MANILA- Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said the recent Supreme Court ruling allowing the burial of late strongman Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani is a sign of "democracy at work."
Panelo said the immediate reaction of Filipinos, whether positive or negative, shows the workings of a healthy democracy.
"Immediately after, many Filipinos openly protested and demonstrated their displeasure with the decision; while others celebrated and publicly praised the same. This is democracy in action. This is far cry from conditions during the latter years of the former President's regime," he said.
According to Panelo, the high court ruled on the basis of applicable law and regulation, established legal principles, and the Constitution "built on the ashes of the former President's regime."
The SC on Tuesday, voted 9-5 with one inhibition, to allow the burial of the late strongman at the heroes' cemetery, 27 years after his death.
Panelo also expressed sympathy to the victims of martial law but said the SC's decision should be considered a "victory not only for the former President's sympathizers, but also for those who paid with their lives in fighting the former President in the name of democracy and the rule of law."
"For today, despite the former President's transgressions, and after a fair and transparent process, the Supreme Court decided an action supported by the results of a democratic election on the basis of law and only law," he said.
Panelo, however, clarified that the SC ruling does not make Marcos a hero.
"What is clear from public sentiment is that he will remain a scoundrel to some and hero to others. The truth is: heroes are heroes whether they are buried at the Libingan or under a pile of rock; and ditto for scoundrels. It is each Filipino's opinion of the former President, and not his final resting place, that will ultimately cement his status as hero or scoundrel," Panelo said.
Panelo added that "congratulations" are also in order for all Filipinos since the country now enjoys freedom of expression, a right limited during the Marcos regime.
"Congratulations are in order to all Filipinos. Ironic as it may be to some, the days of tyrannical rule by one man or by the ruling elite appear to be behind us more so than at any point in our country's post-martial law history," he said.