PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte blamed his predecessors – particularly the two Aquino presidents — for failing to cause an amendment of the law covering the Libingan ng mga Bayani which left him with the burden of resolving a decades-old issue that has divided the nation.
Duterte told reporters on his visit to wounded soldiers in Zamboanga City Friday afternoon that the two Aquino presidencies – Corazon’s, from 1986-1992 and Benigno III or Noynoy’s from 2010-2016 -- had the “golden” opportunity to act on the festering issue.
The President said that it was just “a private contract” between the Marcos heirs and Cory Aquino’s successor, President Fidel V. Ramos, which allowed the Marcos family to bring home the dictator’s remains from Hawaii on condition that he was to be buried in his hometown in Batac, Ilocos Norte.
The President also explained he had no choice but to follow what the law says on the LNMB, as affirmed by the Supreme Court’s 9-5-1 decision rejecting seven petitions to stop the transfer of Marcos’ remains from Batac to LNMB.
The law he was referring to was Republic Act 289, also known as An Act Providing for the Construction of a National Pantheon for Presidents of the Philippines, National Heroes, and Patriots of the Country, which was signed into law by Philippine President Elpidio Quirino on June 16, 1948.
“Maski anong gawin ko [Whatever I do], I could not really renege on my promise and the mandate of the law,” said Duterte, referring to his campaign promise to allow the Marcos burial at LNMB.
The President added, “If the Marcoses wanted to, they could also charge me for not following . . . violating the law. Saan ako pupunta [Where do I go]?”
“I am a lawyer. We are trained to stick to the letter of the law. Wala kaming [We have no] choice, we cannot have a different interpretation because it simply says that a soldier and a former president are qualified to be buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani,” Duterte said.
The President said “it was not because of the Marcoses but it’s a question of law” that he publicly committed during his campaign for the presidency to allow the burial of Marcos in the heroes’ cemetery.
“I made it very clear to everybody and I explained already the reason why, it’s a matter of law,” he added.
He said it is not stated either in the law that a former president accused of being a dictator cannot be buried at the LNMB
Duterte clarified that accusations against the late Mr. Marcos as a dictator is “a political issue.”
Citing the past presidents, Duterte said, “They had 12 golden years to do it. In-amend sana nila. Siyempre para wala nang gulo. But as long as the law is there. .. Well, the Supreme Court [allowed] it.”
He said that he did not consider his or other people’s judgment of whether Marcos was a hero or not when he directed the Armed Forces of the Philippines to start preparing for the simple military burial for Marcos but simply followed the law that allows former presidents and soldiers to be buried at LNMB.
Marcos was both, the President said.
He suspected that none of the presidents took the trouble to clarify the law, or resolve with finality the matter, because of political reasons.
“Bakit hindi mo klinaro? Because, ayaw magsugal [Why didn’t they clarify this? Because they didn’t wish to gamble]. Many of them were really afraid of what? The dissent?”