Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos given heroes' burial; rights victims decry secret move

Manila police chief says President Rodrigo Duterte is aware of the burial plan.

Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos buried at heroes' cemetery despite protests
Former first lady Imelda Marcos kisses the glass coffin of her husband, late president Ferdinand Marcos, who remains unburied since his death in 1989, during her 85th birthday celebration in Ferdinand Marcos' hometown of Batac, Ilocos Norte province, in northern Philippines July 2, 2014 Reuters

Former Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos was buried at the heroes' cemetery on Friday in a secrecy-shrouded ceremony attended only by his family, despite strong opposition from anti-Marcos protesters..

A 21-gun salute marked the beginning of the ceremony while the soldiers in parade dress and ceremonial rifles stood to attention at the "Cemetery of Heroes" in Manila.

Police Chief Superintendent Oscar Albayalde said the burial plans were finalized by the authorities along with the Marcos family on Thursday. "It was a very simple and very fast ceremony," Chief Supt Albayalde said, according to the Straits Times.

He added that the former president's body was flown by helicopter from Batac in Ilocos Norte province, his home town, to the military-run cemetery in Manila at around 11.30 am for burial.

Last week, the Supreme Court ruled that Marcos, who ruled the nation for two decades, could be buried at the heroes' cemetery. But this decision outraged anti-Marcos protestors who said the ruling would whitewash the dictator's many crimes.

The highly secretive funeral plan added fuel to the fire and hundreds of protesters and victims of human rights violations by Marcos planned to hold rallies nationwide to oppose the burial at the cemetery, where former presidents, soldiers and national artists have been laid to rest.

Barry Gutierrez, counsel for the anti-Marcos court petitioners, said the secret burial was illegal due to the outstanding appeals. "It's not really surprising that this is happening. Marcos flouted the law when he was still alive, and even at his burial, he is still breaking the law," Gutierrez told AFP. "We are shocked and angered," Gutierrez added.

Thousands of riot police and soldiers were seen guarding the perimeter of the cemetery, although there were no protesters near the cemetery. Director-General Ronaldo de la Rosa, the police chief, said President Rodrigo Duterte, who is on his way to Lima, Peru, for an Apec summit, was aware of the burial plan.

However, when Marie Banaag, the deputy spokesman of the president, was asked about the burial plan during a news briefing, she said: "We don't have any knowledge about the burial, the schedule and everything."

Marcos, the second most corrupt leader

Marcos ruled the Philippines for two decades and during his rule, he was blamed for deaths of thousands of people, disappearance and torture of left-wing activists and anti-government politicians.

Boni Ilagan, who was jailed and tortured in the 1970s by security forces employed by Marcos, said: "Like a thief in the night, Marcos declared martial law in 1973. Like a thief in the night, he is being buried today. It is the Marcos style all over again."

The "People Power" revolution forced him into US exile. The revolution inspired several democracy movements throughout Asia and around the world.

According to the World Bank, the foreign debt of the Philippines' went up to US$28.2 billion in 1986 from US$2.67 billion in 1972, after Marcos declared martial law.

In 2004, anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International named Marcos as the second most corrupt leader of all time. Indonesia's Suharto was named the first.

In 1989 Marcos died in Hawaii and after that his family began a successful political comeback. They repeatedly tried to have the former president buried at the heroes' cemetery. But the previous presidents refused to allow the burial in the heroes' cemetery because of Marcos's crimes.

Marcos's body was preserved in a glass casket at his home in the northern province of Ilocos Norte.

But, Duterte's presidentship changed the fortune of Marcos's family. Duterte was a longtime ally of the family and he said that Marcos deserved to be buried at the heroes' cemetery as he had served as a president and was a veteran of World War II.