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Flouting the rule of law: SOCE, Marcos burial, Arroyo cases

One of our deepest problems as a nation is that as a people, we haven’t really embraced that very important concept: rule of law, or the idea that a society agrees on a certain set of rules, with which everyone complies after legislation. This means we are governed by a set of rules and laws, not by arbitrary decisions by government officials. Worse, members of our intellectual elite have become lackeys of politico-economic overlords, and often accept, if not defend such flouting of the rule of law.

Blogs and even opinion pages, indeed, have been filled with essays on how Filipinos seem to have a penchant for breaking rules – jumping queues, throwing trash out of their car windows to the street, ignoring traffic red lights. Such observations have been highlighted by OFWs who often compare how citizens of the countries they work and live in seem to respect rules so much.

But how can we blame ordinary Filipinos if the very elite who are supposed to have had the privilege of finer education have become the exemplars of law-breaking, sometimes even in crucial cases that define the nationhood of the Filipino people? Here are three such cases:

The Comelec recently showed utter disregard for its own rules that – as presumptive House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez pointed out – it hasn’t bothered to publicly issue a resolution extending for 14 days its deadline for the filing of SOCEs (statement of contributions and expenditures). It hasn’t even rescinded its Resolution No. 9991 in 2015 which declares that the June 8 deadline is “final and non-extendible.”

Yet, we have former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban rushing to defend the Comelec, writing in his column that the implementation of its resolution’s penalty on disqualification is a “harsh legal proviso (that) infringes on the winners’ right to hold public office and the voters’ right of suffrage.”

Another issue that demonstrates our nation’s very weak grasp of the rule of law involves the refusal of past administrations to allow the burial of President Ferdinand Marcos, who died in 1989, to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. Except Cory Aquino, past Presidents – Ramos, Arroyo, and Estrada – who were confronted with the issue, at least kept mum and simply declined to issue the order to allow the strongman’s burial at the Libingan.

Comelec’s Lim, who sees the deadline extension for SOCE filing as illegal; former President Arroyo blocked from seeking medical treatment abroad, despite the Supreme Court’s OK; Aquino’s refusal to allow Marcos burial in Libingan ng Mga Bayani.
Comelec’s Lim, who sees the deadline extension for SOCE filing as illegal; former President Arroyo blocked from seeking medical treatment abroad, despite the Supreme Court’s OK; Aquino’s refusal to allow Marcos burial in Libingan ng Mga Bayani.

In contrast, President Benigno Aquino 2nd flaunts his disrespect for the rule of law and openly demonstrates how the rule by arbitrary decisions works, in this issue. Aquino recently claimed that Marcos couldn’t be buried at the Libingan since that honor is “reserved for people worthy of praise and emulation.” That is false: the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), which manages the cemetery has no such rule that one should be “worthy of praise and emulation” to be buried there.

Heroes’ cemetery
Although it is called “Heroes’ Cemetery,” the Libingan in reality has been the military’s de facto cemetery for all its men and women. The purpose is both to recognize their sacrifice in risking or giving up their lives for the freedom or welfare of the nation and to provide free burial facility for members of the military. Most of the country’s soldiers are from the lower classes, and the free burial facility comes most useful at a time when plots in “memorial parks” are so expensive and public cemeteries are horribly crowded. Many soldiers, especially those whose families are based in Metro Manila, are buried at the Libingan even if they died not in battle. The AFP has adopted the most liberal interpretation of dying in “combat-related duties.”

Some 50,000 military men of all ranks, including trainees and draftees, are buried at the Libingan. There are a few civilians buried there as well, as allowed by the AFP rules, such as former Presidents, secretaries of national defense and the all-encompassing category of “government dignitaries, national artists and other deceased persons whose interment and re-interment have been “approved by the Commander-in-Chief, Congress or the Secretary of National Defense.” Presidents Quirino, Garcia and Macapagal are buried there. Cory’s family had opted to have her buried at the family mausoleum with her husband, Ninoy, at the Manila Memorial Park.

