Philippine Court Approves Hero’s Burial for Dictator Ferdinand Marcos

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08 November, 2016

The Philippine Supreme Court has ruled that former president Ferdinand Marcos can be buried in a cemetery for national heroes.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte had approved the burial. But several groups opposed his decision and went to court to stop it.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court voted 9-5 to dismiss opposition requests to block the burial. In its decision, the court noted that while Marcos "was not all good," he "was not pure evil either."

A spokesman for the court added that there was no law preventing the burial.

Marcos ruled the Philippines for more than 20 years. His administration was accused of widespread corruption and human rights abuses.

He was removed from office in 1986 when the army supported what was called a "people power" rebellion. At that time, his opponents accused him of trying to steal an election from another candidate.

Marcos fled the country. He died in 1989 while living in exile with his family in the American state of Hawaii.

In 1993, his body was flown back to the Philippines and taken to his home province of Ilocos Norte. It has been kept in a glass coffin. Many people travel there to see his remains.

Family members have denied wrongdoing during his rule.

Marcos's wife Imelda currently serves as a member of Congress in Ilocos Norte. Their daughter, Imee, is governor of the province. Their son, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., has served in the Philippine Senate and nearly won the election for vice president in May.

The family has long sought to have the body moved to the national Heroes' Cemetery in Manila. The cemetery is the final resting place for other former presidents, military leaders, and national artists.

President Duterte ordered the military to bury the president at Heroes' Cemetery, saying he was acting on a campaign promise. Duterte said he felt it was right for Marcos to be buried there "not because he was a hero, but because he was a Filipino soldier."

Marcos served in the Philippine army and was a guerrilla leader against Japanese occupation forces during World War II.

Duterte's father was a provincial governor who once served in Ferdinand Marcos's cabinet. The president also said that Imee Marcos was a supporter of his campaign.

A spokesman for Duterte expressed hope that with the court's decision, "the matter will finally be laid to rest."

Marcos supporters gathered outside the Supreme Court to cheer the decision. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. also praised the ruling, saying he hopes it can "lead the nation towards healing."

But former congressman Neri Colmenares condemned the decision. Colmenares, one of many Filipinos persecuted during a period of martial law, said "history has lost its meaning."

"It's confusing and frustrating that after so many decisions against Marcos, the Supreme Court turned itself around," he said.

One group opposing an honorable burial included victims who say they were tortured during Marcos's rule. They argued the burial was "illegal and contrary to law, public policy, morals and justice."

I'm Bryan Lynn.

Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English. His report was based on information from VOA News, Reuters and the Associated Press. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

cemeteryn. place where dead people are buried

plunderv. to steal goods from a place or people, usually by force

coffin – n. box used to bury the body of a dead person

grave – n. place in the ground where a dead body is buried

persecute – v. to treat or punish someone in a cruel, hostile manner, especially because of their race or political beliefs

martial law – n. a law imposed by a military-backed government

contrary – n. opposite in meaning