Fake news spreading on Marcos burial case
London—Imagine you are a rock star. You feel that rare jolt down your spine. You sing your heart out to thousands of screaming fans. You know you just gave the best performance of your life.
The next day, however, a music critic compliments what you were wearing. Another praises your wild light show. Another simply says there were a lot of cute girls in the audience.
This must be how former Akbayan representative Barry Gutierrez feels. He developed the legal argument in the Supreme Court to block the burial of former president Ferdinand Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani, only to see it ignored in public debate.
Gauging a doctor, one would first check if he cured the patient. Gauging an engineer, one would first check if the structure built collapsed. Yet when gauging a crucial Supreme Court case, Filipinos discuss
everything but the law.
The burial case is challenging because no law explicitly prohibits the burial. Gutierrez, with lawyers Maria Concepcion Mendoza Baldueza and Darwin Angeles, represented Etta Rosales’ group. He argued during the hearings that because our 1987 Constitution is fundamentally a repudiation of Marcos’ atrocities, there can be no public purpose in burying him in the Libingan.
Commission on Human Rights Chair Chito Gascon, a resource person, added that the burial would violate international principles on reparation by undermining acknowledgement of Marcos era abuses.
My columns focused on these arguments given the time justices spent exploring them. Recent Inquirer columns by former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban and Yale doctor of laws student Bryan Dennis Tiojanco likewise highlighted Gutierrez’s argument.
It is alarming, however, that public discussion of the case is completely different.
Yuji Gonzales’ Inquirer report also cited Gutierrez’s argument. Another organization’s report, however, seemed extremely misleading.
It cited Republic Act No. 289, which created a “national pantheon” for former presidents “for the inspiration and emulation of… generations still unborn.” But it omitted how justices raised in the hearings that this pantheon is a completely different cemetery. In 1953, the government designated a site in Quezon City for it.
The report also cited armed forces regulations on the Libingan and an agreement with former president Fidel V. Ramos to bury Marcos in Ilocos. It omitted how the current president can change these anytime.
It would be obvious to anyone who listened to the hearings, lawyer or not, why these omissions are crucial.
Most reports, further, did not even discuss the legal arguments. Many highlighted protests at the Supreme Court, signature campaigns, an antiburial concert at Rizal Park, and a Marcos loyalist caravan from Vigan to the Supreme Court. Others highlighted rumors that the Supreme Court is near evenly split, without explaining the opposing sides.
Finally, many emphasized points that clearly have nothing to do with law.
Some criticize the burial as historical revisionism and political repayment to the Marcoses for supporting President Duterte during the election. Some debate whether Marcos is a hero.
We may certainly discuss legal issues from nonlegal perspectives. However, reporting the actual legal case with nonlegal or incorrect legal points can only be considered fake news and misinformation.
Do most Filipinos have no idea why the Supreme Court might block the burial? Regardless of how the Supreme Court rules tomorrow, will the unhappy criticize the Supreme Court for reasons courts cannot address?
Filipinos may not understand or simply may not care about lofty concepts such as rule of law and due process. They see the Supreme Court as some kind of Santa Claus. Legal principles are mere inconveniences to getting what one wants.
Ultimately, we should be more worried by our democracy’s glaring inability to discuss the Marcos burial case than the actual burial.
The child of 1986 in me asks those who blame the youth for forgetting Edsa, if we spent the last 30 years fussing over symbols instead of building real institutions that would have served as the foundation of my generation’s birthright.
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