In exchange for bringing back Ferdinand Marcos’ body
By Raïssa Robles
I was really very surprised when my phone rang last Friday and an aide of Fidel Ramos said the former Philippine president wanted to speak with me. Beyond the usual press briefings and conferences, Ramos and I have never been warm friends. But we’ve had several interesting encounters.
He has always been an accommodating and ever gentlemanly source no matter the number of times I got under his skin.
The first time I saw him up close was at his office inside Camp Crame the day after he and then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile parted ways with President Ferdinand Marcos in February 1986. Ramos was Mr Cool, although he chomped on an unlit cigar. I was a newbie political reporter then. Forever etched in my mind is that moment when he calmly told a gaggle of us reporters and photographers – “Ladies and Gentlemen, the tanks are coming. I suggest you to all go down. You will be safer there.”
My next close encounter with him was on a flatbed truck while he was campaigning for president in 1992. I happened to be the only reporter on board. I felt it was my duty and opportunity to ask him about this certain woman who was being written and talked about because she was forever dropping his name within the corridors of power.
It must have been the rain that gave me the courage to ask then. I’ve written about this encounter in my piece on Sex and the President, which was published in the book Dateline Manila by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP).
After Ramos won, he launched a book about himself which my Philippine Star editor, the late Betty Go-Belmonte, asked me to cover. When he saw me, he did not say anything. He wrote a gracious dedication on the book (which I bought with my hard-earned money). But I saw his jaw muscle really bobbing up and down. It was then that my admiration for him rose because what I had written nearly contributed to the sinking of his presidential campaign and had caused him much emotional agony.
Early in his presidency, Ramos visited Manila Chronicle newspaper where Alan asked what made him, a minority president, think he had any powers to push his legislative agenda through congressional gridlock. It made him a bit testy.
After his term ended, Ramos surfaced in the limelight as calls mounted for his successor Joseph Estrada to resign from office. Ramos even met with FOCAP. He denied he was planning any coup and said he was busy with a think tank. After his briefing, while bantering around with some of us, I could not resist telling him Alan’s joke about his think tank. “Sir,” I said, “my journalist-husband Alan said ‘maybe it’s more tank than think.”
Ramos replied, “Ha-ha-ha, I didn’t get the joke.” A few months later, Ramos turned out to be part of the group that unseated Estrada.
One thing about Ramos – he never held a grudge and he didn’t totally lose his composure.
Why am I telling you all these?
Because it is in this context that our conversation about Ferdinand Marcos’ non-burial and about other issues took place. I have learned through years of reporting that the dynamics between a source and a reporter affect how much the source decides to reveal.
Ramos confirms giving Imelda Marcos 3 preconditions
Ramos sounded chirpy. He got to the point at once. “The story is fairly accurate,” he said, referring to my article Marcoses broke promise to bury FM’s body at once in Ilocos – Fidel Ramos “Tama yung three conditions.” (The three conditions are correct.) He said these were: the direct transport of the body to Ilocos without passing Manila; military honors for an army major; and the immediate burial of the body.
“What I’m telling you are from my own recollection and some scanned files. It’s not probably the complete story,” he cautioned me. He recalled it was Congressman Roquito Ablan who had negotiated the terms for the family.
He was authorized by the family. There were two congressmen (representing Ilocos Norte) then – the first district was Ablan, the second district was Bongbong (Marcos’ son Ferdinand Jr., now a senator).
It was Roguito Ablan who brought the proposal that we referred to Secretary (Rafael) Alunan of DILG (Department of Interior and Local Governments).” Like other Philippine presidents, Ramos was fond of referring to himself as “we”.
Scouring his memory, Ramos said:
It was the Ablan proposal where it says – after the transfer from Hawaii to Batac, remains to stay overnight in the north with the mother who was in Sarrat…Lola Sepa would be buried on the 9th of September in Batac beside Elizabeth Marcos-Keon (the dead dictator’s sister).
Then the next day, Marcos would be “buried”, Ramos added. Several times during the conversation I made kulit (the word sounds nicer in Filipino than “nag”). I kept asking him to confirm whether or not he was telling me that Imelda Marcos had really agreed to his three preconditions. And everytime, he said “yes.” I asked him if anything at all was signed by Imelda Marcos agreeing to the preconditions. He paused and said:
The major stipulation was signed by Imelda Marcos and Alunan. His remains shall be buried at the family burial grounds in Batac itself…The remains shall be buried on the 9th of September more or less, depending on the arrival of the direct flight.
