By AFP, Francis Wakefield, and Martin Sadongdong
Batac, Ilocos Norte — President Duterte yesterday called former President Ferdinand Marcos a “hero” to many Filipinos, brushing aside a history of corruption and rights abuses under the former strongman.
Mass protests are set today outside the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Taguig City to mark the 100th birth anniversary of former president Ferdinand Marcos Sr. and “to condemn the Duterte regime’s political rehabilitation of the late strongman.”
Marcos was ousted in an army-backed popular revolt in 1986 and died in exile. The Marcos family and their allies are preparing to hold celebrations today to mark his 100th birth anniversary.
The Philippine Army (PA) will provide an adequate number of military personnel for the 100th birth anniversary of the former president at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Taguig City today.
Duterte, who had previously hailed Marcos as the country’s best president ever, has declared the anniversary a holiday in Marcos’ home province of Ilocos Norte where his family still wields political power.
“He was a president. To the Ilocanos, he was the greatest president. Why do we have to debate on that?” Duterte said. “As far as the Ilocanos (are) concerned, Marcos is a hero,” he added, calling criticisms of the former leader “hogwash” and “garbage.”
Duterte, who has himself faced accusations of major human rights abuses, is a friend of the Marcos family and has played a key role in bolstering their efforts to regain the top echelons of political power.
Marcos was accused of embezzling billions of dollars from state coffers, with anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International in 2004 naming him the second most corrupt leader of all time, behind Indonesian dictator Suharto.
Marcos was also accused of widespread human rights abuses, with thousands of people allegedly killed or tortured.
In 1986, a popular revolt – known as EDSA 1986 – toppled Marcos, sending him and his family into exile in Hawaii. He died there in 1989.
No member of the Marcos clan has ever gone to prison and the family has made a stunning political comeback in recent years.
They have hosted various events in Ilocos in recent days showcasing the rule of their patriarch, including a Catholic Mass and an event to unveil a plaque on Sunday at the family’s ancestral home in the city of Batac.
Batac resident Lita Lampitoc, 72, summed up the adulation, saying: “We are Ilocanos, so we are all for Marcos.” Asked about the opposition to Marcos, she said: “They do not know Marcos, we know Marcos. We don’t know anything about those angry at Marcos.”
Duterte stunned the nation last November by allowing Marcos to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani despite widespread outcry.
Army spokesman Lt. Col. Rey Tiongson said the deployment of military personnel is meant to complement the Philippine National Police (PNP) which will take a lead role in providing security.
“We have contingencies in place to support the PNP if necessary in the event that there will be rallies,” Tiongson said.
On Friday, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Public Affairs Office chief Marine Col. Edgard Arevalo said the Marcos family requested that the activity at the Libingan will be a private one and members of the media will not be allowed to cover it.
Lawmakers were sent invitations to celebrate Marcos’ birth anniversary at the Libingan where a Mass, a short program, and a lunch would be held. Arevalo, said that it is the prerogative of the Marcoses who to invite.
“Ang security preparation niyan (the security preparation) will have to be handled by the Philippine Army. Being the custodian of the Libingan ng mga Bayani, they are the ones providing the physical security,” Arevalo said.
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) secretary general Renato Reyes criticized President Duterte’s declaration of Marcos’ birthday as a special holiday in his home province in Ilocos Norte recently.
“After giving Marcos a hero’s burial last year, Duterte saw it fit to declare September 11, the dictator’s birthday, a special holiday in Marcos’ home province of Ilocos Norte; citing the latter’s alleged contribution to ‘national development’ as a WW2 (World War 2) veteran, legislator and former president,” Reyes said.
Through Proclamation No. 310 signed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Duterte officially declared Marcos’ birthday as a special holiday in the late president’s bailiwick.
However, Reyes noted that Duterte’s presidential proclamation “conveniently whitewashes Marcos’ record of plunder and gross human rights violations.”
“Duterte has also offered a compromise deal with the Marcoses which includes legal immunity,” he added.
“If we allow these acts of Duterte to remain unchallenged, then it would only be a matter of time before the Marcos family will return to Malacanang,” the Bayan secretary general remarked.
Reyes said the militant groups’ mass protests outside the Libingan ng mga Bayani today will be a reminder “that the people have not forgotten and that the people will continue to fight for justice.”