High school students form anti-Marcos movement
A group composed of high school students has risen to counter attempts to rehabilitate the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos and depict the years under his martial rule as a golden age in Philippine history.
Student League Against Marcos (SLAM), organized by Ignacio Lorenzo Villareal and Ronin Leviste, Grade 12 students at Xavier School in San Juan City, launched its fight against revisionism on Wednesday by joining thousands of other Filipinos who gathered at the People Power Monument on Edsa to protest the Nov. 18 burial of Marcos at Libingan ng mga Bayani.
It was at the same site just outside the main military and police camps that millions of Filipinos gathered 30 years ago in a largely peaceful uprising to topple Marcos from power, ending a dictatorship marked by massive corruption and human rights violations.
Wednesday’s protest was the latest in a growing political storm following the burial, which was allowed by President Duterte and upheld by the Supreme Court amid opposition by anti-Marcos groups.
Mr. Duterte, whose campaign for Malacañang was supported by the family of the dictator, allowed the burial on the grounds that there was no law barring Marcos’ interment at the heroes’ cemetery, where presidents, soldiers, statesmen and national artists are buried.
It was a politically risky decision in a country where democracy advocates still celebrate Marcos’ ouster each year.
After the Black Friday protest at Manila’s Rizal Park on Nov. 25, Villareal and Leviste mobilized SLAM members through Facebook to join Wednesday’s grand protest at the People Power Monument.
Martial law conference
SLAM has 1,000 members from other high schools across the country, and plans to hold a conference on martial law that will be open to the public.
Villareal said that after Wednesday’s protest, the group would take the fight against the rehabilitation of Marcos to classrooms throughout the country and constantly remind students about the atrocities Filipinos suffered under Marcos’ martial rule.
“We have to show how the atrocities of the past affect us, for instance, the need to pay the [foreign debts incurred by the Marcos regime], or that martial law might happen again,” said Villareal, great-grandson of the late House Speaker Cornelio Villareal and captain of his school’s debate team.
Villareal and Leviste spoke at the rally about the atrocities committed by the military during Marcos’ rule.
“Marcos was not a hero,” Leviste said. “And he will never be.”
Other student groups joined the protest, including the Student Council Alliance of the Philippines.
No to historical revision
Beata Carolino, vice chair of the University of the Philippines Student Council, explained the students’ participation in the protest: “To ensure that history will not be changed, to ensure there is no revision of our history to cover up for all the atrocities of the Marcos regime.”
“This is [our] way of [showing] respect [for the struggle of our] elders, who should have been [here] with us had they not been killed,” she said.
The rally speakers included Maria Serena Diokno, who resigned on Tuesday as head of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines to protest the burial of Marcos at Libingan.
“We should never forget our history,” said Diokno, daughter of the late Sen. Jose W. Diokno, one of the leaders of the opposition to Marcos’ mailed-fist rule.
“We won’t allow even a part of the dictatorship to return,” she said.
Diokno criticized Mr. Duterte’s bullheaded decision to allow the burial. “He is clinging too much to his allies who want to return to power,” she said, referring to Mr. Duterte’s loyalty to the Marcoses.
Not a hero
“I thought it was controversial to kill, to steal and not to respect women,” Diokno said. “What we are seeing now is that the lie has become the truth. Someone who’s not a hero is buried at the heroes’ cemetery.”
Bonifacio Ilagan, one of the organizers of Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses to Malacañang, called Mr. Duterte’s campaign promise of change “bullshit,” pointing out that the administration was apparently bent on pursuing the “rehabilitation of the Marcoses.”
“What kind of change is that when you’re supporting one of the darkest chapters of our history?” Ilagan said. —WITH REPORTS FROM JOVIC YEE AND AP
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