers so sanay na sila [they’re used to it],” he added.

Military honors accorded Mr. Marcos included the 21-gun salute, Mr. Padilla also said.

“At the entombment area, there were our generals in white uniform who [acted as] the ceremonial pallbearers,” he explained in Filipino. “They were the ones who stood there and folded our flag, which they handed over to the Acting Chief of Staff, who in turn gave it to the widow of our late president.”

“We have a budget for this and the amount exceeding the budget will be shouldered by the relatives of the deceased,” Mr. Padilla said, adding, however, that he did not have “the exact figures” for this ceremony.

Mr. Padilla described the gravesite as “a very simple entombment area with “ cauldron that has a flame burning inside” and a “marble finish.”

“And there’s nothing more elaborate than that, other than a small wall with an inscription but covered by flowers.”

Asked if the gravesite will be open to the public, Mr. Padilla said: “Ordinarily the Libingang ng Bayani is supposed to be accessible. But for the moment, I cannot give you a categorical answer regarding that because of the previous arrangement that went between the AFP and the Marcoses.”

At the same time he was explaining the secluded character of this occasion. “The Armed Forces did not decide on making this a no media event. We just complied with the desire of the family to keep this a private activity that will not be covered by media,” Mr. Padilla said.

Before Mr. Padilla’s remarks, Imee Marcos issued a brief statement in Filipino that went thus:

Sa wakas, napatupad sa araw na ito ang huling habilin ng aking minamahal na ama, ang ating Pangulong Ferdinand Edralin Marcos: na maihimlay kasama ng kanyang mga kapwa sundalo. Ang aking pamilya ay taos-pusong nagpapasalamat sa inyong lahat na nagpatotoo sa karapatan niyang mahimlay sa Libingan ng mga Bayani [Finally, the final wish of my father, our President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos, was realized on this day: that he be buried along with his fellow soldiers. My family wholeheartedly thanks all of you who stood by his right to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani].”

Una sa lahat, kay Pangulong Duterte na nagmungkahi nito sa Korte Suprema na kinatigan naman ang pasyang ito, at sa libo-libong nagmamahal at nagmamalasakit sa aming pamilya. Kasama namin kayong nangarap at nanalangin sa halos tatlong dekada na makita ang araw na ito [First of all, to President (Rodrigo R.) Duterte who raised this to the Supreme Court and supported this decision, and the thousands of people who love and care for our family. With you, we dreamed and prayed for almost three decades to see this day].” 

Ms. Marcos, who is also Ilocos Norte governor, also pleaded for understanding amid the family’s decision to execute the burial in private. “Kaya naman ako humihingi ng dispensa at pag-unawa na lang ninyo sa naging pasya ng aking pamilya na gawing payak, pribado at taimtim ang paglibing sa aking ama para hindi na masaling ang mga nagdaramdam. Dama namin ang inyong matinding hangarin na maihatid ang aking ama sa kanyang huling hantungan [I seek your understanding for our decision to make our father’s burial simple, private, and solemn to spare those who are still hurting but we feel your deep desire to send our father to his resting place].”

Albay Representative Edcel C. Lagman called the hero’s burial of Mr. Marcos “premature,” saying petitioners are considering filing a motion to order the exhumation of what remains of the late strongman “which was precipitately and stealthily interred in the LNMB.”

“The petitoners will ask the Supreme Court to declare in contempt all those involved in the premature burial of Marcos without the Supreme Court decision having become final and executory,” he added.

Mr. Lagman said he filed a manifestation with the High Court on Nov. 10 that pending receipt of the SC’s decision, they will “definitely file motions for reconsideration (MR) which should not be rendered moot by a precipitate Marcos burial.”

Vice-President Maria Leonor G. Robredo, for her part, described the noontime burial as that made “like a thief in the night.”

“The Marcos family deliberately hid the information of burying former President Marcos from the Filipino people like a thief in the night. They obviously flouted the law where the decision does not become final and executory until 15 days or the resolution of the MR. We are disturbed that this happened in coordination with AFP and PNP, demonstrating further that the judicial process has been thoroughly disregarded,” Ms. Robredo said in her statement.

“This is nothing new to the Marcoses -- they who had hidden wealth, hidden human rights abuses, and now, a hidden burial -- with complete disrespect for the rule of law. Once again, we strongly condemn the burial of the former dictator in the Libingan ng mga Bayani. As stated in several decisions from the Supreme Court, Ferdinand Marcos was a thief, a murderer and a dictator. He is no hero. If he were, obviously his family would not have to hide his burial like a shameful criminal deed,” the country’s second most powerful official said.

Liberal Party President and Senator Francis “Kiko” N. Pangilinan said Mr. Marcos’ burial at the Heroes’ memorial could only be temporary as they will petition to move the remains of the late president.

Malilibing siya pero hindi ibig sabihin na mananatili siyang nakalibing dun. Dahil habang may mga taong naninindigan laban sa naging pag-aabuso ng diktadura, itutulak natin na ang mga labi niya ay dapat ilipat [He will be buried, but it doesn’t mean that he will be buried there for good because as long as there are people who will stand against the abuses that he committed, we will push that his remains must be transferred]. They may have won this battle but the war is far from over.”

Artist Toym Imao, for his part, said his family will not exhume the remains of his father, National Artist Abdulmari Imao. But he cited the need to “symbolically address this travesty,” saying the hero’s burial for Mr. Marcos was a “symbolical act,” no matter if “a wax figure or real corpse is buried there.”

Former president Benigno S.C. Aquino III said separately that the stories of the martial law years “should never be forgotten.”

“At a time like this, it is fitting that we hear the voices of others; learn about their stories, the persons behind the statistics, their loved ones lost to the regime of Martial Law. They should never be forgotten,” said Mr. Aquino in a statement sent through his former deputy spokesman Abigail dlF. Valte. It was the 1983 assassination of Mr. Aquino’s father, Senator Benigno “Ninoy” S. Aquino, Jr., that revived the protest movement that was suppressed in the 1970s leading to the 1986 People Power Revolution.

Meanwhile, Mr. Duterte, who is on the other side of the globe to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Peru, said he was just being “legalistic” in implementing the Marcos burial.

“Well, it seems to be a very raucous issue for the nation but I would like to pray that everybody would find a space in his heart for forgiveness. For those detained for so long and suffering you have this option to file a case against the late President Marcos. You know, the sins cannot visit the children and liability is always personal. That’s a principle of law that we’re following,” the President said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Sana [I wish] at the day of the burial, they might just want also to stretch more of their understanding of what happened to our country. Ang isip ko noon [What I thought before] when I decided is we have a divided nation although not that widespread. But you can be very sure that all the Ilokano-speaking people are really hurt, they are dismayed and it’s been there floating like a flotsam, we have to decide once and for all. And me, I was just being legalistic about it. President Marcos was a president for so long and he was a soldier. So that’s about it. Whether or not he performed worse or better, there is no study, there is no movie about it. It’s just the challenges and allegations of the other side which [are] not enough,” Mr. Duterte added.

His spokesman, meanwhile, claimed that Mr. Duterte was not aware of Friday’s development, in contrast to Mr. Padilla’s remarks in his press conference that “The President is always kept aware of everything that is going on in the country.”

Following the hero’s burial, protest actions were held in different parts of Metro Manila, including the traditional protest sites during the Marcos years -- UP Diliman, Ayala Avenue in Makati, and the historic EDSA beltway, the scene of the 1986 revolution, where now stands the People Power Monument.