- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 31, 2016

MANILA, Philippines (AP) - Lawyers for victims of Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos’s regime said Wednesday that the late leader was a despot and oppressor unfit for a hero’s burial, as they argued at a hearing on petitions against President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive to have Marcos buried at a heroes’ cemetery.

One of the lawyers, Rep. Edcel Lagman, urged the Supreme Court to prevent “a national tragedy” by prohibiting such a burial, saying it “would glorify a dictator, distort history and aggravate the injustices to human rights violation victims.”

Duterte has remained firm in his decision to allow the burial despite growing opposition, saying he is only following the law, which allows former soldiers and presidents to be buried at the military-run Heroes’ Cemetery in Manila.

Marcos, who was ousted in a 1986 “people power” revolt, died in exile in Hawaii in 1989. His remains are displayed in a glass coffin in his hometown, but his family wants him buried at the Heroes’ Cemetery.

It is unclear when the burial is being planned for, but Marcos’s son Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. was cited by a newspaper as saying Sept. 18 was being considered for the burial date.

Lagman, whose brother was a victim of involuntary disappearances during Marcos’s rule, told the court that the late strongman’s cardinal sins against Filipinos included declaring martial law to perpetuate his power, jailing perceived enemies of the state without trial, padlocking Congress, forcibly closing media outlets and amassing billions of dollars of ill-gotten wealth.

He said the Supreme Court had confirmed the Marcoses’ plunder in previous cases, and that Switzerland had turned over $356 million hidden by the Marcoses in Swiss banks. He also noted that the U.S. District Court of Hawaii validated the brutalities of martial law when it ruled in 1992 that Marcos was culpable of human rights violations against around 10,000 claimants and held the Marcos estate liable for damages.

The Marcos family’s agreement 23 years ago with then-President Fidel Ramos’ administration that his remains be flown directly to his northern hometown and be given a quick burial also remains binding, Lagman said.

Ibarra Gutierrez, a lawyer for another group of petitioners, said the president’s discretion on the burial is not absolute and is bound by the people’s deposing of Marcos in 1986, as well as by the constitution and numerous Supreme Court decisions.

He pointed to findings by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines that Marcos’s military record is fraught with myths and lies, including lying about receiving U.S. medals, and noted that some of his actions as a World War II soldier were characterized by the U.S. military as malicious criminal acts.

Another lawyer, Ephraim Cortez, said allowing the burial would inflict legal injury on the petitioners, noting that a law provides for recognition and reparation for victims of human rights abuses during Marcos’s rule.

Several petitioners were allowed to speak about their experiences before the court.

Loretta Ann Rosales, the former head of the Commission on Human Rights and one of the petitioners, said she suffered 24 hours of continuous torture, including electric shocks.

As the hearing went on, hundreds of Marcos supporters mostly wearing red shirts banged on drums to drown out chants by dozens of activists opposed to the burial who shouted “Marcos, Hitler, Dictator, Puppet!” from across the road.

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