Saturnino C. Ocampo, et al. vs. Rear Admiral Ernesto C. Enriquez, et al., G.R. Nos. 225973, 225984, 226097, 226116, 226120 & 226294, November 8, 2016
During the campaign period for the 2016 Presidential Election, then candidate Rodrigo R. Duterte publicly announced that he would allow the burial former President Ferdinand E. Marcos at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani ("LNMB"). Duterte won the May 9, 2016 elections.
On August 7, 2016, Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana issued a Memorandum to AFP Chief of Staff General Ricardo R. Visaya regarding the interment of former President Ferdinand E. Marcos at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani.
On August 9, 2016, AFP Rear Admiral Ernesto C. Enriquez issued a directive to the Philippine Army on the Funeral Honors and Service for President Marcos.
Dissatisfied with the foregoing issuance, the petitioners filed a Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition and Petition for Mandamus and Prohibition with the Court.
1) Whether respondents Defense Secretary and AFP Rear Admiral committed grave abuse of discretion when they issued the assailed memorandum and directive in compliance with the verbal order of President Duterte to implement his election campaign promise to have the remains of Marcos interred at the LNMB?
2) Whether the issuance and implementation of the assailed memorandum and directive violated the Constitution, and domestic and international laws?
3) Whether historical facts, laws enacted to recover ill-gotten wealth from the Marcoses and their cronies, and the pronouncements of the Court on the Marcos regime have nullified his entitlement as a soldier and former President to interment at the LNMB?
4) Whether the Marcos family is deemed to have waived the burial of the remains of former President Marcos at the LNMB after they entered into an agreement with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines as to the conditions and procedures by which his remains shall be brought back to and interred in the Philippines?
The Supreme Court denied the petitions.
The Court agrees with the OSG that President Duterte's decision to have the remains of Marcos interred at the LNMB involves a political question that is not a justiciable controversy. In the excercise of his powers under the Constitution and the Administrative Code of 1987 to allow the interment of Marcos at the LNMB, which is a land of the public domain devoted for national military cemetery and military shrine purposes, President Duterte decided a question of policy based on his wisdom that it shall promote national healing and forgiveness. There being no taint of grave abuse in the exercise of such discretion, as discussed below, President Duterte's decision on that political question is outside the ambit of judicial review.
Petitioners have no legal standing to file the petitions for certiorari, prohibition and mandamus because they failed to show that they have suffered or will suffer direct and personal injury as a result of the interment of Marcos at the LNMB.
Petitioners cannot also file as taxpayers. They merely claim illegal disbursement of public funds, without showing that Marcos is disqualified to be interred at the LNMB by either express or implied provision of the Constitution, the laws or jurisprudence.
Petitioners Saguisag, et al., as members of the Bar, failed to disclose the direct or potential injury which they may suffer as a result of the act complained of. Their interest in this case is too general and shared by other groups, such that their duty to uphold the rule of law, without more, is inadequate to clothe them with requisite legal standing.
Petitioners also failed to prove that the case is of transcendental importance. At this point in time, the interment of Marcos at a cemetery originally established as a national military cemetery and declared a national shrine would have no profound effect on the political, economic, and other aspects of our national life considering that more than twenty-seven (27) years since his death and thirty (30) years after his ouster have already passed. Significantly, petitioners failed to demonstrate a clear and imminent threat to their fundamental constitutional rights.
As to petitioners Senator De Lima and Congressman Lagman, they failed to show that the burial of Marcos encroaches on their prerogatives as legislators.
Exhaustion of administrative remedies
Petitioners violated the exhaustion of administrative remedies. Contrary to their claim of lack of plain, speedy, adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law, petitioners should be faulted for failing to seek reconsideration of the assailed memorandum and directive before the Secretary ofNational Defense. The Secretary of National Defense should be given opportunity to correct himself, if warranted, considering that AFP Regulations G 161-375 was issued upon his order. Questions on the implementation and interpretation thereof demand the exercise of sound administrative discretion, requiring the special knowledge, experience and services of his office to determine technical and intricate matters of fact. If petitioners would still be dissatisfied with the decision of the Secretary, they could elevate the matter before the Office of the President which has control and supervision over the Department of National Defense (DND).
