Updated 09:35 AM PHT Fri, November 18, 2016
Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — It's decided: Former President Ferdinand Marcos can be buried at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani (LNMB), the Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday.
Voting 9-5, Supreme Court spokesperson Ted Te said the high court dismissed all the petitions challenging the proposed burial of the former strongman Marcos at the Heroes' Cemetery.
He said the Supreme Court dismissed the petitions based on five main reasons:
- There was no grave abuse of discretion on the part of President Rodrigo Duterte in ordering the burial of Marcos at LNMB because it was done in the exercise of his mandate. There is also no law that prohibits the burial of Marcos' remains at the LNMB
- President Duterte has the power to reserve for public use and for specific public purposes, any of the lands under public domain.
- Marcos' remains, under regulations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, can be interred at LNMB because he was a former president, commander-in-chief, soldier, medal of valor awardee, and legislator.
- The Supreme Court disagreed Marcos was "dishonorably discharged," saying the disqualification only pertains to the military
- Marcos cannot be disqualified from burial at LNMB because he was not convicted of crimes involving moral turpitude.
How the justices voted
Associate Justices Arturo Brion, Presbitero Velasco Jr, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Mariano del Castillo, Jose Perez, Teresita de Castro, Jose Mendoza, and Estela Perlas-Bernabe dismissed the petitions to block the burial of Marcos at LNMB.
Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, Associate Justices Marvic Mario Victor Leonen, Francis Jardeleza, and Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa agreed with the petitions preventing the burial of Marcos at LNMB.
Associate Justice Bienvenido Reyes inhibited himself from the case.
Marcos family 'deeply grateful'
Former Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. said their family is grateful to the Supreme Court for its decision to allow his father to be buried at the LNMB.
Marcos also thanked President Duterte's "kind gesture of unwavering commitment" to the rule of law.
"It is our sincerest hope that this will lead the nation towards healing," he said.
He added that although it is a national concern, his father's burial is a family decision and will ultimately be decided by his mother, Imelda Marcos.
Marcos said their family will start discussing the interment details on Wednesday.
Petitioners, martial law victims, pro-Marcos react
Some of the petitioners said they were prepared that the high court may reject their claims, but the decision hurt nonetheless.
"Naniwala kami na meron kaming konting tsansa sa Supreme Court," petitioner Aida Santos said.
[Translation: We believed we have a chance in the Supreme Court.]
Another petitioner, Fe Mangahas, quoted President Duterte as saying that the burial issue is a political decision. But she asked how Filipinos will explain burying a dictator at the Heroes' Cemetery.
Martial law victim Felix Dalisay said they will make sure Marcos' grave at the LNMB will not be covered in tears but in their spit.
Marcos addressed the anti-Marcos protesters, "I hope they accept the decision of the Supreme Court, that they see beyond their political concerns."
Cherry Cobarrubias, a Marcos loyalist, told CNN Philippines she is praying for the petitioners who are heartbroken over the Supreme Court decision.
"Pinagdadasal ko sila. [I'm praying for them.] We have to forgive each other. We have to move on," she said.
The Libingan ng mga Bayani was established in 1947 to pay tribute to Filipino soldiers and fallen heroes, and to serve as a final resting place for former Philippine presidents, war veterans, notable government statesmen, dignitaries, and national artists.
Barry Gutierrez, the lead counsel of the petitioners against Marcos' burial at the Heroes' Cemetery, told CNN Philippines that his group will study the Supreme Court's decision before planning their next moves in the legal arena.
"We need to take a look at the decision at how the Supreme Court actually justified this outcome before we decide with finality what we are going to do at the legal arena," he explained. Gutierrez raised the possibility of filing a motion for reconsideration before the Court.
The lead counsel said the Anti-Marcos camp will continue an education campaign against the former president. "If there's a silver lining to all this, it's the fact that it has rejuvenated interest in a discussion on the Marcos dictatorship, martial law, [and] what Marcos really was."
"Despite the ruling of the Supreme Court and despite our intense disappointment with the outcome, by no means is this issue over," he pointed out.
Supreme Court's delays
The Supreme Court decision puts to rest the issue of a hero's burial for Marcos, which has been a divisive one for over 25 years.
The Supreme Court has issued a status quo ante order (SQAO), which was extended twice, on the burial decision.
The order, first issued in August, prevented Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, the Department of National Defense, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and others from proceeding with preparations for the hero's burial.
In September 7, the high court extended the SQAO, postponing the initial plan to bury Marcos on September 18 — the late president's 99th birthday.
Solicitor General Jose Calida argued before the Supreme Court that Marcos is qualified to be interred at the Heroes' Cemetery because there is no longer a "national trauma" caused by the martial law.
As proof, Calida cited the 14 million Filipinos who voted for Marcos' son, Bongbong Marcos, for vice president in the last elections. He lost by more than 200,000 votes to Leni Robredo.
For the second time, the Supreme Court extended its stay order to November 8 because several justices were still writing their separate opinions on the issue.
The long road to a hero's burial
Marcos's remains have been interred and preserved in an airconditioned family mausoleum in Ilocos Norte since 1993.
Marcos died in exile in Hawaii on September 28, 1989, three and a half years after he was deposed by the People Power revolution.
People Power swept his opponent and the symbol of opposition to the Marcos dictatorship — the housewife Corazon Aquino — to the presidency from 1986 to 1992.
Following her death in 2009, her son Benigno Aquino III, won the elections and served as president from 2010 to 2016.
Aquino was succeeded by Duterte, who won the presidential elections in May.
Duterte has always believed the issue on Marcos' burial has been a source of division among Filipinos.
CNN Philippines correspondent Anjo Alimario, senior correspondent David Santos contributed to this report.