Oops they did it again…From stolen riches to panakaw na libing

The Marcos burial was patago, panakaw, pakapalan. It’s not how a real hero’s burial is supposed to be held.

After siphoning billions during the dictatorship, we come to this – a panakaw burial. The infamous political family that plundered an estimated $10 billion from the Philippine government coffers have successfully interred the remains (or the wax replica?) of the late strongman where they believe he ought to be.

Except for the family, some in the AFP, and perhaps a few others, nobody was prepared for this. It seems not even diehard Marcos loyalists were informed about it. The day has surprisingly come for the historic burial of a plunderer in a cemetery created, according to Republic Act 289 (the law that created the Libingan ng mga Bayani), “to perpetuate the memory of all the Presidents of the Philippines, national heroes and patriots for the inspiration and emulation of this generation and of generations still unborn.”

November 18 marks the day Ferdinand Marcos’ “imeldifically” preserved cadaver gets interred at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. This is a day of grief for the thousands of Filipinos who have suffered the brutalities of the Marcos dictatorship. This is also the day when the Marcoses once more demonstrated their penchant for things stolen. “Panakaw” –this is how many netizens aptly describe the callous act of the Marcoses to hold a surprise confidential burial ceremony. Panakaw! Yes, we feel obliged to keep repeating this word.

Confidential surprise burial with military honors

The Presidential Communications Office claims to have no knowledge about the burial. Malacañang’s mouthpieces said that they were surprised by the news. They also said that they “honestly don’t know” when asked about the president’s instructions regarding the burial.

The country was just surprised when the media reported the discreet burial in the morning.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines maintained that they were only doing their job as they withheld information about the planned burial. AFP spokesperson Restituto Padilla said that they did make any announcement in deference to the request of the Marcos family. Padilla asserted: “Sila po ang namatayan, hindi kami… we just provide the services.”

Marcos was given a 21-gun salute as his remains were laid to his grave. Padilla described the military honors as “a final salute to any soldier who is laid to rest.” He said they would have done the same for any ordinary soldier. However, Imee Marcos actually posted a video of the burial rites and the grandness of the event (with emphasis on the number of soldiers escorting the coffin and the Marcos family) didn’t look like something any ordinary soldier would receive.

An Air Force chopper was used to fly Marcos’ remains from Ilocos Norte to the Libingan ng mga Bayani. Padilla, though, said that the costs were shouldered by the Marcos family. He refused to divulge how much was paid by the Marcoses.

Interestingly, Department of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana claims that he does not know about the burial. Responding to a question from Rappler, the defense chief said he is in Lima, Peru with the president and that he knows nothing about the November 18 burial. Even the cabinet secretary who is supposed to be handling the AFP, which sent troops to give Marcos military honors, was kept out of the loop.

Photo via Inday E. Varona. Some rights reserved.

Convenient timing?

There are speculations that the burial was held on the 18th because the president is out of the country. It’s purportedly a convenient time to do the protested burial since it allows the president to elude questions. It’s unlikely to be the case, though. The president, after all, has no qualms being abrasive and offensive. Just recently, he humiliated a reporter, calling him “small-time,” after he was asked about the issue on his joke about Leni Robredo’s legs.

No legal hindrance

Reacting to the unexpected sudden burial, Vice-President Robredo released a statement saying that what happened was not surprising coming from the Marcoses as they are known to have “hidden wealth, hidden human rights abuses and now hidden burial.” Robredo considers it an act of flouting the law since the decision of the Supreme Court regarding the burial is supposedly not final and executory yet, not until 15 days or the resolution of the motion for reconsideration filed by those who oppose the burial.

The Supreme Court, however, through a statement by SC spokesperson Theodore Te, said that the petitions against the burial were already dismissed. The Supreme Court has already lifted the status quo ante order against the burial so there is nothing legal to prevent it. The existence of a motion for reconsideration, accordingly, does not serve as an impediment. Hence, the legal status of the burial is that it is legal.

Greeted with protests

Photo by Noemi Lardizabal-Dado. Some rights reserved.
Photo by Noemi Lardizabal-Dado. Some rights reserved.

As expected, protests were held nationwide in response to the shameless act. Protest rallies were held in Quezon City, Makati, Cebu, Los Baños, as well as in Davao. Most of the protests were at universities. Protesters who made it near the Libingan ng mga Bayani grounds expressed their anger by painting “Here Lies Evil” on the road outside of the Libingan compound. They also vowed relentless protests as they faced three layers of police barricades “protecting” the Marcos burial rites.

Duterte knew, asks people to forgive

Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella claims that the president was not informed about the surprise burial but PNP Chief Bato Dela Rosa says otherwise. In an interview with GMA 7 at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, the police official known for being a close friend of the president said that the president knew about it. We’re not sure who is telling the truth but as usual, we need to wait for maybe 48 hours until the Palace spokespersons agree on what they should really say to the public.

As expected, President Duterte, in a press briefing in Peru where he is attending the APEC summit, defended the burial. He said he was just being legalistic about it. He argued that there was nothing sneaky in what happened, adding that the burial as decided by the family is just part of the process. He also asked those opposed to it to “find a space in their hearts to forgive and set free those who have hurt or injured them.” That really sounds hypocritical coming for someone who maintains that drug addicts and criminals should be killed.

Vow to exhume

More than just protesting, a number of lawmakers vowed to have Marcos removed from the Libingan ng mga Bayani. Opposition congressman Edcel Lagman said that he plans to file a motion to have the remains exhumed because it was buried even though the Supreme Court decision was not yet final. He also plans to file a motion to declare for contempt of court those involved in the clandestine burial. Liberal Party senators also said that they will seek to have Marcos exhumed.

The Marcos burial was patago, panakaw, pakapalan. It’s not how a real hero’s burial is supposed to be held. After decades and after the number of convictions and uncontested accounts of historians pertaining to the crimes of the Marcoses, not once did they show remorse. Not once did they clearly seek forgiveness so why do they deserve to be forgiven? With what they did, the Marcos family is only blatantly showing their predilection for getting things that are not rightfully theirs.

Photos by Inday Varona. Some right reserved  .


This post is supported by a writing grant from the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ)