Hundreds of people in the Philippines rallied in stormy weather to protest after the country’s president, Rodrigo Duterte, approved the burial of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos in a heroes’ cemetery.
(Article and photo from The Guardian / Photographed by Bullit Marquez)
Police said about 1,500 protesters carrying a large streamer that read “Marcos not a hero” braved the rains, wind and mud at the seaside Rizal park, in Manila, on Sunday to call on Duterte to reconsider his decision. They launched a signature campaign to try to stop the burial, which is set for September.
Loretta Ann Rosales, who formerly headed the government’s commission on human rights, said she was tortured, electrocuted and molested with thousands of other detained leftwing activists under Marcos during a period in Philippine history that clearly showed why the leader, who died in 1989, did not deserve to be accorded state honours.
“Is that not enough evidence? … Is Marcos a hero?” Rosales asked. The crowd responded: “No!”
Risa Hontiveros, who joined the protest, said she had filed a senate resolution opposing a hero’s burial for Marcos, adding that Duterte should not commit the “atrocious mistake” of bestowing honours upon the former dictator. “Marcos went down in history as an unrepentant enemy of our heroes,” Hontiveros said. “To honour the man [as] a hero and bury his remains in a place reserved for the brave and martyred is an inimical political abomination.”
Using the heroes’ cemetery to bury a dictator accused of massive rights violations and plunder has been an emotional and divisive issue in the country, where Marcos was ousted by a “people power” revolt in 1986.
Marcos fled to Hawaii, where he lived with his wife and children in exile until he died, in Honolulu, three years later. His remains were returned to his north-Philippines hometown and displayed in a glass coffin. His wife, Imelda, and two of three children gradually regained political influence after being elected to public office.
Duterte, who was sworn in as president in June, argues that Marcos is qualified to be buried at the military-run cemetery as a former soldier and president. He revealed he once voted for Marcos and that his late father, a politician, served in Marcos’s cabinet.
Duterte’s communications secretary, Martin Andanar, said on Sunday the president’s position remained firm, arguing that military rules allowed Marcos to be buried at the hallowed cemetery as a former president and soldier.
Selda, an organisation of former political detainees and rights victims under Marcos, said in a statement that it planned to ask the supreme court to stop what it called a grave injustice to thousands of human rights victims.
Communist guerrillas, who are due to restart peace talks with Duterte’s government this month, condemned the president’s move for its “extreme insensitivity”.
In a statement, they said: “Duterte is virtually deleting Marcos’ bloody record as a military despot and the fascist violence, human rights violation, corruption and economic hardships he made the Filipino people suffer through 14 years of dictatorship.”