Philippine vice-president recommends no burial at heroes’ cemetery for ex-dictator Marcos

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine vice-president has recommended that former dictator Ferdinand Marcos should not be buried at Manila’s heroes’ cemetery but that full military honours could be accorded if he is laid to rest in his northern political stronghold instead, officials said Sunday.

Marcos was ousted in a 1986 “people power” revolt led by current President Benigno Aquino III’s late mother, Corazon Aquino. Marcos died three years later in exile in Hawaii and his body was returned in 1993 to his northern Philippine hometown of Batac in Ilocos Norte province, where it has been displayed in a glass coffin and has become a tourist attraction.

His flamboyant widow, Imelda, has long pushed for the burial of her husband in the National Heroes’ cemetery in the Philippine capital, but has been opposed by pro-democracy and left-wing groups, which have accused the late dictator of plundering the nation’s coffers and of massive human rights violations during his two-decade rule.

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President Aquino asked Vice-President Jejomar Binay four months ago to study Marcos’ burial and recommend how the long-divisive issue could finally be settled. Aquino has refused to decide alone on the issue, saying he would naturally be biased.

In a report to Aquino, Binay recommended that Marcos be given full military honours if his family decides to have him laid to rest in Ilocos Norte instead of in the heroes’ cemetery, three officials told The Associated Press.

The officials, who have seen the report, spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the issue before Aquino announces his decision on Binay’s recommendation.

Marcos’ family has not commented on whether Binay’s view is acceptable to them.

The recent burial of a former military chief accused of corruption at the heroes’ cemetery, which is reserved for soldiers, presidents, statesmen and national artists, revived questions on whether Marcos should be similarly honoured.

Gen. Angelo Reyes committed suicide at his mother’s grave on Feb. 8 after being accused of receiving huge military payoffs. He had denied the allegation.

Although still enjoying a degree of popularity – particularly in Ilocos Norte – and political power, the Marcoses are reviled by many, including thousands of former political prisoners. Others denounce their alleged plundering of the economy, the subject of protracted litigation.

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Marcos’ widow won a congressional seat representing Ilocos Norte last year. A daughter was elected provincial governor and a son won a Senate seat – the post his father held before being elected president in 1965.

A survey by the independent Social Weather Stations showed that Filipinos are almost evenly divided, with 50 per cent saying Marcos should be buried at the heroes’ cemetery and 49 per cent opposing the idea.

The nationwide survey of 1,200 adults was conducted March 4-7 and had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

A majority of members of the House of Representatives have backed a resolution urging Aquino to allow Marcos’ burial at the cemetery, extolling the late president as a patriot who built the country’s modern foundations with his infrastructure projects.

The Makati Business Club, a group of top business executives, blasted the resolution, saying it was “a gross distortion of the late dictator’s true legacy of autocracy, ruined democratic institutions, violent political repression, unprecedented wholesale corruption, shameless nepotism, crony capitalism.”

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