Hierarchy of Courts
While direct resort to the Court through petitions for the extraordinary writs of certiorari, prohibition and mandamus are allowed under exceptional cases, which are lacking in this case, petitioners cannot simply brush aside the doctrine of hierarchy of courts that requires such petitions to be filed first with the proper Regional Trial Court (RTC). The RTC is not just a trier of facts, but can also resolve questions of law in the exercise of its original and concurrent jurisdiction over petitions for certiorari, prohibition and mandamus, and has the power to issue restraining order and injunction when proven necessary.
I. The President's decision to bury Marcos at the LNMB is in accordance with the Constitution, the law and jurisprudence.
While the Constitution is a product of our collective history as a people, its entirety should not be interpreted as providing guiding principles to just about anything remotely related to the Martial Law period such as the proposed Marcos burial at the LNMB.
Section 1 of Article XI of the Constitution is not a self-executing provision considering that a law should be passed by the Congress to clearly define and effectuate the principle embodied therein. Pursuant thereto, Congress enacted the Code of Conduct on Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, the Ombudsman Act of 1989, Plunder Act, and Anti-Red Tape Act of 2007. To complement these statutes, the Executive Branch has issued various orders, memoranda, and instructions relative to the norms of behavior/code of conduct/ethical standards of officials and employees; workflow charts/public transactions; rules and policies on gifts and benefits; whistle blowing and reporting; and client feedback program
Petitioners' reliance on Sec. 3(2) of Art. XIV and Sec. 26 of Art. XVIII of the Constitution is also misplaced. Sec. 3(2) of Art. XIV refers to the constitutional duty of educational institutions in teaching the values of patriotism and nationalism and respect for human rights, while Sec. 26 of Art. XVIII is a transitory provision on sequestration or freeze orders in relation to the recovery of Marcos' ill-gotten wealth. Clearly, with respect to these provisions, there is no direct or indirect prohibition to Marcos' interment at the LNMB.
The second sentence of Sec. 17 of Art. VII is likewise not violated by public respondents. Being the Chief Executive, the President represents the government as a whole and sees to it that all laws are enforced by the officials and employees of his or her department. Under the Faithful Execution Clause, the President has the power to take "necessary and proper steps" to carry into execution the law. The mandate is self-executory by virtue of its being inherently executive in nature and is intimately related to the other executive functions. It is best construed as an imposed obligation, not a separate grant of power. The provision simply underscores the rule of law and, corollarily, the cardinal principle that the President is not above the laws but is obliged to obey and execute them.
There is no violation of RA 289.
Petitioners miserably failed to provide legal and historical bases as to their supposition that the LNMB and the National Pantheon are one and the same. This is not at all unexpected because the LNMB is distinct and separate from the burial place envisioned in R.A. No 289. The parcel of land subject matter of President Quirino's Proclamation No. 431, which was later on revoked by President Magsaysay's Proclamation No. 42, is different from that covered by Marcos' Proclamation No. 208. The National Pantheon does not exist at present. To date, the Congress has deemed it wise not to appropriate any funds for its construction or the creation of the Board on National Pantheon. This is indicative of the legislative will not to pursue, at the moment, the establishment of a singular interment place for the mortal remains of all Presidents of the Philippines, national heroes, and patriots.
Furthermore, to apply the standard that the LNMB is reserved only for the "decent and the brave" or "hero" would be violative of public policy as it will put into question the validity of the burial of each and every mortal remains resting therein, and infringe upon the principle of separation of powers since the allocation of plots at the LNMB is based on the grant of authority to the President under existing laws and regulations. Also, the Court shares the view of the OSG that the proposed interment is not equivalent to the consecration of Marcos' mortal remains. The act in itself does not confer upon him the status of a "hero." Despite its name, which is actually a misnomer, the purpose of the LNMB, both from legal and historical perspectives, has neither been to confer to the people buried there the title of "hero" nor to require that only those interred therein should be treated as a "hero." Lastly, petitioners' repeated reference to a "hero's burial" and "state honors," without showing proof as to what kind of burial or honors that will be accorded to the remains of Marcos, is speculative until the specifics of the interment have been finalized by public respondents.
No violation of RA 10639 .