At that time they were still negotiating clearances from the US FAA (Federal Aviation Authority).
I asked him what kind of a written agreement it was. He paused and said, “to my recollection it was an MOA (Memorandum of Agreement) or MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) between Alunan and Imelda.”
No, he said he did not witness the signing of the agreement, and noted that this agreement was even on a much lower level than a bilateral trade agreement.
Ramos says why he did not press Marcoses to bury the body
I asked him why he never compelled the Marcoses to bury the body between 1993 and 1998. His answer to me was: It was Imelda who decided to put Marcos in A mausoleum in a refrigerated state. As for what to do with the remains, the family has the absolute right. I pressed him whether the incumbent president, Benigno Aquino, could now compel them to honor the agreement that Imelda Marcos had entered into with the Philippine government in order to bring home the body. He evaded the question. Instead, he said:
Let history be the judge. The history is not settled yet. There are so may allegations of human rights violations, torture, unexplained wealth which are still unresolved.
Ramos said it was really President Aquino’s call on the issue. He denied that the reason he did not compel a burial was that a compromise settlement on the Marcos loot was in the works –
No. We were not trying to forge any compromise in 1993.
Alex Sibug says
On June 30,2004 in a break with tradition,Arroyo first delivered her inaugural speech at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila.She then departed for Cebu City for her oath taking, the first time that a Philippine president took the oath of office outside of Luzon. Why?
Because Arroyo was so disliked by then that she was not sure of getting a large enough crowd at Luneta for her inauguration.
Danilo M. Garces says
Karapat-dapat ba si Marcos sa Libingan ng mga Bayani? Mayroong isang dating BANAL na nagkasala at ipinagkanulo ang dapat ay kanyang paglingkuran at naging dahilan upang ipako sa krus at namatay na ipinagluksa ng sangkatauhan. Saan kaya siya nakarating, sa langit kaya? Malamang, kung pinagsisihan niya ang kanyang kasalanan.
“While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.” John 17:12
“Looks like Judas was the only unclean disciple. He was not saved and he was not forgiven.”
roger ilejay says
panahon na para mailibing si dating pangulong marcos sa libingan ng mga bayani..tingnan nalang natin ang nagawa nya…ang akala ng lahat pag mawala si marcos sa kapangyarihan ay mapabuti at mapaunlad ang bansa pero nagkamali ang lahat dahil walang nangyari mas lalo tau naghirap…kaya ang edsa1 ay walang saysay…ang aking maalala sa edsa ay pinaalis si marcos sa malakanyang at naging presidente si cory…un lang…at dahil dito ayun sunod sunod na ang kamalasan nating mga pinoy…hangang ngayon ang hirap ng buhay kahit anong kayod mo wla parin…siguro kung si marcos parin ang president baka ala singapore na tayo…un lang peace!
Buksan mo mga mata mo.
tama. magbasa at magresearch, iverify ang source if credible…wag umasa sa social media…
Evangeline Eriksson says
Saan ko naman ba mababasa and “Sex and the President” hah Raissa?
You can click this link –
Or this one in the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) website –
Hello Vangie daquigan Eriksson, I like to comment and put this to reality.
All Filipinos need to realize whether we have to admit or not Pres. Marcos still is the best President we ever had. During his time foreign countries had a great respect for the Fil. citizens. With what had happened and still is happening, the dirty politics after him, is even worse. Like they said ” If the leaders of a nation do not respect their own people, how would you gain respect from others.” And he is right when he said “This nation (Phil.) will never be great again!”
We should be proud of him, because he still being respected abroad before and after death, they knew great things he did, unlike us Fil. we forgot about it, instead we are still digging what he did wrong. So he deserves to be buried with dignity and recognition in” Libingan ng Bayani” for he made our country great, and it happened once in the Phil. history.
How will you reconcile the facts of the People Power 1 to a heroic burial when the same person is the subject? IRRECONCILABLE! He is known all over the world to be a dictator and you are going to bury him with hero’s honors? Yes, respect for Marcos “was” there when he made the Philippines much ahead of Singapore , Malaysia etc.. A Singaporean colleague even told me that during the early 70’s, his father had envied the Filipinos because the Philippines was already prosperous that time while Singapore was merely a struggling economy- a “fishing village” according to his father. But we know that respect towards a person is something which is here today and may be gone tomorrow. That depends on the integrity of that person. Burying him in the Libingan will create a big confusion in the next generation of Filipinos who are equally naive of the Marcos exploits – maybe just like you Disgust! You can’t erase the hostilities , the killings, the plunder, the abuses done by his family and friends which are already engraved in out history tablets… They will stay there and I will keep on telling my offsprings and their offsprings about the Marcos abuses.
