Philippine protests after Ferdinand Marcos buried in secret military ceremony

Former Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos was buried with military honours at a heroes' cemetery in the capital Manila on Friday, almost 30 years after his death in Hawaii, amid protests by human rights groups and opposition politicians.

Timing not announced ahead of time for burial of dictator who reigned for 2 decades

Philippine navy personnel stand guard outside the Libingan ng Mga Bayani heroes' cemetery where burial rites for the former Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos took place, in Taguig city, Metro Manila on Friday. (Ezra Acayan/Reuters)

Former Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos was buried with military honours at a heroes' cemetery in the capital Manila on Friday, almost 30 years after his death in Hawaii, amid protests by human rights groups and opposition politicians.

Many in the Philippines were shocked and angered by the way Marcos's family had kept the timing of the burial secret, with Vice President Lenie Robredo likening the ceremony to "a thief in the night."

"This is nothing new to the Marcoses — they who had hidden wealth, hidden human rights abuses and now hidden burial — with complete disrespect for the rule of law," Robredo said in a statement.

President Rodrigo Duterte, who is attending the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Lima, Peru, had ordered the burial in August, fulfilling an election campaign promise.

Marcos's eldest daughter, Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos, thanked Duterte for allowing her father, a former soldier and guerrilla leader during the Second World War, to be laid to rest with soldiers.

A protester burns an image of former Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos along a main street at Taft avenue, metro Manila, Philippines November 18, 2016. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTX2U8A3 (REUTERS)

"At last, my beloved father's last will to be buried with fellow soldiers was fulfilled today," she said. She also asked people to understand the family's decision to keep the ceremony "simple, private and solemn".

Human rights groups opposed his burial at the heroes' cemetery south of Manila but the Philippines Supreme Court ruled against their protests last week.

Marcos ruled the Philippines for 20 years, during which time he, his family and cronies amassed an estimated $10 billion in ill-gotten wealth, a commission found. Tens of thousands of suspected communist rebels and political foes were killed.

He was chased from office in a people's power revolt in 1986 and died in exile in Hawaii three years later. His family returned to the Philippines in the 1990s and became powerful politicians representing his home province of Ilocos Norte.

Body had been kept in mausoleum

Military spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla said they were just following orders to bury Marcos at the heroes' ceremony.

"We do not side with anyone, we serve everyone," he told a press briefing.
The preserved body of late president Ferdinand Marcos inside a mausoleum glass coffin is shown in this Sept. 11, 2006. (Aaron Favila/The Associated Press)

The media was banned from the ceremony. Throngs of journalists waited outside the cemetery as a 21-gun salute was fired and a Philippine flag was handed to Marcos' widow, Imelda.

"This is what we have been praying for," Marcos supporter Cherrie Cobarrubias told Philippine television, saying she planned to visit the grave later on Friday.

"We are happy," she said.

In this Friday, Feb. 28, 1986, file photo, former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos reads a statement at the Hickam Air Force Base in Honolulu. (Jack Smith/The Associated Press)

Dozens of activists, human rights advocates and students, carrying placards and banners saying "Marcos is a traitor, Marcos not a hero" held protest rallies around Manila, some burning pictures of the late ruler.

Police said Marcos's body was flown by helicopter from his hometown in the northern Philippines for burial at noon.

Marcos's body was returned to the Philippines in the early 1990s and was placed in a refrigerated mausoleum at his hometown in Paoay in Ilocos Norte province.

In Lima, Duterte's spokesman Ernesto Abella said the family did not inform the president about the burial, insisting the government was only implementing the court's decision.

"He was given a soldier's burial," Abella said.

"I hope the burial would bring about a cycle of healing for the Filipino people," he said, noting that a generation of Filipinos had "grown up not really knowing about the Marcos years."