Thousands protest plan to give Marcos state burial

Protesters holding umbrellas with an anti-Marcos slogan in a Manila park yesterday. Thousands gathered in protest at plans to honour late dictator Ferdinand Marcos with a state burial.
Protesters holding umbrellas with an anti-Marcos slogan in a Manila park yesterday. Thousands gathered in protest at plans to honour late dictator Ferdinand Marcos with a state burial.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE- PRESSE

MANILA • Protests took place yesterday in Manila over Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's plans to honour late dictator Ferdinand Marcos with a state burial.

About 2,000 people gathered in heavy rain to denounce Mr Duterte's plans to move Mr Marcos' remains from his northern home town to the National Heroes' Cemetery in the capital next month.

"We would be the laughing stock of the entire planet," Senator Risa Hontiveros, one of four Members of Parliament to attend the Manila rally, told Agence France-Presse. She called Mr Marcos an "unrepentant enemy of our heroes".

Mr Marcos' family have kept his preserved body on display after he died in exile in 1989, following a popular revolt three years earlier.

They demand that Mr Marcos be buried with full honours in the Heroes' Cemetery.

Mr Marcos was elected president in 1965 and declared martial law in 1972, allowing him to rule as a dictator while he, his family and their allies enriched themselves through massive corruption. His troops brutally stamped out any dissent.

But Mr Duterte, who has styled himself as an anti-corruption crusader, defended Mr Marcos, noting that his father had served in the Marcos Cabinet and he himself had voted for Mr Marcos.

BAD IDEA

We would be the laughing stock of the entire planet.

SENATOR RISA HONTIVEROS, on the burial plan and calling Mr Marcos an "unrepentant enemy of our heroes".

Mr Duterte has previously said that he won the May 9 elections partly with the support of the Marcos family, who remain influential in their bailiwick in the northern Philippines.

Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said yesterday that Mr Duterte remains "firm" on his stance regarding the burial, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported.

Yesterday, a small protest by human rights victims also took place outside Mr Duterte's southern home town of Davao city. Candles and flowers were placed outside the city hall, television reports said.

The protests were joined by Marcos-era victims of torture and imprisonment as well as relatives of victims of extrajudicial killings, which historians say claimed thousands of lives. Protesters shed tears during the three-hour protest and organisers launched a signature campaign to try to reverse Mr Duterte's decision.

"I was jailed when I was young. It's so hard to imagine that he will be buried in the Heroes' Cemetery," former prisoner Danny Tang said.

Meanwhile, the Philippine government yesterday vowed to investigate reports about a wave of extrajudicial killings.

Washington has warned that 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 Mr Duterte won a landslide election victory in May largely on a pledge to kill tens of thousands of criminals.

"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," the Philippine police said on Friday.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 15, 2016, with the headline 'Thousands protest plan to give Marcos state burial'. Print Edition | Subscribe