Marcos Jr sees 'rebirth' of Philippines as supporters celebrate late dictator's birthday

A priest performs a ritual over the grave of the late Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos Sr at the Heroes Cemetery in Taguig on Sept 11, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - President Ferdinand Marcos Jr led celebrations of the 105th birthday of his late father on Sunday, saying the festivities marked a "rebirth" of the Philippines that once ousted the dictator whom he was named after.

Mr Marcos was joined by his entire family and their red-clad supporters in attending mass by the grave of the late patriarch Ferdinand Marcos Sr at the Heroes' Cemetery in Taguig City.

They then flew to their home province Ilocos Norte, where various activities like a wreath-laying ceremony, musical and literary contests, and a concert were held.

These are annual celebrations in the province, where the Marcoses have been revered for generations.

In his speech, Mr Marcos said his victory in the May presidential polls, which he won by a landslide, was a "rebirth of the Philippines".

"I say that because those of us who have kept his memory alive… have continued to be constant in the belief that what my father started, that what my father wanted to do, was something honourable, something that was noble," said Mr Marcos.

He authorised a holiday in Ilocos Norte on Monday, a day after his father's 105th birth anniversary. Mr Marcos' predecessor Rodrigo Duterte had also passed a similar proclamation.

But activists warned that Mr Marcos was moving to further whitewash Filipinos' memories of the atrocities committed under his father's bloody regime.

The elder Marcos ruled the Philippines for 21 years, nine of which were under a brutal martial rule marred by rampant corruption, killings and torture of critics, and media oppression.

Mr Satur Ocampo, an activist tortured during the martial law, slammed Mr Marcos for declaring the holiday "when the victims of the dictatorship have not even attained justice despite our campaign, plundered wealth has not been returned and there isn't even a hint of apology up to now".

Mr Marcos is now on a quest to rehabilitate his father's legacy 36 years after the strongman was ousted in a bloodless revolution in 1986.

The President has denied wrongdoing by his family despite several court decisions recovering billions' worth of cash and assets stolen from the nation's coffers.

The Presidential Commission on Good Government, tasked to go after what was stolen by the Marcoses and their cronies, already recovered 265 billion pesos (S$6.5 billion) worth of ill-gotten wealth as at December 2021. It is aiming to recover 125 billion pesos more.

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