Forget the issue of medals or whether he was a guerilla or not. Marcos, of course, was a President, and therefore, according to the rules, is entitled to be buried there. The only possible impediment, according to the AFP rules, would be its regulation that states, “unqualified to be buried there are personnel who were dishonorably separated/reverted/discharged from the service and personnel who were convicted by final judgment of an offense involving moral turpitude.”

Moral turpitude
But Marcos wasn’t convicted by any court of “moral turpitude,” and his downfall in 1986, which could be interpreted by the Yellows as a “dishonorable separation,” was extra-constitutional. Even the National Historical Commission hasn’t issued a resolution condemning the Marcos years as a dark era for the country.

Worse, though, is that after our rulers break the law, our intellectual elite rush to defend their actions. On November 15, 2011, former President Arroyo was set to leave for abroad to seek medical treatment for her rare spinal illness, with the Supreme Court issuing a resolution allowing her to do so.

Yet, Leila de Lima – for chrissakes, the secretary of justice then – ignored the order of the highest court of the land and prevented Arroyo from leaving. Aquino’s government then rushed the filing of non-bailable plunder charges and her consequent arrest, making de Lima’s act of contempt moot. Because she was prevented from seeking medical help abroad, Arroyo’s rare illness hasn’t been cured.

But how did a former dean of the UP School of Law, Raul Pangalanan, react to de Lima’s contempt of the Court? In his Feb. 23 column, Pangalanan called it her “fearless stand” and even portrayed de Lima as a heroine. “It fell upon De Lima to make the tough call. It took a lot of guts to block Arroyo at the airport,” he wrote. This from a law academic? Totally disregarding the former President’s serious illness, Pangalanan even bashed the Supreme Court in his column, claiming that it abetted, through its TRO, Arroyo’s attempt to evade the law.

After refusing Pangalanan’s plea to be appointed to the Supreme Court twice, Aquino in early 2015 nominated him, successfully, to the International Criminal Court.

What kind of a country have we become, that both our political and intellectual elite flout the rule of law? How, then, can we hope to build a nation governed by the rule of law?


This Post Has 29 Comments

  1. julio madiaga

    the rule of law do not apply to those who make the law

  2. leon

    Sir Tiglao, thank you for hitting it right. We wish you have columns in tabloid translating your enlightening observation into venaculars so that many ordinary Pinoys can read. Many of the ordinary Pinoys share your observation and dream but hopeless seeing our benign country going downhill compare to our neighbors which really suffer a lot in their history compare to us6. Without OFWs and migrant-relatives that greatly play important role in Ph Economy, matagal na sanang tayong nag civil war due to poverty and tribalism just like the many African countries. Our ruling elite who should be the most responsible and lead primarily our country in thd development, progress, and nation-building is the ruling class having the most damaged culture. Some of them have an endless vangeance till end of time against whoever opposed them, right or wrong, kahit sila ang oppressors or not. Forgiveness, helping the poor and oppressed, and be a true human are not in their mind and heart. Important for some of our elite class is to destroy their competitors even if our country will suffer, too. How can the many ruling class and those they put in the very high govt.position expect ordinary citizens to follow laws of the land if they see their leaders doing the opposite.

  3. Butch

    BSA deserves the gutter for his burial. This shameless thick faced animal has the hide to say he and his cohorts can leave with their heads high. What a con merchant this liar and canards is.

