Peralta wants to ‘move on’
One of the key figures in the ouster of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno from the Supreme Court, Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta, is one of those vying to replace her. During his interview with the Judicial and Bar Council, he was asked whether the controversial decision to allow the burial of the remains of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani, which he wrote, “brought unity to the country.” His answer showed a remarkable lack of social awareness, and astonishing powers of self-rationalization.
Yes, he answered. “I think so. We do not anymore receive complaints about the burial of President Marcos.”
Peralta is wrong to confuse the end of legal proceedings with closure, and to conflate closure with unity. To be sure, he is not the only lawyer who thinks this way, but in his case, he is justifying a final Supreme Court decision by remarking that it is, well, final.
While the proceedings to stop the Marcos burial at what Peralta himself described as a “national shrine” have come to an end, that does not mean that the moral and political issue—over whether a dictator should be honored in such a shrine—has been settled. Far from it, as the latest controversy over yet another of Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos’ statements—obviously intended to be social media-savvy, quickly shown to be socially tone-deaf—amply prove.
“The millennials have moved on, and I think people at my age should also move on as well,” the prospective senatorial candidate said, about criticisms against her father’s brutal regime. She reaped a whirlwind of outrage.
Revealing choice of words, too. That awful, accountability-denying phrase was on Peralta’s lips at the JBC interview. “We cannot live in the past and I think we have moved on. The issues now are not about the Marcos burial.”
They echo what he wrote in his controversial ponencia, which began (“To move on is not to forget the past”) and ended (“the country must move on and let this issue rest”) with that very phrase.
But an unjust decision does not bring closure; and as the outrage over Imee Marcos’ remarks show, it certainly does not lead to unity.
Perhaps in the rarefied precincts where Supreme Court justices in favor of “moving on” move in, Peralta does not receive complaints about the Marcos burial anymore. But outside, the issue remains live and divisive.
In fact, Peralta’s own ponencia in the Ocampo vs Enriquez case admits that the ruling could not fully address the issue, that history would have to be the final judge. The penultimate paragraph of his 58-page decision reads: “There are certain things that are better left for history—not this Court—to adjudge. The Court could only do so much in accordance with the clearly established rules and principles. Beyond that, it is ultimately for the people themselves, as the sovereign, to decide, a task that may require the better perspective that the passage of time provides. In the meantime, the country must move on and let this issue rest.”
This kind of fuzzy thinking is one reason why the decision remains controversial. The Court abdicated its real responsibility and left it up to the sovereign people to decide on the Marcos legacy according to a “better perspective” with the “passage of time”—as though the 27 years since the dictator’s death (and the numerous Supreme Court decisions on his regime in that time) were not enough to establish the true nature of his role in Philippine history. Note, however, that Peralta’s real argument is that the country must “move on,” but the Supreme Court has the power to let the issue rest.
When he was asked whether the exercise of that power unified the country, he essentially quoted himself, and used his quote as proof of his own assertion. “We cannot live in the past and I think we have moved on.”
If only the people themselves, as the sovereign, could agree.
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