MANILA: Hundreds of Filipinos rallied in stormy weather yesterday against President Rodrigo Duterte’s approval of dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ burial in a heroes’ cemetery, but he remained steadfast on his decision despite growing opposition. Police said about 1,500 protesters carrying a large streamer that read “Marcos not a hero” braved the rains, wind and mud at Manila’s seaside Rizal Park to call on Duterte to reconsider his decision. They launched a signature campaign to try to stop the burial, tentatively set for next month.
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 left-wing activists under Marcos during a dark era in Philippine history that clearly shows why the brutal leader did not deserve to be accorded any state honors. “Is that not enough evidence? … Is Marcos a hero?” Rosales asked, with the crowd yelling back: “No!” Sen Risa Hontiveros, who joined the protest, said she has filed a Senate resolution opposing a hero’s burial for Marcos, adding that Duterte should not commit “this atrocious mistake” of bestowing honors to the former dictator.
“Marcos went down in history as an unrepentant enemy of our heroes,” Hontiveros said. “To honor the man a hero and bury his remains in a place reserved for the brave and martyred is an inimitable political abomination.” Burying a dictator accused of massive rights violations and plunder at the heroes’ cemetery has long been an emotional and divisive issue in the country, where Marcos was ousted by a “people power” revolt in 1986. He was flown to Hawaii, where he lived with his wife and children in exile until and died in 1989.
His remains were later returned to his northern Philippine 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 has disclosed that he once voted for Marcos and that his late father, a politician, served in Marcos’s Cabinet.
Duterte’s communications secretary, Martin Andanar, said yesterday that the president’s position “remains firm,” arguing that military rules allow Marcos to be buried at the hollowed cemetery as a former president and soldier. A group of ex-political detainees and rights victims under Marcos called Selda said in a statement it plans to ask the Supreme Court to stop what it calls “grave injustice” to thousands of human rights victims. Communist guerrillas, who are set to restart peace talks with Duterte’s government this month, condemned his move for its “extreme insensitivity.” “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,” the rebels said in a statement.
In other news, The Philippines has vowed to investigate reports of a wave of extrajudicial killings, the government said yesterday, after Washington warned military aid to its Asian ally was dependent on respect for human rights. According to media reports, nearly a thousand people have been killed since President Rodrigo Duterte won a landslide election victory in May largely on a pledge to kill tens of thousands of criminals.
The US embassy warned the Duterte government on Friday that millions of dollars of military aid alloted to the Philippines was tied to adherence to the rule of law, due process and respect for human rights. “We are concerned by reports regarding extrajudicial killings of individuals suspected to have been involved in drug activity in the Philippines,” it said. “We strongly urge the Philippines to ensure its law enforcement efforts are consistent with its human rights obligations,” the embassy added.
A Philippine foreign department statement sent to AFP yesterday said that it took note of US views on the issue, adding Manila was focused on the eradication of drugs in society. “Nevertheless, while pursuing this objective, the Philippine government is committed to the rule of law, and the protection of human rights for all.” It added: “We do not condone any unlawful killings and Philippine authorities have been instructed to immediately look into these incidents and bring the perpetrators to justice.”
Philippine police said Friday they had killed 550 drug suspects while arresting nearly 8,000 others since after the May election. However, ABS-CBN, the country’s largest broadcaster, said more than 400 other people have been killed since then by shadowy assassins who leave cardboard signs beside their victims accusing them of narcotics crimes. Police said that while it was investigating these other killings, no suspects had been arrested. – Agencies