  4. Amnata Pundit

    Madami pang examples: 1)The summary judgement against Marcos in the forfeiture case was summary because the SC refused to accept his reply. 2) Pacificador was jailed without bail and trial for nearly 20 years for the murder of Javier, and it took the Canadian Supreme Court to shame the government into finally holding a trial where he was quickly exonerated because they had absolutely no evidence against him. 3) The Coco levy was judged to be a private fund by the SC (because it was the coconut oil mills that paid for it not the farmers) but they opened a door for the Coristas who were hungrily lusting for all that money by adding the words” but vested with public interest.” 3) They convicted Erap based on the false testimony of two liars, Clarissa Ocampo who was not a member of the management team in charge of the Dichaves aka Jose Velarde account, and Chavit Singson. 4) GMA’s re-enacted budget for three years, from 2004 to 2007, which was clearly in violation of the constitution that called for a budget that was passed by Congress. There is no provision for a re-enacted budgets in the constitution, and besides, how did they end up with a re-enacted budget when Congress and the Senate were dominated by GMA’s allies? These are just a few examples to show that the rule of law since EDSA 86 is just total BS.

  5. Westsea Leng

    Famous quote: In every rule there’s always an exception, is the only rule in the Phils. that has no exception…tsk tsk tsk…

  6. susan day


  7. ferdinand naboye

    Please remind comelec commissioners to learn the mening of a final and non-extendable deadline they themselves set as rule

  8. Olive

    you’ve always share the views of the silent few. These are the people who are discerning and can read between lines. All your articles bring us to a reality we readers are denied of. Thanks.

  9. Naldo

    The utter disregard of the rule of law in our country, mainly stems from the unfortunate fact that voters (some) do not have high regard to their selections in having representative lawmakers, who by virtue of astute knowledge in learning, understanding and interpreting laws should be the ones qualified to sit in congress. Just a look at the senate and some of the people that composed the chamber, these are personalities with background in media, entertainment and sports, worst of all is one that has no formal higher education.

    The only way to dig the country out of the muck, which it is fastened to, should be to alter the mind set of voters and let them realize the nature of how congress work, then probably there will be hope for the republic to administer on every citizen a consciousness on how to respect the rule of law.

  10. Leodegardo Pruna

    Sometimes hard to believe that academics would go against “fact, truth, and reality” which has been the case of GMA. Definitely, P-Noy’s administration would be judged in history as the “Worst ever President of the Republic.” And, God has come to save the Philippines and bring about the needed change. May the president elect not fall into the trap which evil has laid along his path.

  11. jakulino

    Very well said, Secretary R. Tiglao.. I never get tired of reading your column every day. You are one of the best columnists together with Yen Makabenta, the Philippines ever had. I Salute you both, sir.

  12. Dobbit palacios

    What about the Supreme Court rulling on Grace Poe? Has it been published as a SCRA?

  13. edna penaflor

    I am with you. The Philippine society is an oppressive society, where leaders think they are above the law. It is a society that is devoid of compassion and human intelligence.
    The intelligence shown in those three scenarios clearly manifests the motives of their hearts–revenge, pride, and ambition.

    And as we can see, those motives (in different shades and colors) continue to play and plague our society over and over again.

  14. Rudi Miranda

    Bravo! Congratulations! Thank you! Why are people ruled so much by expediency, and not by rule of law[s] or regulation[s]? Ain’t it the lack of character in the Filipino, elite or otherwise? Once again, thank you for pointing the problem at ourselves.

  15. P.Akialamiro

    Yet, we pride in claiming that we are the only Catholic country in Asia! And, we want peace among us. How can we achieve peace without forgiving?

    I am not that naive. I was there before, during and after Martial Law.

    In the first place, one must understand what Martial Law is and why. Marcos might have been a dictator, but he is not that bad as a person. His sins could be attributed to what he had to do which are inherent with Martial Law. While many were/are victims of his dictatorship, many were/are also appreciative of his rule. Those who claim to be ‘protectors’ of democracy and freedom of the people show bitterness against him, up to now, but what have they done before to prevent the declaration of Martial Law?

    As the Holy Father may say, who are we to judge? To those who believe, let his creator judge him, not us his fellow mortals. Let’s be more Christians than Catholics!

