Philippine court temporarily stops burial of Marcos in heroes' cemetery

August 23, 2016 2:10 AM EDT

Former first lady Imelda Marcos kisses the glass coffin of her husband, late president Ferdinand Marcos, who remains unburied since his death in 1989, during her 85th birthday celebration in Ferdinand Marcos' hometown of Batac, Ilocos Norte province, in n

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MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippine Supreme Court ordered the government on Tuesday to put on hold a divisive plan to bury former dictator Ferdinand Marcos in a heroes' cemetery, a court spokesman said.

A plan supported by President Rodrigo Duterte to bury the former president in the cemetery has been criticised by human rights groups and many politicians, including Vice President Leni Robredo and senators allied with former President Benigno Aquino.

The 15-member high bench of the court, responding to a petition filed last week by opponents of the plan, told the government not to do anything on the issue for 20 days, Supreme Court spokesman Theodore Te told reporters.

Te did not elaborate on why the court had issued the order but said it had called for arguments from both sides to help the judges decide on the issue before the planned burial on Sept. 18.

As a dictator in the 1970s and '80s, Marcos, his family and cronies amassed an estimated $10 billion in ill-gotten wealth and thousands of suspected communist rebels and political foes were killed. His wife, Imelda, denies amassing wealth illegally.

In 1986, he was ousted in a "people power" revolt and fled to Hawaii where he died three years later. His remains were returned in the early 1990s and have been kept in a family mausoleum in his hometown in the north.

Newly elected president Duterte has said Marcos, as a former leader and a soldier, should be buried at the cemetery. Marcos was a guerrilla leader during World War Two when the former U.S. colony was occupied by Japanese forces.

Opponents of the plan say burying a dictator at the cemetery, known as the Libingan ng mga Bayani, would violate military regulations that bar "those who have been dishonourable discharged from service or personnel convicted of an offence involving moral turpitude".

(Reporting by Manuel Mogato and Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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