Allowing Marcos burial part of president's 'residual powers,' Calida tells SC
MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte can determine what is the "prevailing socio-political climate" to warrant the transfer of the remains from Batac, Ilocos Norte, former Interior and Local Government Secretary Rafael Alunan III told the Supreme Court on Wednesday.
Alunan was the signatory to the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Philippine government and the Marcos family in 1992 which allowed the remains of former President Ferdinand Marcos to be brought and buried in the Philippines.
READ: Ramos deal with Marcoses not binding on Duterte, Palace says
Alunan, one of several resource persons invited to appear before the high court for oral arguments on consolidated petitions against Marcos' burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, said Duterte's discretion is anchored in one of provisions in the MOU, dated August 19, 1992, which states that "any transfer of burial grounds shall be with prior clearance from the Philippine government, taking into account the prevailing socio-political climate."
The MOU is one of the grounds raised by petitioners to bolster their argument that Marcos' remains should not be interred at the Libingan.
"You're saying there can be a transfer of the burial grounds of the former president even if the remains of the former president were interred and buried in Batac, Ilocos Norte? That actually [Batac] is not a permanent burial because of that very stipulation there that it can be transferred to another burial ground?" asked Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco, Jr..
To which Alunan replied," That's correct, sir, but [Marcos] was not buried; he is above ground."
This executive discretion and prerogative is among the arguments presented by Solicitor General Jose Calida in defending President Duterte's order. Calida argued that the president derives this authority from the "residual powers of the presidency under the Constitution."
Calida argued that in exercising his "prerogative" and "wisdom," the president's act may only be considered an issue of a "political nature."
"The term political question connotes a question of policy… dependent upon the wisdom, not legality, of a measure. The instant controversy is beyond the ambit of judicial review," Calida told the SC magistrates.
Calida stressed that "as a former soldier, former president, former commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and a former Philippine Medal of Valor awardee, the highest award to be accorded to a Filipino soldier, Marcos is qualified to be buried at the Libingan."
MARCOS' LOCAL MEDALS UNDISPUTED
For its part, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), admits that it does not dispute Marcos' Medal of Valor and other awards and medals accorded him by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). NHCP chair Maria Serena Diokno said the commission investigated only Marcos' supposed awards and medals from the United States of America (USA).
"We examined the medals given by the US; we do not dispute the claims of medals given by the Armed Forces of the Philippines," Diokno said in response to the questioning of Associate Justice Marvic Leonen.