    1. To the Max

      As the saying goes Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Marcos is a perfect example. I guess his initial intentions are good, to stop communism in our country. But after a few years, the good person in Marcos was changed to a person that wants to stay in power permanently. Once a country is in Martial Law, the military takes over and the civilian population will have to follow the military rules. That is why there were many abuse of power committed by the military. Never, never go back to military influence, you will be sorry.

    2. George F Guillermo

      The Anti Marcos group used DECEPTION as strategy to create an Anti Marcos mindset among the people as a scheme for them to stay in power forever. But as per GOD’s standard, these “yellow groups” are nothing but “Self Rigtheous”, as they think themselves to have more moral ascendancy than the rest of the people. They judge people as evil for them to appear as good or righteous. They are taking the role of the Almighty GOD, as JUDGE of HIS Creation/people. They are acting like Satan that used DECEPTION as strategy to spread LIE as Truth. Fortunately, after more than 30 years, the deceptive, self righteous yellow groups failed in their deceptive/vindictive tactics so as to continue stay in power, but sadly, their vindictive and self righteous character have now become a part of the culture of some of our Citizenry. GOD BLESS our country!!!

  16. Dan August

    Rule of Law or Rule of the Yellow ? President Duterte will surely end that Policy. It will be Follow the Rules or yoy die3. Simple as that.

  17. Josie

    How can we expect the common tao to respect and obey the law when the trapos and the elite break them?

    The most recent is the non-filing of the SOCE by the Liberal Party before the deadline. So what are we to expect now when the rules say that the VP and senators and congressmen and governors who won the elections cannot take office because of this failure to file on time?

    Looks like this issue is now IGNORED. There is nothing in the papers that this issue is pursued. Even Aquino is silent about this!!

    God help the Philippines.

    1. Zakh Lolo

      The SOCE filing has been extended by Comelec, which violates the laws and contradicts its own resolution. Yes absolutely, Pres Pianonoy is silent on this extension. His party is the majority beneficiary of this “flouting the rule of law”.

  18. girlie bebbeb

    There’s always a retribution for bad deeds, and it can be sooner or later, but it will come.

    1. To the Max

      What you sow, you reap says the Lord.

  19. fyi

    How, then, can we hope to build a nation governed by the rule of law?

    At some point the politicians and their stooges will have to be held accountable for their actions. Aquino and his stooges are a good place to start.

  20. Andresito l. Caceres

    Mr. Tiglao: Marcos was the rapist of Philippines democracy. As we all know the verdict against this crime severe. Marcos has lost that that previlege. We hope Mr. Duterte will not bury him there as a payment of gratitude for his father’s employment by Marcos.

    1. cris

      democracy???the democracy that you claim being raped by Marcos is the yellow democracy???democracy to destabilized the nation thru rebellion, sabotage and intrigue. this was all employed by benigno aquino and his cohorts to weaken the gov’t for noynoy self interest. so what would you expect gov’t will do with such kind of demons…they’re very lucky coz marcos did not execute them out right…damn you yellows!!!!

    2. Tonyang

      And what did we get from democracy, btw? Did it send children to school; brought food on the table; install peace & order…?!

  21. Ignacio Balbutin

    Yes, under the last administration, the supreme court became a court of shame by letting it be used illegally by the former president. They trampled the private right of GMA to travel for physical treatment and now just few days before the last administration will end, her they are again, as their last attempt to really shame GMA. It is beyond my understanding how the former government got an extraordinary hatred against GMA that in the last days of their administration they are trying once again to shame GMA. The elected President the honorable President Rodrigo Duterte should place this branch of government under investigation. It should be included in the list of one of the corrupt offices of the government.

  22. Tibo

    I love you Mr TIGLAO and love you more the way you exposed all righteous pretender who disregard the law of the land just to protect privileged ELITE. Kudos, and continuous to unveiled those said to be luminaries and expose them of wrongdoings.
    Educate us always.

  23. Lanzo

    was a President, and therefore, according to the rules, is entitled to be buried there.
    so, ALSO bsa should deserve the honor ? The sooner the better,

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