Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos buried at heroes' cemetery in controversial move

Members of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos led by former first lady Imelda Marcos (in black) follow the hearse during the burial at the heroes' cemetery in Manila on Nov 18, 2016.
Members of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos led by former first lady Imelda Marcos (in black) follow the hearse during the burial at the heroes' cemetery in Manila on Nov 18, 2016. PHOTO: AFP
Filipino military officers saluting the Philippine flag over the coffin of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos during burial rites at the Heroes' Cemetery in Pasay City, south of Manila, Philippines on Nov 18, 2016.
Filipino military officers saluting the Philippine flag over the coffin of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos during burial rites at the Heroes' Cemetery in Pasay City, south of Manila, Philippines on Nov 18, 2016. PHOTO: EPA
Imelda Marcos (left), the widow of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, crying as she receives the Philippine flag from a military officer during burial rites at the Heroes' Cemetery in Pasay City, Manila.
Imelda Marcos (left), the widow of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, crying as she receives the Philippine flag from a military officer during burial rites at the Heroes' Cemetery in Pasay City, Manila. PHOTO: EPA
Filipino soldiers carrying the flag-draped casket of the late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos during burial rites at the Heroes' Cemetery in Pasay City, Manila on Nov 18, 2016.
Filipino soldiers carrying the flag-draped casket of the late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos during burial rites at the Heroes' Cemetery in Pasay City, Manila on Nov 18, 2016. PHOTO: EPA
Former first lady Imelda Marcos offering flowers on the glass coffin of her husband, late president Ferdinand Marcos, who remains unburied since his death in 1989, on July 2, 2014.
Former first lady Imelda Marcos offering flowers on the glass coffin of her husband, late president Ferdinand Marcos, who remains unburied since his death in 1989, on July 2, 2014.PHOTO: REUTERS
Imee Marcos (centre), daughter of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos and governor of the family's northern stronghold of Ilocos Norte, offers prayers alongside supporters in front of a portrait of her father at the start of a vigil in front of the Su
Imee Marcos (centre), daughter of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos and governor of the family's northern stronghold of Ilocos Norte, offers prayers alongside supporters in front of a portrait of her father at the start of a vigil in front of the Supreme Court in Manila, on Oct 17, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

MANILA -  Former dictator Ferdinand Marcos was buried at around noon on Friday (Nov 18) at the heroes’ cemetery, 27 years after his death, in what anti-Marcos protesters slammed as a “blitzkrieg burial” meant to head off street demonstrations and last-minute court petitions.

Mr Marcos was laid to rest in simple rites, attended only by his family, at a plot near three other former presidents.

“It was a very simple and very fast ceremony,” said Chief Superintendent Oscar Albayalde, head of the police force in metropolitan Manila.

As a former soldier, Mr Marcos was given military honours, including a 21-gun salute.  But the rites were not meant for a national hero.

Chief Supt Albayalde said his body was flown by helicopter from Batac in Ilocos Norte province, his home town, to the cemetery in Manila at around 11.30am.

The move came as a complete surprise, except for a very small group privy to the burial plans. 

Director-General Ronaldo de la Rosa, the police chief, said the Marcoses informed him only late on Thursday (Nov 17) afternoon that they wanted the burial held on Friday. Only a “rehearsal” was originally scheduled on Friday, he told reporters.

He said President Rodrigo Duterte, who is en route to Lima, Peru, for an Apec summit, knew of the burial plan.

Ms Marie Banaag, a deputy spokesman of the president, was caught unaware, when asked about the burial during a news briefing on another matter. “We don’t have any knowledge about the burial, the schedule and everything,” she said.

Ms Cherry Cobarrubias, a close aide of Mrs Imelda Marcos, the former first lady, said she received a “confidential” message from the Marcoses on Wednesday, but she too did not know the burial would be on Friday.

Anti-Marcos protesters quickly held rallies at about a dozen sites across metropolitan Manila.

Representative Carlos Zarate, of the left-leaning Bayan Muna (Nation First) party, labelled the hurriedly arranged burial a “blitzkrieg move” and a “dastardly act characteristic of the Marcoses”.

“Like a thief in the night, Marcos declared martial law in 1973. Like a thief in the night, he is being buried today. It is the Marcos style all over again,” said Mr Boni Ilagan, an activist jailed and tortured in the 1970s by security forces employed by Marcos.

Senator Pia Hontiveros said: “Till the very end, he was a thief.  There is no grave, mausoleum, court decision or order by any president who can hide the trust that Marcos is not a hero.  This is a fake hero’s burial.”

Representative Edcel Lagman, among those who sought to bar the burial, said he would ask the court to cite in contempt all those who made the burial possible. He suggested that the body could still be exhumed, via a court order. He had filed a petition asking the Supreme Court to hold the burial till its Nov 8 decision becomes final.

Voting 9-5, the Supreme Court last week allowed Mr Marcos’ burial at the heroes’ cemetery in Manila. 

The high court dismissed petitions opposing President Rodrigo Duterte’s approval of Mr Marcos’ burial at the cemetery, where ex-presidents, soldiers and national artists have been laid to rest.

The justices ruled that Mr Marcos, as a former president, soldier and defence minister, was qualified for a plot at the heroes’ cemetery. They disagreed that he was “dishonourably discharged” when he was ousted as president by a “people power” revolt in 1986.

Mr Marcos, they also believed, was not convicted of  “moral turpitude”, and that cases decided against him were all “civil in nature”.

Mr Marcos ruled the Philippines for 20 years, plundering up to US$10 billion (S$13.5 billion) from state coffers and overseeing widespread human rights abuses to decimate opposition to his rule.

Over 90,000 were jailed, and nearly 6,000 tortured during martial law from 1972 to 1983.  At least 2,5000 were summarily executed, and about 800 have yet to find a body to bury.

Mr Marcos fled with his family to Hawaii in 1986, when millions took to the streets in a “people power” revolt. He died in exile on Sept 28, 1989. 

In 1993, his body  was flown back to the Philippines. He was supposed to be buried in Batac, his hometown in Ilocos Norte province, 470km north of the capital Manila. But the Marcos family placed his body inside a glass box at a mausoleum in Batac.

Past governments had refused to allow his  burial at the heroes’ cemetery because of the dictator’s crimes. 

But the family’s fortune changed with the election of Mr Duterte as president in May this year. Claiming he was fulfilling a campaign promise, he said Mr Marcos, as a former president and veteran, deserved to be buried at the heroes’ cemetery.