I’m so sorry to put this bluntly, but you are one delusional Marcos cult follower. The best President this Country ever had? Be proud of Marcos because he is respected abroad alive and even in death (I’ve taken the liberty to correct your grammar, thank you.) Ms. Eriksson, you should read more than the Marcos propaganda literature you have been accustomed to. If you do not know where to start, try Googling either the names Ferdinand or Imelda Marcos, good luck trying to find one article that does not include the words dictator, plunderer, racketeering, embezzlement, crony, greed and so on and so forth. These aren’t words of endearment honey.
If one reads enough worth his/her salt, he/she would be aware that even when Marcos was still alive, and Dictator of the Philippines, many dignitaries abroad specially from the US, detested and downright avoided visiting Manila and the palace of Malacañang because of the notorious dispositions of Macoy and Imelda, always parading to their guests the extent (or lack thereof) of their extravagance. And vice versa, recent articles revealed how American government officials would cringe at the idea of having the Marcoses for a visit.
When the Marcoses fled to Hawaii amidst the People Power revolution, they entered US immigration with trolleys of gold bars, suitcases filled with jewelry and bags after bags of cold cash! Is this the kind of people you’re telling us to be proud of?
When President Cory took over the seat of government, the country’s till was empty, foreign Countries have cut our line of credit and the Philippines was considered the “poor man of Asia”, now why do you think that is?
It’s great to get nostalgic about your long-dead President and litter the internet with senseless sentimentality… but if you could mention some facts, now that would be nice.
Anerhom 1724 says
Correction “Disgust Says” I have been to different countries and all I can hear about Marcoses were not Respect all were Shame and Disgust…the only thing that out-balances them in a positive side were the Leadership of Cory & Bloodless Revolution we have done & which they keep on emulating up to this present time… we are not digging their atrosities & Wrong doings are readily available & clearly etched on their faces..before Marcoses & early years of Marcoses we are being looked up by our Neigbors (Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia etc..but after his 20yrs regn & plunder we were at the Bottom…after him unti2 ng bumabangon pero parang sisirahin ulit ni DoDirty wid BBM on the side.
Watching the news on tv tonight I feel gratified the preconditions of 1993 are finally out in the open once more. So, now the ball is in P-Noy’s court,so to speak.
Thank you, Ms. Raissa! You are doing a good job! More power to you and to your kind!
noli a. soriano says
ano pa ba ang gusto ng mga Marcoses? pinayagan na nga silang makabalik sa kapangyarihan kahit patong-patong pa ang kanilang mga kaso sa korte. ni hindi nga sila humihingi ng tawad sa mga karumal-dumal na ginawa ng Pamilyang Marcos sa Sambayanang Pilipino. Libu-libo ang namatay at ikinulong nila noong Panahon na sila ang nasa kapangyarihan at Bilyong dolyar ang ninaka nila sa kaban ng bayan at ngayon naman ay Libingan ng mga Bayani naman ang hiling nila. aba, masyado naman yata ang pamilyang sakim na ito. Sabagay ganyan anman tayong mga Filipino, madali tayong makalimot kahit ibinaon tayo sa utang at dusa ng Pamilyang Marcos. iniluklok pa nga natin sila ulit eh. hay mga Pinoy nga naman!
Evangeline Eriksson says
@Noli maliwang kung ano ang gusto ng pamilyang Marcos: Kilalanin na Si Ferdinand E. Marcos eh mataas ang karangalan Period, ayon kay Bongbong.
Rallie F. Cruz says
Nakakahiya mang aminin, karamihan sa ating mga Pilipino ay biktima ng pananakot kung hindi man panunuhol.
Dalawang uri mayroon sa katangian ng ordinaryong nakararami sa atin…Kahirapan at Kaduwagan… na nagpapahina ng ating prinsipyo sa buhay para mamuhay ng marangal. At ito ay sangkap para sa mga mapagsamantala na manakot o manuhol sa pagsulong ng kanilang kasakiman.