Sunday, October 24, 2021

Marcos' burial sparks protests across Philippines

CEBU CITY (Updated) -- Pro-democracy advocates and human rights victims from different areas in the Philippines trooped to the streets Friday, November 18, to protest the burial of late President Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

Marcos was secretly buried at the heroes' cemetery around noon despite growing opposition after the Supreme Court ruled that one of Asia's most infamous tyrants can be entombed in the cemetery, where former presidents, soldiers and national artists have been interred.

READ: Marcos buried at Libingan ng mga Bayani

Leftwing activist Bonifacio Ilagan, who was tortured and detained during Marcos' time in power, protested the stealthy funeral plans and said Marcos was being buried "like a thief in the night."

"It's very much like when he declared martial law in 1972," Ilagan told The Associated Press. "This is so Marcos style. I want to rush to the cemetery to protest this. I feel so enraged, I feel so agitated."

Ilagan and other stunned activists gathered outside the Supreme Court in Manila for the previously scheduled "Black Friday" protest against the burial.

Marie Hilao Enriquez, a former political detainee whose sister, a fellow activist, was raped and killed by policemen, wept upon learning the news.

"Marcos died in the arms of his family" but many Marcos-era activists remain missing after being allegedly abducted by state forces, Enriquez said at a protest. "We are still searching for the victims' bodies, trying to find out where they buried the bodies."

Other groups also gathered at the People Power Monument and Katipunan Avenue in Quezon City, as well as at the University of the Philippines Diliman, University of Santo Tomas, and other areas in Metro Manila, including Makati City.

Rallies were also held in Cebu City, with groups like Sanlakas Cebu and members of Cebu Citizens Assembly Against the Marcos Burial gathering across Gaisano Metro in downtown Cebu City around 4 p.m. Friday.

Another militant group, Bayan, joined the protest Friday night.

Students of the University of the Philippines Cebu also aired their opposition to Marcos' burial in a protest held at the UP Cebu school grounds.

(Video by Niño Olayvar/Anakbayan)

In Cagayan de Oro City, members of Selda and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) Northern Mindanao will held a protest action at the Magsaysay Park in Divisoria around 5 p.m.

"Ila nang gihimo to stymied the momentum of protest and opposition. But the protest action, indignation shall continue to go until justice is attained and let history be judge," said Selda-Northern Mindanao chairperson Jerry Orcullo.

In nearby Iligan City, members of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP)-Mindanao gathered around 6 p.m. at the Mindanao State University.

The CEGP said in a statement that it strongly denounced the "sneaky burial of a dictator in a sacred ground," stressing it is "an insult to the Filipino people who showed their collective action to oust the dictator, human rights violator, plunderer, and murderer."

"It only goes to show the intensifying culture of impunity in the country where traitors like the Marcoses can easily get away with the crimes they committed to this nation," said CEGP national president Jose Mari Callueng.

“Today, we grieve for this act of historical revisionism. However, we shall continue to intensify our unity as a nation to end the culture of impunity. We call on the Filipino people, especially the youth, to unite our ranks and join the nationwide protests against this atrocious move,” he added.

Protesters also trooped to the City Hall in Davao to air their disappointment with Marcos' burial at the heroes' cemetery.

Burying someone accused of massive rights violations and widespread corruption at the heroes' cemetery has long been an emotional and divisive issue in the Philippines, where Marcos was ousted by a largely nonviolent army-backed uprising in 1986. At the height of the political turbulence, Marcos flew to Hawaii, where he lived with his wife and children until he died in 1989.

The powerful family has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and Imelda Marcos and two of her children eventually ran for public office and won stunning political comebacks. One son, Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., ran for vice president earlier this year and won more than 14 million votes, but lost by a slim margin.

In 1993, Marcos's body was returned to his hometown in Ilocos Norte, where it has been displayed in a glass coffin and became a tourist attraction. But his family fought for his remains to be transferred to the heroes' cemetery.

Rodrigo Duterte, who took over the presidency in June, backed the dictator's burial at the cemetery, saying it was his right as a president and soldier. It was a political risk in a country where pro-democracy advocates celebrate Marcos's ouster each year.

Duterte was flying to Peru to attend the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, but officials said he was aware of the burial.

Last week, the Supreme Court dismissed seven petitions, including from former torture victims, which argued that an honorable burial for the dictator was "illegal and contrary to law, public policy, morals and justice."

Opponents also cited Duterte's political debt to the Marcos family, which supported his presidency.

The court ruled that Marcos was never convicted by final judgment of any offense involving moral turpitude, adding the convictions cited by anti-Marcos petitioners were civil in nature.

While critics may disregard Marcos as president due to his human rights abuses, the court said he cannot be denied the right to be acknowledged as a former legislator, a defense secretary, a military member, a war veteran and a Medal of Valor awardee.

"While he was not all good," the 15-member court said, "he was not pure evil either." (AP/LMY/With Pamela Jay F. Orias of SunStar Cagayan de Oro/Johanna Bajenting of SunStar Cebu/Sunnex)

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