From the oral arguments in the Supreme Court relative to the petitions to block the burial of Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani:
Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio is convinced, Marcos is not qualified since he was “dishonorably separated” as a President and “dishonorably discharged” as a Commander-in-Chief.
A regulation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines expressly states that personnel who were dishonorably separated or discharged form service are not qualified to be interred at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
Carpio relates this to the case of Marcos. He explained, Marcos was ousted from office and was removed as the Commander-in-Chief in 1986 Edsa Revolution.
If Justice Carpio said those things as a private citizen, I’d say, “Nice political argument, Sir” (he was my professor in Credit Transactions and, by force of habit, I still call him “Sir”). If we were on the streets, or if we were talking politics over beer or wine, an argument like that would probably spawn even more political arguments and a lively, albeit heated, debate would ensue.
But Justice Carpio is a lawyer and he made those statements in his capacity as justice of the Supreme Court during oral arguments before the Supreme Court itself. Under such circumstances, Justice Carpio’s political argument is out of place. Only legal arguments are acceptable.
Was Marcos “dishonorably discharged” as commander-in-chief?
Dishonorable discharge from military service is governed by Commonwealth Act No. 408 (otherwise known as “Articles of War”) as amended by Republic Act Nos. 242 and 516, and Presidential Decree Nos. 1116 and 1968. Even totally ignoring the two Presidential Decrees, there is nothing in the amended Articles of War that deals with the dishonorable discharge of the commander-in-chief.
“Dishonorable discharge” is a result of having been tried by a court martial and the law enumerates who can be tried by a court martial. Was Marcos tried by a court martial relative to his stint as commander-in-chief?
Can a president, any president, in his capacity as commander-in-chief be tried by a court martial? I’ve gone over the Articles of War, as amended, and couldn’t find anything to support that position.
Was Marcos “dishonorably discharged” as a soldier when he was still in active duty?
Was Marcos “dishonorably separated” as president?
In layman’s terms, yes. Marcos was overthrown, he was ousted, he was booted out in a meta legal occurrence that came to be known as the EDSA Revolution.
But in legal terms? Again, this is all relative to the oral arguments in the Supreme Court so it’s stupid to say let’s not keep harping about the law. The fact that the petitioners went to the Supreme Court to try and top the Marcos burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani means that they are invoking the law. And what is the law? There is no such thing as “dishonorably separated” in law. Marcos was not impeached and convicted, and those two together are the only legal equivalent of being “dishonorably separated” as president.
So, what now?
Well, Justice Carpio isn’t the only one deciding on these petitions. Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro’s approach makes more sense.
“I think the name ‘Libingan ng ma Bayani’ is the one creating a lot of controversy when in simple, going by the proclamation of the president and regulation, this was intended only as a war memorial and not really for heroes,” De Castro said.
De Castro also said it’s now the burden of the petitioners to convince the court that Libingan ng mga Bayani is only for heroes.
And, for goodness’ sakes, just change the name of the cemetery.