No need for anything more
By Raïssa Robles
I turned to Alunan to confirm the preconditions that his former boss, President Fidel Ramos, had told me earlier.
I also wanted to further clarify the issue of whether the dead dictator’s remains were already accorded military honors upon its return in 1993.
Alunan was the Department of Interior and Local Governments (DILG) Secretary to whom Ramos had entrusted the task of representing the Philippine government in negotiating with Imelda Marcos the preconditions for allowing the body’s return to the country.
Alunan replied to my questions, using his Blackberry:
hello raissa. i was told you called my office earlier. i can confirm what FVR said because he tasked me to talk to Mrs Marcos regarding those three points: fly the remains of the late-President directly to Ilocos Norte because we didn’t want a political spectacle in Metro Manila had he been flown here for obvious peace and order reasons; military honors befitting the rank of major which he held in the USAFFE (full military honors was out of the question given the harsh judgment of history on him here and abroad); and a quick burial there instead of at the Libingan ng mga Bayani which Mrs Marcos wanted or failing that, somewhere in Antipolo where a memorial would be built in his honor.
Alunan explained why the Ramos government gave these terms:
It was a difficult moment for the (fledgling Ramos) administration. which was pushing its peace and development agenda, that needed all hands on deck working together towards that goal, after reeling from the disastrous effects of martial rule, the coup attempts during Cory’s incumbency and the brownout years that, combined, set back the country’s socioeconomic development. I need not belabor the point why the Marcos agenda was unacceptable.
Alunan made it clear he was merely following Ramos’ orders:
I informed her (Mrs. Marcos) of the President’s position and my orders were not to budge.
But Alunan said that contrary to what Pres. Ramos told me, he was not the one who had signed a Memorandum of Agreement or a Memorandum of Understanding with Mrs. Marcos. He said everything between him and Mrs Marcos was verbal and added that:
Any agreement would eventually have to be signed by Malacañang.
Here’s independent evidence to show Mrs Marcos agreed to certain preconditions
Is this then a case of “he-said-she-said”, as what my childhood friend Menie wrote as a comment to my story Marcoses broke promise to bury FM’s body at once in Ilocos – Fidel Ramos?
Not so. The York Times report dated Sept. 7, 1993, which I posted in that article, alluded to Pres. Fidel Ramos’ preconditions. It said:
President Fidel V. Ramos has refused to give full state honors to Mr. Marcos, who during his time in power imposed martial law, arrested and tortured thousands of opponents and ransacked the national treasury. But by allowing Mr. Marcos’s burial here, Mr. Ramos is also trying to woo the support of the still-substantial Marcos constituency and douse the passion of intensely loyal supporters.
In addition, here’s a Los Angeles Times report dated Feb. 26, 1992:
For those who can’t read the fine print, here’s a closeup of the text:
To see original page, click on this link.
Hmmm. This report came out in the midst of the presidential campaign period in which both Ramos and Imelda were candidates. This would mean Imelda pursued negotiations with Ramos after he became president and struck a deal that enabled her to transport the body a year later.
What if the Philippine government cannot show a signed contract and what if Mrs Marcos shows a contract different from what Ramos said? Or what if Mrs Marcos says that because there is no written contract, whatever terms that weren’t fulfilled is no longer binding?
Under Philippine law, verbal contracts are generally perfected by mere consent of both parties.
That the body came back without passing through Manila in 1993 and without being buried at Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes’ Cemetery) as a former head of state are proof enough that Ramos had imposed certain preconditions. Because if he did not, the body would long have been on display in an imposing mausoleum at Libingan.
A source inside the Marcos camp, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told me it was Marcos’ dying wish to be buried at LNB. The person also confirmed to me that Imelda Marcos had agreed to the preconditions just so she could transport the body. See my story Malacañang reacts to my story on Imelda Marcos waiving Libingan burial & full military honors for Ferdinand Marcos
Ramos says no military honors during burial bec. no burial
During my earlier conversation with Ramos, he was unsure whether the military honors already given to Marcos’ corpse in 1993 had fulfilled one of the preconditions he gave Imelda Marcos. Ramos gave me a caveat: he was basing what he told me from memory and from a news clipping he still had on hand from the Manila Bulletin dated September 8, 1993.
What probably was given although I was not there was a plane-side escort befitting a major.
In the actual transfer of the casket from the airport to a caisson there were 21 retired generals who appeared to be the escort. But the actual armed escort from the Armed Forces would be soldiers.
But, he said, the military honors due to an army major at the time of burial “was not fulfilled because there was no burial.”
Ramos started thinking aloud:
As far as I remember, a major would be entitled to some gun salute but not 21 because that’s for a former president. Even a full general has only 19.
If the burial had taken place, regardless of rank of person, the honor guard would fire three volleys from their rifles. The sequence is the blowing of taps and three shots regardless of rank.
Since there was no burial, there were no taps or three gun salutes….He was not accorded military honors because he was never buried.
But Alunan says military honors given during “entombment”
Alunan wrote through his Blackberry that the Philippine government’s promise to bestow military honors befitting an army major were fulfilled during Marcos’ entombment in Ilocos Norte:
The AFP provided honors befitting a major but Marcos’ retired generals gave unofficial full military honors at his “burial”/entombment.
I then asked him – Do you think the military honors given to Marcos’ body upon its arrival already satisfy the demands of the (current) congressmen to give Marcos military honors?
Yes since FVR’s decision in 1993 was official.
I also asked him – Why did the Ramos administration, especially you as DILG secretary, never compel the Marcoses to actually bury his body between 1993 and 1998 as per prior agreement?
That he wasn’t buried is the Marcos family’s call. I believe FVR (Ramos) gave them that allowance for political reasons.
Alunan did not elaborate what these political reasons were. But a source inside the Marcos camp did. The source told me:
Next: The last part of this series: “Burial” might not mean burial in the Marcos dictionary
This last part will be based on my interviews with sources inside the Marcos camp.