Alunan: 1992 Ramos-Marcos burial deal no longer binding

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The 1992 deal allowing the burial of late President Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines — but only in Ilocos Norte — is no longer binding, former Interior Secretary Rafael Alunan III told CNN Philippines on Wednesday.

This means the said memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed by then President Fidel Ramos and the Marcos family cannot stop the burial of Marcos' remains at Libingan ng mga Bayani.

"It's not binding eh. It does not bind. It's not like an agreement that binds the Government of the Philippines, this is a kasunduan (deal) between the President and the Marcos family; our understanding ended when we left government," Alunan said.

Related: Expert: No law vs Marcos burial at heroes’ cemetery

Alunan's claim is contrary to earlier reports by other media outfits saying the deal was still in effect and could prevent the heroes' burial.

He said the statements he made in a press conference with Ramos upon their return from Beijing last Saturday were taken out of context.

Alunan was among those who signed the MoU, which has four conditions:

  • Marcos' remains must be flown straight from Hawaii, United States to Paoay town in Ilocos Norte
  • He must be accorded honors befitting a war veteran and a former member of the Armed Forces of the Philippines
  • His remains would not be allowed to be paraded in Metro Manila
  • Burial of Marcos' remains must be in Ilocos Norte and not in the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

According to Alunan, these conditions were made to avoid unnecessary tensions at a time when the wounds of the 1986 EDSA Revolution were still fresh.

He added the MoU cannot be enforced even if President Duterte wanted to. The chief executive should instead create another MoU if he wants to enforce the substance of the 1992 deal.

"Kasi MoU yun eh. It's not a law. It's not a contract. It's not an agreement, kasunduan lang yun eh, understanding so in other words, word of honor, not even word of honor, it's just a cooperation, parang I cooperate with you, and so I understand where are you coming from and so I agree, ganoon lang yun (It was just simply an expression of cooperation)," Alunan explained.

'Temporarily interred'

He added that former First Lady Imelda Marcos seemed to have no plans of burying her husband in Ilocos Norte for good.

Also read: Marcos getting highest honors at Heroes’ Cemetery burial

This could be the reason why the late strongman's remains are still on display at a mausoleum in Batac instead of being buried six feet under.

Alunan narrated that after he and Mrs. Marcos signed the MoU, the latter crossed out a line in the document and wrote "temporarily interred" on top of it instead.

"She indicated in her handwriting, after I had signed it, 'temporarily interred.' I remember that very well. And I said no, that is not correct because we already signed and you cannot alter what we had signed," Alunan explained.

Mrs. Marcos even crafted another copy of the MoU with the phrase "temporarily interred" on it but Alunan did not sign it.

"Because I could see from the way they tried to construct that (document) that at some point, they will bury him somewhere else," Alunan said.

The MoU, however, allowed Marcos' burial in another place sometime in the future, perhaps after the Ramos administration has ended.

"It's said there that at some point in the future, conditions change, there could be a change in the burial venue but there's no mention of the Libingan ng mga Bayani," Alunan said.

President's prerogative

The former Interior Secretary added President Duterte has the right to have Marcos' remains buried at the Libingan.

"He has to assess the situation today and if he sees that the socio-political risks are much less today compared it was during our time, then he can proceed to do otherwise than what we agreed with the Marcoses at that time," Alunan said.

He is just hoping the President would consult the House of Representatives and Senate and let them vote on a resolution on the burial.

Alunan said the public, through their elected representatives, should decide on the controversial matter.