Faceless Marcos bust back at center stage of protest | Inquirer News
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Faceless Marcos bust back at center stage of protest

TWO SITES, ONE CAUSE Activists gather at what remains of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ controversial bust in Tuba, Benguet province, on Thursday to mark with protest the fifth anniversary of his “hero’s burial,” which President Duterte allowed to take place at Libingan ng Mga Bayani in Taguig City on Nov. 18, 2016. On Sunday, other militant groups hold a similar demonstration at the Commission on Human Rights in Quezon City, this time directed at the dictator’s son and namesake who is running for president in the May 2022 elections. —KIMBERLIE QUITASOL/NIÑO JESUS ORBETA

TUBA, BENGUET — The remnants of what used to be a huge concrete bust of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos took center stage again on Thursday when activist groups held a protest rally in time for the fifth anniversary of the hero’s burial accorded his remains at Libingan ng mga Bayani in Taguig City.

Some 40 members of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) and its affiliate groups gathered at the view deck of the former Marcos Park in Barangay Taloy Sur to express outrage at not only the dictator’s legacy but also the political ambitions of his son and namesake, Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

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“This blasted bust actually depicts the true legacy of the Marcos regime. It stands on Ibaloy ancestral land forcefully taken from the people,” said CPA secretary general Sarah Dekdeken.

Baguio City actor Karlo Altamonte wondered what Marcos Jr. had to offer as a presidential candidate.

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“What has he done for the past six years? We have not heard from him during the pandemic. He became visible only when he announced his bid for the presidency,” said Altamonte, convener in Baguio of the opposition coalition 1Sambayan.

A la Mt. Rushmore

In Taguig, members of the Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses and Martial Law (Carmma) held a protest caravan to the Libingan to affirm their stand that the dictator was not a hero.

They said they would block the election of Marcos Jr. and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte as president and vice president in 2022 because they “remember the crimes of the Marcoses and Dutertes all too well.”

At the site of the Marcos bust, the protesters said regrouping there helped strengthen their resolve not to allow the dictator’s family to return to power.

The bust was financed by Marcos’ business supporters as an imitation of the United States’ Mt. Rushmore, on which are carved the busts of American presidents.

It was the most prominent landmark of the 355-hectare Marcos Park and golf course that was developed by the now-defunct Philippine Tourism Authority (PTA) on land owned by the Ibaloy community in Tuba.

Rose Laboten, whose family owned the farmland where the PTA put up its clubhouse, said the family was forced to sell the property for the grand plan of building a leisure destination between Baguio City and La Union province.

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Bombed

The bust used to loom over the then Marcos Highway (now Aspiras-Palispis Highway), within sight of travelers heading to Baguio.

Three years after the Marcos family fled to the United States at the height of the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution, men claiming to be communist rebels dynamited the bust. But they only managed to tear open a hole in the right ear.

In December 2002, a more forceful explosion tore off much of the bust’s features. The communist New People’s Army in Benguet claimed responsibility, but many Benguet residents speculated that the blast was part of a treasure-hunting expedition.

‘Too sturdy’

Through the years, people in the area tried to get at the metal struts and whatever else remained of the bust. But they soon realized that it was “really made to last,” Laboten said.

“It’s too sturdy. Even a huge backhoe could not penetrate the concrete,” she recalled, citing an instance when it took a day to retrieve a steel bar.

Marcos died in the United States in 1989. His body was flown back in 1993 to his Ilocos Norte hometown of Batac, where it was preserved for decades in a refrigerated mausoleum that became a tourist destination.

Assailing President Duterte’s decision to allow a hero’s burial for Marcos in 2016, Dekdeken said the dictator was responsible for “land grabbing, plunder and development aggression” in the Cordillera.

She cited the planned Chico River dam project that had threatened to submerge low-lying villages in Kalinga and Mountain Province, and that highland clans and communities had united to oppose.

The resistance to the dam project cost the lives of many vocal objectors, among them village elder Macliing Dulag.

“The North remembers, the North resists. Marcos was and will never be a hero. His son is nothing but the spitting image of the father—dishonest and bereft of honor,” Dekdeken said.

Promise fulfilled

In Taguig, Carmma members said the “stealthy and treacherous” hero’s burial for the dictator was a fulfillment of “a promise” made by Duterte to the Marcoses “in exchange for their support when he ran as president.”

“Behind all the drama that comes with the elections, what has become clear is this: The children of these two dictators have struck an alliance, with Marcos Jr. running for president in tandem with Duterte’s daughter Sara,” Carmma said in a statement.

It said the decision of the Marcos and Duterte scions to team up in 2022 was an attempt to “escape accountability and to completely rewrite and distort history.”

Human rights group Karapatan cited “the thousands killed, disappeared, detained and tortured under the barbaric dictatorship of Marcos.”

‘No hero’

“Marcos is no hero. Not an inch of heroism runs in the veins of a deposed tyrant who plundered the nation by the billions and amassed wealth from the nation’s coffers,” Karapatan said.

Farmer groups Amihan, National Federation of Peasant Women and National Network of Agrarian Reform Advocates-Youth also issued a call to “continuously resist deceitful attempts to restore the Marcoses and their league to power.”

“History tries to repeat itself with the Marcos-Duterte tandem. But, like in history, the people will continue to remember, and to resist,” said Amihan national chair Zenaida Soriano.

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TAGS: Bongbong Marcos, Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), Ferdinand Marcos, Marcos bust, Protests
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