MANILA - Malacañang said the reported agreement between the Marcos family and the administration of then-President Fidel Ramos in 1993 on the burial of the late President Marcos does not bind the Duterte administration.
Chief presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo insists that Duterte, having received the most number of votes in the May 2016 elections, has been authorized by the people to carry out his campaign promises, including burying Marcos and putting a "closure" on the issue.
Panelo said Duterte would also "not touch" the regulation spelling out who are entitled to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. However, the Palace would welcome any petition filed in court against the planned burial and said it would abide by the court's decision.
"Assuming that there is an agreement, it does not bind the President because that was entered into by the previous president. The President has the direction to either uphold it or modify it.
"The authority is predicated on the overwhelmingly landslide win by him given the fact that during the campaign, he repeatedly said that these are the things that he would do as president, one of which is to bury the late president Marcos, to put closure on this issue. Having been elected overwhelmingly at that, to my mind, we the voters authorized the President what he said he would do when he sits as President.
"Since there is already a petition in the Supreme Court, as we said we welcome the petition. We welcome any opposition and let the court decide as to the validity of the decision of the President. We will respect whatever the decision of the Supreme Court will be."
Marcos’ refrigerated remains are kept at the family’s ancestral home in Ilocos Norte province. His body was flown back to the Philippines in 1993, four years after he died while on exile in Hawaii.
Since Marcos' ouster in 1986, the government has struggled to recover $10 billion in ill-gotten wealth and an arduous process to verify the claims of some 75,000 victims and their relatives will not be finished until 2018.
The Marcos family agreed in 1993, before they were allowed to return to the Philippines, to bury the former leader in Ilocos Norte and not in the Libingan ng mga Bayani, said former interior secretary Rafael Alunan.
Alunan, who negotiated with the Marcoses on behalf of then President Fidel Ramos, said a signed copy of the agreement should be available in the Malacanang archives.
Alunan, a Duterte supporter, said he was “protective” of the President and “any issue we see that could undermine his effectiveness and erode his political capital too early in the game compels us to speak out and point the way for his consideration and appropriate action.”
Marcos being a past president or soldier was not the issue, but rather whether or not he qualified as a hero, Alunan said.
“His ouster as President and commander-in-chief speaks for itself, and the exception to the rule that disqualifies a candidate should apply here,” he said.