, MANILA, Philippines, Nov 21 – Campaigners launched legal action Monday to exhume the body of former Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos, just three days after his burial in a national heroes’ cemetery triggered street protests.
He was finally laid to rest Friday in a secretive ceremony at the “Cemetery of Heroes” with military honours almost three decades after his death, angering critics who accuse Marcos of massive corruption and human rights abuses.
Relatives of victims of his rule asked the Supreme Court Monday to dig up his remains, claiming they had not been given enough time to appeal a ruling allowing his burial in the cemetery.
“How can a plunderer and despot and violator of human rights be given that honour of being buried in the memorial of good men?” said Congressman Edcel Lagman, brother of an abducted anti-Marcos dissident who was never seen again.
Two weeks ago the Supreme Court endorsed a decision by President Rodrigo Duterte to bury the dictator at the heroes’ cemetery.
The Marcos family and government moved quickly after the verdict, secretly flying the embalmed body from their home town in the northern Philippines to the cemetery in Manila on Friday and interring him.
But Lagman, an opposition member of the House of Representatives, filed a “motion for exhumation” Monday arguing the court ruling was not final because opponents were entitled to 15 days to appeal.
“The exhumation is imperative in order not to render moot and academic the petitioners’ forthcoming and seasonable motion/s for reconsideration,” the motion read.
Lagman and another group representing victims of Marcos’ martial law also asked the Supreme Court Monday to cite the Marcos family and the military in contempt of court for organising the burial.
Opponents also announced a major street protest for Friday.
– ‘Insulting soldiers’ –
Former president Fidel Ramos, a senior Duterte advisor and former military chief who was among the leaders of the anti-Marcos revolt, criticised the burial.
“It was an insult, it was a trivialisation of the role, the sacrifices of our armed forces…. Of course they (anti-Marcos forces) are entitled to protest,” Ramos told a news conference Monday.
“It is a step backward for this administration in the sense that they are losing support, they are losing friends,” he said, urging the Duterte government to fire military and police officials who helped carry out the burial.
Millions of Filipinos took to the streets in 1986 in a famous “People Power” revolution to oust the then dictator.
Marcos died in exile in Hawaii three years later, and his body was put on public display in his northern home town because previous presidents had refused to allow the dictator to be buried at the heroes’ cemetery.
The former leader, his wife Imelda, 87, and their cronies plundered up to $10 billion from state coffers and plunged the Philippines into crippling debt during his rule, according to government investigators and historians.
The dictator also suppressed dissent, with thousands killed and tortured, previous Philippine governments said.
But his heirs staged a political rehabilitation that saw his wife and their children winning public office.
Their comeback culminated in the election this year of Duterte, a long-time ally of the family.
Duterte has defended the burial, saying laws entitled Marcos to be buried at the heroes’ cemetery as a former president and soldier.
Over the weekend, an emotional widow Imelda said her dead husband was “at peace” there.
“I know Marcos stood for the truth and if you are on the side of truth, God is on your side,” she told supporters at a memorial mass at her late husband’s grave.