Dictator Ferdinand Marcos will get a hero’s burial in the Philippines, despite mass protests

Almost 30 years after his death, Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos is getting a hero’s burial. In a Nov. 8 ruling, the Supreme Court supported president Rodrigo Duterte’s resolve to honor the country’s original strongman leader by giving him a spot in the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Cemetery of the Heroes) in Manila. Duterte’s administration confirmed that the state burial will be scheduled before the end of the year.

All previous presidents before Duterte—including Benigno Aquino III whose own father was gunned down by Marcos’s militia—rejected the idea of an honorable burial for the former dictator. (His remains have been stored in a temperature-controlled mausoleum in his home province in the northern Philippines.)

FILE PHOTO - Former first lady Imelda Marcos kisses the glass coffin of her husband, late president Ferdinand Marcos, who remains unburied since his death in 1989, during her 85th birthday celebration in Ferdinand Marcos' hometown of Batac, Ilocos Norte province, in northern Philippines July 2, 2014. REUTERS/Erik De Castro/File Photo - RTX2MNWI
Imelda Marcos visits. (Reuters/Erik De Castro)

Duterte argued that Marcos has the right to be buried in the hallowed site reserved for army veterans, national leaders, and heroes based on the Philippine constitution. “The law is the law. It has no emotions at all,” said Duterte in a Nov. 11 speech. “It says that if you are a president [you’re allowed to be buried there]. It does not say you have a record of a dictatorship or what not, or being a gentle despot.”

But a swell of angry emotions has besieged the Philippine capital, with anti-Marcos protestors taking to the streets. Many protestors are victims of Marcos’s deadly 20-year regime. Amnesty International reports that over 75,000 cases of human rights abuses have been filed against Marcos and his cronies. A government commission estimates that Marcos and his luxury-loving clan plundered $10 billion from the nation’s coffers during his tenure.

Riot police watch as protesters hold a rally near the Philippine Supreme Court to await its ruling on whether to allow or not the burial of the late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the heroes' cemetery Tuesday, Nov.8, 2016 in Manila, Philippines. The Supreme Court on Tuesday, voted 9-5, with one abstention, to rule that Marcos can be buried at a heroes' cemetery in a ruling opponents say rolled back the country's democratic triumph when Filipinos ousted the strongman in a 1986 "people power" revolt.(AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
Unwelcome “hero.” (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

A last-ditch effort to stop the hero burial failed in the Philippine senate yesterday. “I am sad that the senate missed the opportunity to defend the truth and our history from the Marcos’s historical revisionism and negationism. It missed the chance to be on the side of real heroes,” said senator Risa Hontiveros, who co-authored the resolution to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision.

epa05588390 Filipino Governor Imee Marcos, daughter of Ferdinand Marcos, gestures outside the Supreme Court in Manila, Philippines, 17 October 2016. Supporters of Ferdinand Marcos gathered and held a mass outside the Supreme Court for the burial of the late dictator at the Heroes Cemetery in Taguig. The decision of the Supreme Court will be released on 18 October 2016.  EPA/MARK R. CRISTINO
Governor Imee Marcos, “hero’s” daughter? (EPA/Mark R. Cristino.)

After his death while in exile in Hawaii in 1989, his family members eventually worked their way back into the center of Philippine politics. His wife Imelda is serving another term in the House of Representatives, eldest daughter Imee is a governor, and son Ferdinand Jr. (“Bongbong”) is a senator and nearly became the country’s second-in-command, as the runner-up in the vice presidential race in the nationwide elections in May.

Duterte is vocal with his sympathies for the Marcoses. His father served in Marcos’s cabinet, and last month he admitted that Imee helped fund his presidential campaign. In Beijing, Duterte introduced Ferdinand Jr. as the country’s next vice president, acknowledging an electoral protest by the Marcos scion against vice president Leni Robredo’s victory. And tattooed on his right hand is the insignia of the Guardians Brotherhood Organization, a military group that once plotted a coup to reinstate the ousted dictator, as the South China Morning Post reports.

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