Duterte: Marcos a hero? Depends on the beholder
President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday said he will stick by his decision to allow the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani despite calls by some sectors for him to change his mind.
In a press briefing before his official visit to Malaysia, Duterte said he is simply following the law about allowing soldiers and ex-presidents to be buried at the heroes' cemetery. The Supreme Court on Tuesday struck down petitions to bar Marcos from being buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
The President said that he already talked to former senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. in Tacloban during the 3rd anniversary of the Typhoon Yolanda devastation on Tuesday.
"(Bongbong asked) Can we now proceed? I said: 'Yes, you can.' I've said before. I will not take my word back," he said.
Asked if Marcos can now be considered a hero, he said: "He being a hero? It depends on the beholder."
The President said the question about the dictatorship of Marcos "is something which cannot be determined at this time", noting that the sins of Marcos have yet to be proven by a competent court.
He noted that while he does not want to promote a class struggle, he understands that nearly all Ilocanos have been downhearted over the decision not to bury Marcos in the heroes' cemetery.
"They are sad. Para sa kanila, walang kasalanan si Marcos," he said.
Duterte said there are "many stories to tell and to weave" about the martial law regime. He said many people saw the discipline and cleanliness in the streets during the early years of martial law.
He also noted Marcos lost control of the government machinery when he became sick during the latter part of his rule.
"Duon na nagka leche leche ang sitwasyon," he said.
NO GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION
In its ruling, the Supreme Court said Duterte committed no grave abuse of discretion when he allowed Marcos to be buried in the heroes' cemetery, south of Manila.
In August, Duterte, saying he was fulfilling a campaign promise, ordered the army to bury Marcos at the cemetery, prompting anti-Marcos groups to seek a ruling from the court.
Marcos's son and namesake, Ferdinand Marcos Jr, who narrowly lost a May election for vice-president, described Tuesday's decision as "magnanimous" and expressed hope it would "lead the nation towards healing."
Duterte shared the sentiment.
"We hope the matter will finally be laid to rest, and that the nation finds the wherewithal to move forward and to continue forging a nation that is peaceable, just and fair to all," his spokesman, Ernesto Abella, said in a statement.
More than a hundred Marcos supporters, carrying Philippine flags and wearing Marcos T-shirts, gathered outside the Supreme Court and cheered the decision.
But others were angry.
"History has lost its meaning, and it's confusing and frustrating that after so many decisions against Marcos, the Supreme Court turned itself around," said former congressman Neri Colmenares, one of thousands of Filipinos persecuted during the era of martial law.
He said leftist groups would appeal the ruling.
Marcos ruled the Philippines for 20 years, during which time he, his family and cronies amassed an estimated $10 billion in ill-gotten wealth, a commission found. Thousands of suspected communist rebels and political foes were killed. With Reuters