Protesters demand return of Marcos ‘loot’
Survivors of martial law and human rights campaigners marched in the rain on Monday to demand the return of the stolen wealth of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his family, whose political rehabilitation by President Rodrigo Duterte was denounced by a Catholic bishop as a “shameful revision” of Philippine history.
From Elliptical Road in Quezon City, the protesters marched on Libingan ng mga Bayani in Taguig City where supporters of Marcos and members of his family gathered to celebrate his 100th birthday.
Marcos placed the Philippines under martial law from 1972 to 1981 and oversaw widespread human rights abuses to maintain his grip on the country, with thousands of people killed, tortured or imprisoned.
He was ousted in the military-backed Edsa People Power Revolution in 1986 and died in exile in Hawaii three years later.
He has been accused of embezzling up to $10 billion from state coffers during his long rule.
The anticorruption watchdog Transparency International in 2004 named Marcos the second most corrupt leader of all time, behind Indonesian dictator Suharto.
President Duterte, an admirer of Marcos who has been accused of glorifying the dictator, granted the Marcos family’s request to declare his birthday a holiday in his home province of Ilocos Norte.
Mr. Duterte stunned the nation in November last year by allowing the remains of Marcos to be buried at Libingan ng mga Bayani despite widespread protests that the late strongman was unfit for that honor.
On Saturday, he pronounced Marcos a “hero” to the people of Ilocos, drawing a biting response from the Catholic Church, which stood up to the dictator throughout his iron-fist rule and led the bloodless uprising that toppled him from power.
“Duterte’s action of giving honors to a dictator who caused great havoc in our country is a travesty of our national history, a shameful revision of the truth of our past,” Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes said in a statement on Monday.
Return all of the loot
Mr. Duterte said the Marcoses had offered to return part of their alleged loot, but Balanga Bishop Ruperto Santos said the family must first reconcile with the Filipinos, especially those who were wronged by the dictator’s regime.
“And if it is to be done, first openly confess and admit all those … atrocities [and] corruption, be truly and publicly contrite [then] return and restitute all those ill-gotten wealth without any preconditions,” Santos said on Monday.
He said peace could be achieved only when justice finally had been served to the thousands of victims of Marcos’ martial rule.
Critics of Mr. Duterte in the House of Representatives lambasted the glorification of Marcos and attempts to revise Philippine history.
“We ourselves will be judged by history for what we have done,” Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate warned in a privilege speech.
“I hope we don’t reach the point where the next generations will remember us for disregarding history and revising the truth in exchange for money that belonged to us in the first place,” Zarate said.
In a statement, Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao called Mr. Duterte a “loyalist President” and criticized him for “stomping” on the memory and lessons of martial law “by honoring” Marcos on his 100th birth anniversary.
Akbayan Rep. Tomasito Villarin said in a separate statement that the “Marcos centennial birthday is no cause for celebration but a national tragedy heaped upon us.”
Villarin said Mr. Duterte’s actions in favor of Marcos “reflects how the present administration has distorted our values and beliefs as Filipinos.”
On Carlos P. Garcia Avenue, the protesters joined a caravan of 59 vehicles carrying members of cultural minorities from the Cordilleras, northern and central Luzon, Southern Tagalog and Mindanao, and proceeded to Libingan ng mga Bayani.
Organizers estimated the number of protesters at 1,500, including at least 50 elderly citizens who survived torture in military prisons during the Marcos regime.
Jigs Clamor, deputy secretary general of rights group Karapatan, accused the President of “adding insult to injury” by ignoring the grievances of martial law victims and floating the idea of a compromise agreement with the Marcoses over their ill-gotten wealth.
Gabriela Rep. Emmi de Jesus said Filipinos needed to make a consistent stand against the Marcoses, “especially now that President Duterte openly shows his support” for them.
At Bantayog ng mga Bayani in Quezon City, survivors of rights abuses during Marcos’ rule called on fellow survivors to summon courage and tell their story.
The small group, led by Bantayog Foundation and Claimants 1081, tied red and black ribbons around what the participants called a “living memorial” to the martyrs and heroes who fought the Marcos dictatorship.
Zeny Mique, Claimants 1081 executive director, called on young Filipinos not to allow themselves to be swayed by “fake news” about the Marcos family and their rule on social media.
“Do not believe fake news … that keeps on twisting and revising history,” Mique said. —With reports from the wires
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