The Court cannot subscribe to petitioners' logic that the beneficial provisions of R.A. No. 10368 are not exclusive as it includes the prohibition on Marcos' burial at the LNMB. It would be undue to extend the law beyond what it actually contemplates. With its victim-oriented perspective, our legislators could have easily inserted a provision specifically proscribing Marcos' interment at the LNMB as a "reparation" for the Human Rights Violations Victims (HRVVs). The law is silent and should remain to be so. This Court cannot read into the law what is simply not there. It is irregular, if not unconstitutional, for Us to presume the legislative will by supplying material details into the law. That would be tantamount to judicial legislation.
The enforcement of the HRVV s' rights under R.A. No 10368 will surely not be impaired by the interment of Marcos at the LNMB. As opined by the OSG, the assailed act has no causal connection and legal relation to the law. The subject memorandum and directive of public respondents do not and cannot interfere with the statutory powers and functions of the Board and the Commission. More importantly, the HRVVs' entitlements to the benefits provided for by R.A. No 10368 and other domestic laws are not curtailed. R.A. No. 10368 does not amend or repeal, whether express or implied, the provisions of the Administrative Code or AFP Regulations G 161-375.
There is no violation of International Human Rights Laws.
The nation's history will not be instantly revised by a single resolve of President Duterte, acting through the public respondents, to bury Marcos at the LNMB. Whether petitioners admit it or not, the lessons of Martial Law are already engraved, albeit in varying degrees, in the hearts and minds of the present generation of Filipinos. As to the unborn, it must be said that the preservation and popularization of our history is not the sole responsibility of the Chief Executive; it is a joint and collective endeavor of every freedom-loving citizen of this country.
Notably, complementing the statutory powers and functions of the Human Rights Victims' Claims Board and the HRVV Memorial Commission in the memorialization of HRVV s, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), formerly known as the National Historical Institute (NHJ), is mandated to act as the primary government agency responsible for history and is authorized to determine all factual matters relating to official Philippine history.
II. The President's decision to bury Marcos at the LNMB is not done whimsically, capriciously or arbitrarily, out of malice, ill will or personal bias.
The LNMB was not expressly included in the national shrines enumerated in PD 105
P.D. No. 105 does not apply to the LNMB. Despite the fact that P.D. No. 208 predated P.D. No. 105, the LNMB was not expressly included in the national shrines enumerated in the latter. The proposition that the LNMB is implicitly covered in the catchall phrase "and others which may be proclaimed in the future as National Shrines" is erroneous because: (1) As stated, Marcos issued P.D. No. 208 prior to P.D. No. 105; (2) Following the canon of statutory construction known as ejusdem generis, 138 the LNMB is not a site "of the birth, exile, imprisonment, detention or death of great and eminent leaders of the nation,"; and (3) Since its establishment, the LNMB has been a military shrine under the jurisdiction of the PVAO.
Assuming that P.D. No. 105 is applicable, the descriptive words "sacred and hallowed" refer to the LNMB as a place and not to each and every mortal remains interred therein. Hence, the burial of Marcos at the LNMB does not diminish said cemetery as a revered and respected ground. Neither does it negate the presumed individual or collective "heroism" of the men and women buried or will be buried therein. The "nation's esteem and reverence for her war dead, " as originally contemplated by President Magsaysay in issuing Proclamation No. 86, still stands unaffected. That being said, the interment of Marcos, therefore, does not constitute a violation of the physical, historical, and cultural integrity of the LNMB as a national military shrine.
The LNMB is considered as a national shrine for military memorials. The PVAO, which is empowered to administer, develop, and maintain military shrines, is under the supervision and control of the DND. The DND, in tum, is under the Office of the President.
The presidential power of control over the Executive Branch of Government is a self-executing provision of the Constitution and does not require statutory implementation, nor may its exercise be limited, much less withdrawn, by the legislature. This is why President Duterte is not bound by the alleged 1992 Agreement between former President Ramos and the Marcos family to have the remains of Marcos interred in Batac, Ilocos Norte. As the incumbent President, he is free to amend, revoke or rescind political agreements entered into by his predecessors, and to determine policies which he considers, based on informed judgment and presumed wisdom, will be most effective in carrying out his mandate.
