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Court says dictator Marcos can be buried at heroes’ cemetery

MANILA — The Philippines Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos can be buried in a heroes’ cemetery, a decision that opponents said rolled back the democratic triumph of the ‘‘people power’’ revolt that ousted the strongman three decades ago.

‘‘While he was not all good,’’ the 15-member court said in passing judgment on one of Asia’s most infamous strongmen, ‘‘he was not pure evil either.’’

Court spokesman Theodore Te said the justices voted 9-5 with one abstention to dismiss petitions opposing President Rodrigo Duterte’s approval of the Marcos family’s plea for the dictator to be buried at the Heroes’ Cemetery in metropolitan Manila, where former presidents, soldiers, and national artists have been interred.

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The decision on a deeply emotional issue that has divided the poor Southeast Asian nation can be appealed.

Outside the court, more than 300 Marcos supporters erupted in celebration, chanting the dictator’s name repeatedly. Some waved Philippine flags and wept in joy. Anti-Marcos activists were outraged, and some of the petitioners vowed to ask the court to reconsider.

Riot police stood between the opposing groups.

‘‘We are disappointed. We are heartbroken. We are outraged,’’ a coalition of nearly 40 groups opposed to Marcos’s burial at the cemetery said in a joint statement. ‘‘With this decision, the very definition of hero is now in question.’’

Senator Risa Hontiveros, an anti-Marcos activist in her younger years, lamented the decision. ‘‘No tombstone, no grandiose cemetery can change the fact that Marcos was not a hero,’’ she said in a statement. ‘‘He was a plunderer, torturer and a thief with a family seeking to rewrite history to serve their interests.’’

The Marcos family did not announce a burial date.

Associated Press