MANILA, Philippines – Human rights victims of the late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos' regime petitioned the Supreme Court on Monday to block and nullify a government directive to have the ex-leader buried in a heroes' cemetery -- an emotional and divisive issue for Filipinos who ousted Marcos in a 1986 "people power" revolt.
The respondents asked the court to issue a temporary restraining order, and after deliberations, to nullify the Executive Department's decision to allow Marcos' burial at the Heroes Cemetery.
The petition said such burial for the "tyrant" and the "plunderer par excellence" is illegal, would flout principles enshrined in the constitution and violate regulations that outline who is entitled to be interred in the military-run cemetery.
It also would abandon a 1993 agreement between the Marcos family and then President Fidel Ramos' government for Marcos to be buried in his hometown in northern Ilocos Norte province, the petitioners said.
President Rodrigo Duterte has remained firm in his stance to allow the burial despite growing opposition.
On Sunday, about 1,500 protesters carrying a large streamer that read "Marcos not a hero" braved the rain, wind and mud at Manila's seaside Rizal Park to call on Duterte to reconsider his decision. They launched a signature campaign to try to stop the burial, tentatively set for next month.
Marcos died in exile in Hawaii in 1989. His remains are displayed in a glass coffin in his hometown.
The petitioners, including former congressmen Saturnino Ocampo and Neri Colmenares, are among human rights victims who won a class-action lawsuit in Hawaii against Marcos. The respondents include Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and two military officials who issued directives to carry out Duterte's order, which the petition said "was made with grave abuse of discretion."
"With thousands of Filipinos murdered and disappeared under his watch and billions of peoples' money stolen during his regime, Marcos should have spent his last years in prison, and his death in an unmarked and desolate grave," the petition said.
A hero's burial will not achieve closure for the nation because his victims, "who continue to cry out for justice, can never rest in peace," it added.