Moreover, under the Administrative Code, the President has the power to reserve for public use and for specific public purposes any of the lands of the public domain and that the reserved land shall remain subject to the specific public purpose indicated until otherwise provided by law or proclamation. At present, there is no law or executive issuance specifically excluding the land in which the LNMB is located from the use it was originally intended by the past Presidents. The allotment of a cemetery plot at the LNMB for Marcos as a former President and Commander-in-Chief, a legislator, a Secretary of National Defense, a military personnel, a veteran, and a Medal of Valor awardee, whether recognizing his contributions or simply his status as such, satisfies the public use requirement. The disbursement of public funds to cover the expenses incidental to the burial is granted to compensate him for valuable public services rendered.
Likewise, President Duterte's determination to have Marcos' remains interred at the LNMB was inspired by his desire for national healing and reconciliation. Presumption of regularity in the performance of official duty prevails over petitioners' highly disputed factual allegation that, in the guise of exercising a presidential prerogative, the Chief Executive is actually motivated by utang na loob (debt of gratitude) and bayad utang (payback) to the Marcoses. As the purpose is not self-evident, petitioners have the burden of proof to establish the factual basis of their claim. They failed. Even so, this Court cannot take cognizance of factual issues since We are not a trier of facts.
AFP Regulations G 161-375 must be sustained.
Under AFP Regulations G 161-375, the following are eligible for interment at the LNMB: (a) Medal of Valor Awardees; (b) Presidents or Commanders-in-Chief, AFP; ( c) Secretaries of National Defense; ( d) Chiefs of Staff, AFP; ( e) General/Flag Officers of the AFP; (f) Active and retired military personnel of the AFP to include active draftees and trainees who died in line of duty, active reservists and CAFGU Active Auxiliary (CAA) who died in combat operations or combat related activities; (g) Former members of the AFP who laterally entered or joined the PCG and the PNP; (h) Veterans of Philippine Revolution of 1890, WWI, WWII and recognized guerillas; (i) Government Dignitaries, Statesmen, National Artists and other deceased persons whose interment or reinterment has been approved by the Commander-in-Chief, Congress or the Secretary of National Defense; and G) Former Presidents, Secretaries of Defense, Dignitaries, Statesmen, National Artists, widows of Former Presidents, Secretaries of National Defense and Chief of Staff.
Similar to AFP Regulations G 161-374, the following are not qualified to be interred in the LNMB: (a) Personnel who were dishonorably separated/reverted/discharged from the service; and (b) Authorized personnel who were convicted by final judgment of an offense involving moral turpitude.
In the absence of any executive issuance or law to the contrary, the AFP Regulations G 161-375 remains to be the sole authority in determining who are entitled and disqualified to be interred at the LNMB. Interestingly, even if they were empowered to do so, former Presidents Corazon C. Aquino and Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III, who were themselves aggrieved at the Martial Law, did not revise the rules by expressly prohibiting the burial of Marcos at the LNMB. The validity of AFP Regulations G 161-375 must, therefor, be sustained for having been issued by the AFP Chief of Staff acting under the direction of the Secretary of National Defense, who is the alter ego of the President.
AFP Regulations G 161-375 should not be stricken down in the absence of clear and unmistakable showing that it has been issued with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction. Neither could it be considered ultra vires for purportedly providing incomplete, whimsical, and capricious standards for qualification for burial at the LNMB.
It is not contrary to the "well-established custom," as the dissent described it, to argue that the word "bayani" in the LNMB has become a misnomer since while a symbolism of heroism may attach to the LNMB as a national shrine for military memorial, the same does not automatically attach to its feature as a military cemetery and to those who were already laid or will be laid therein. As stated, the purpose of the LNMB, both from the legal and historical perspectives, has neither been to confer to the people buried there the title of "hero" nor to require that only those interred therein should be treated as a "hero."
In fact, the privilege of internment at the LNMB has been loosen up through the years. Since 1986, the list of eligible includes not only those who rendered active military service or military-related activities but also non-military personnel who were recognized for their significant contributions to the Philippine society (such as government dignitaries, statesmen, national artists, and other deceased persons whose interment or reinterment has been approved by the Commander-in-Chief, Congress or Secretary of National Defense). In 1998, the widows of former Presidents, Secretaries of National Defense and Chief of Staff were added to the list. Whether or not the extension of burial privilege to civilians is unwarranted and should be restricted in order to be consistent with the original purpose of the LNMB is immaterial and irrelevant to the issue at bar since it is indubitable that Marcos had rendered significant active military service and military-related activities.
