Marcos victims vow to stop Bongbong bid
Angry victims of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos on Monday vowed to derail his son’s vice presidential bid as they demanded long-delayed retribution.
Hundreds who endured torture and imprisonment during Marcos’ two-decade reign gathered on the University of the Philippines campus in Diliman, Quezon City, chanting “No More Marcos! Marcos Dictator!” as they announced plans to dog Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s electoral effort.
“We will hound his campaign,” the group’s convener, torture victim Bonifacio Ilagan, told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
“He will redeem the family, rewrite history and bring back his father’s abusive leadership framework,” Ilagan said.
Human rights groups say tens of thousands of people were murdered, tortured and imprisoned during Marcos’ tumultuous rule. Most of the abuses happened after Marcos declared martial law in 1972 until his ouster in the Edsa People Power Revolution in 1986.
The government estimates Marcos and his family stole $10 billion from the already desperately poor country during his military rule.
The group, Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses to Malacañang, or Carmma, said Bongbong Marcos was not the “guiltless son” that he claims to be.
Voter preference polls give Bongbong the first place in a tie with Sen. Francis Escudero in the vice presidential race, three months before the May 9 general elections.
The President and Vice President are elected separately in the Philippines, each serving a single six-year term.
The 58-year-old Bongbong denies his family stole from government coffers and insists his father’s rule was one of peace and progress.
Victory in the elections will cement a remarkable political comeback for the Marcos family, who held mostly local positions in their home provinces until Bongbong won a Senate seat in 2010.
The family’s flamboyant matriarch, former first lady Imelda Marcos—who was famously found to have amassed hundreds of pairs of shoes while her husband was in power—has made no secret of her desire for her son to become the President.
Bongbong is trumpeting his father’s infrastructure achievements to a young electorate that has no firsthand experience of the brutality of martial law.
In a glossy Internet video, he proclaims “I am not my past. We are the future.”
The Marcos family fled to exile in Hawaii after the Edsa Revolution. The elder Marcos died three years later.
This week, young people who have no idea how Bongbong’s father ruled will see “visual statements” that have been created to counter the “revisionism” of martial law that the senator is trying to peddle to them.
Malacañang is inviting the public to visit the People Power Experiential Museum at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City on Thursday and Friday.
Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. Monday said the museum “combines elements of theater, cinema, photography, performances, installations and other allied arts, as it recreates the experience of martial law and the struggle of courageous Filipinos to awaken the sleeping masses.”
Speaking on state-run radio, Coloma said the Edsa People Power Revolution’s 30th anniversary celebration would have for a theme “Pagbabago (Change): Ipinaglaban Ninyo (You Fought for It), Itutuloy Ko (I Will Sustain It)” and was “dedicated to the young children when the Edsa Revolution took place or [whom we now call] millennials.”
He said it was important for young people to know and understand the history of the Edsa Revolution.
Coloma said this week’s celebration did not involve the “politics of revenge,” referring to efforts by some groups to derail Bongbong’s campaign to return his family to power.
“That allegation that we are undertaking a politics of revenge is not true and unreasonable,” Coloma said.
“The important issue here is freedom and justice. The Edsa People Power Revolution was the people’s response to their freedom being nipped and democracy being crushed because of the implementation of martial law,” he added.
Those who took part in the bloodless revolution of 1986 were also there “to stand [up for] the thousands of victims of violence and cruelty during the martial law years,” Coloma said.
The government, he said, is giving importance to the people’s patriotism and heroism.
Coloma underscored the importance of learning from the lessons of the past.
“We have to stand up and fight for our rights because these can be taken away and prohibited by an abusive and cruel dictatorship,” he said.
At the experiential museum, near the Camp Aguinaldo grandstand, young Filipinos who never lived through the horrors of martial law may vicariously share the pain of the families of the “desaparecidos”—the disappeared.
That pain is captured by sculptor and painter Toym Imao in the installation, “Desaparecidos: Memorializing Absence, Remembering the Disappeared,” displayed at the museum.
Imao’s set of sculptures is composed of 43 figures, representing the years that have passed since the declaration of martial law in 1972, each holding empty picture frames to hollowed-out chests.
“The loved ones of the disappeared have had no closure, their absence remains an open wound and they feel the emptiness in their guts, a hollow feeling that never really goes away,” Imao says in his briefer for his work.
Imao’s installation is just “one component” of the museum. “There’s an entire room that will house it, with photographs from floor to walls of the victims of the martial law period,” the artist told the Inquirer.
The museum will have exhibit halls and will feature a guided tour “of the history of the struggles of the decade before [people power], to ground that people power was not something spontaneous but was a collective result of years of struggle during the martial law period,” Imao said.
He lauded the Armed Forces of the Philippines for hosting such an exhibit at its headquarters. “It’s an acknowledgment to a certain degree that indeed they had a dark period of history and got involved during martial law,” Imao said.
Aside from “Desaparecidos,” Imao has installations at the Cultural Center of the Philippines and at Palma Hall in UP Diliman, which also deal “with historical revisionism, especially on social media, myth-making; primarily how an entire generation has simply forgotten, how they’re seduced by well-made social media materials.”
Imao was referring to the proliferation of posts online glorifying martial law.
“This is in commemoration of Edsa 30 and at the same time in pre-preparation for a visual statement with the coming elections,” Imao said.
The experiential museum is built in a single row with nine halls holding exhibits that depict facets of martial law, from its declaration on Sept. 21, 1972, to the fall of Marcos in February 1986.
In one of the halls is displayed the military tank that the people stopped on Edsa to prevent an attack on the troops who had broken away from the Marcos regime and holed out in Camp Crame, across from Camp Aguinaldo.
Visitors will be offered free, 40-minute guided tours of the exhibits, according to Assistant Secretary Celso Santiago of the Presidential Communications Operations Office.
He said visitors would be welcome to take photos of the exhibits.
Halls of history
One of the halls is called Hall of Orphans, which will have children approaching visitors and asking them, “Where are my parents?”
Santiago explained that the children represent the orphans of the disappeared and the people who lost their lives during martial law.
The Hall of the Lost will display photos of the disappeared, tortured or killed.
The Hall of Pain will feature photographs of the instruments of torture, with actors portraying soldiers and demonstrating how those vile things were used to maim and sometimes kill people.
In the Hall of Forgotten Martyrs will be seen photos of Edgar Jopson, Macli-ing Dulag and other martyrs of martial law, with accounts of their struggle against the dictatorship and how they were killed.
The Hall of the Awakening will have exhibits depicting the assassination of Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr., the leader of the opposition to Marcos, and the upheaval that led to the Edsa People Power Revolution three years later.
The Hall of Reality will show what happened to the revolution’s key leaders, including Senator Aquino’s widow, Corazon Aquino, who became the President after the fall of Marcos, then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile, then Army Col. Gregorio Honasan II, and then Lt. Gen. Fidel V. Ramos.
The last segment is the Hall of Action, where an actor portraying national hero Jose Rizal and the current President Aquino will appeal to the youth to carry on the spirit of the 1896 and 1986 revolutions.
“Rizal will say, “What happened to us in 1896 was an unfinished revolution. Will you allow yours to be an unfinished revolution, too?’” Santiago said. Reports from AFP, Christine O. Avendaño, Jaymee T. Gamil and Julie M. Aurelio
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