Petitioners did not dispute that Marcos was a former President and Commander-in-Chief, a legislator, a Secretary of National Defense, a military personnel, a veteran, and a Medal of Valor awardee. For his alleged human rights abuses and corrupt practices, we may disregard Marcos as a President and Commander-in-Chief, but we cannot deny him the right to be acknowledged based on the other positions he held or the awards he received. In this sense, We agree with the proposition that Marcos should be viewed and judged in his totality as a person. While he was not all good, he was not pure evil either. Certainly, just a human who erred like us.
Aside from being eligible for burial at the LNMB, Marcos possessed none of the disqualifications stated in AFP Regulations G 161-3 7 5. He was neither convicted by final judgment of the offense involving moral turpitude nor dishonorably separated/reverted/discharged from active military service.
The fact remains that Marcos was not convicted by final judgment of any offense involving moral turpitude. No less than the 1987 Constitution mandates that a person shall not be held to answer for a criminal offense without due process of law.
Also, the equal protection clause is not violated. Generally, there is no property right to safeguard because even if one is eligible to be buried at the LNMB, such fact would only give him or her the privilege to be interred therein. Unless there is a favorable recommendation from the Commander- in-Chief, the Congress or the Secretary of National Defense, no right can be said to have ripen. Until then, such inchoate right is not legally demandable and enforceable.
Assuming that there is a property right to protect, the requisites of equal protection clause are not met. 181 In this case, there is a real and substantial distinction between a military personnel and a former President. The conditions of dishonorable discharge under the Articles of War attach only to the members of the military. There is also no substantial distinction between Marcos and the three Philippine Presidents buried at the LNMB (Presidents Quirino, Garcia, and Macapagal). All of them were not convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude. In addition, the classification between a military personnel and a former President is germane to the purposes of Proclamation No. 208 and P.D. No. 1076. While the LNMB is a national shrine for military memorials, it is also an active military cemetery that recognizes the status or position held by the persons interred therein.
Likewise, Marcos was honorably discharged from military service. PVAO expressly recognized him as a retired veteran pursuant to R.A. No. 6948, as amended. Petitioners have not shown that he was dishonorably discharged from military service under APP Circular 17, Series of 1987 (Administrative Discharge Prior to Expiration of Term of Enlistment) for violating Articles 94, 95 and 97 of the Articles of War. The NHCP study is incomplete with respect to his entire military career as it failed to cite and include the official records of the AFP.
The word "service" in AFP Regulations G 161-375 should be construed as that rendered by a military person in the AFP, including civil service, from the time of his/her commission, enlistment, probation, training or drafting, up to the date of his/her separation or retirement from the AFP. Civil service after honorable separation and retirement from the AFP is outside the context of "service" under AFP Regulations G 161-375.
Hence, it cannot be conveniently claimed that Marcos' ouster from the presidency during the EDSA Revolution is tantamount to his dishonorable separation, reversion or discharge from the military service. The fact that the President is the Commander-in-Chief of the AFP under the 1987 Constitution only enshrines the principle of supremacy of civilian authority over the military. Not being a military person who may be prosecuted before the court martial, the President can hardly be deemed "dishonorably separated/reverted/discharged from the service" as contemplated by AFP Regulations G 161-375. Dishonorable discharge through a successful revolution is an extra-constitutional and direct sovereign act of the people which is beyond the ambit of judicial review, let alone a mere administrative regulation.
It is undeniable that former President Marcos was forced out of office by the people through the so-called EDSA Revolution. Said political act of the people should not be automatically given a particular legal meaning other than its obvious consequence - that of ousting him as president. To do otherwise would lead the Court to the treacherous and perilous path of having to make choices from multifarious inferences or theories arising from the various acts of the people. It is not the function of the Court, for instance, to divine the exact implications or significance of the number of votes obtained in elections, or the message from the number of participants in public assemblies. If the Court is not to fall into the pitfalls of getting embroiled in political and oftentimes emotional, if not acrimonious, debates, it must remain steadfast in abiding by its recognized guiding stars - clear constitutional and legal rules - not by the uncertain, ambiguous and confusing messages from the actions of the people.