President Rodrigo Duterte’s move to give the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos a hero’s burial was met with several oppositions, especially from the victims of human rights abuses during the Marcos regime.
Duterte promised to have Marcos buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in February when he visited Ilocos Norte during his campaign.
On August 7, he defended his decision, saying that he believes that the late strongman deserves a spot at the cemetery because he was a former President and a soldier.
But the Martial Law victims voiced out their disagreement, saying that a hero’s burial for Marcos is adding insult to injury.
Former human rights commissioner Etta Rosales said that honoring Marcos as a hero is changing Philippine history.
“It is rubbing salt on raw wounds that still need to be healed. That is what it is doing. Because it is making a mockery of the struggle of the Filipino people to restore democracy,” Rosales said.
Rosales claims that as an activist during the Marcos dictatorship, she was illegally detained and repeatedly raped by soldiers. Now, she is appealing to Duterte to separate his personal views from his decision.
Duterte’s father was a member of the Marcos cabinet. The President himself claimed that he voted for Marcos during his first term as President.
“I know you have a soft heart for Ferdinand Marcos because he gave your father employment. That is personal and private between you and the Marcoses, which we respect. But you are a president and you cannot substitute your private interests for the public interest,” Rosales said.
Bonifacio Ilagan, another Martial Law victim who was illegally detained and tortured during the Martial Law, agreed with the former human rights commissioner.
He said honoring Marcos in death is sending the wrong message to the Filipinos, especially the young ones.
“In the Philippines, yung kriminal ay binibigyan ng karangalan,” Ilagan said.
He also considers this move as beneficial for the dictator’s family and their political plans.
“Can you imagine, the newly elected president of the Philippines is saying that Marcos should be honored? Napakalaking boost iyan sa claim ng mga Marcos,” he added.
Compensation for human rights victims
For Ilagan, he said Duterte can pursue closure after Martial Law by giving the human rights victims their compensation.
Former President Benigno Aquino III signed the Human Rights Victims Reparations and Recognition Act in 2013, which aims to provide financial compensation to those who suffered abuses during the Marcos dictatorship.
When he first talked about his plans for Marcos’ burial after the elections, Duterte was asked about what he’d say to the victims during the late dictator’s rule.
“Nandiyan na yung k’wan, kobrahin nyo na yung pera,” he responded.
The claims board has received over 75,000 applications for compensation, only 22 percent of which have been evaluated due to the tedious verification process.
“Kelangan naming i-verify ng mabuti. This is because we need to safeguard the rights of the legitimate claimants,” said claims board chair Lina Sarmiento.
“We would like to see to it that the list will really reflect the actual victims of human rights violations during martial law,” she added.
Martial law victims are still organizing efforts to appeal to Duterte to reconsider through protests, online petitions, or other means.
One such initiative is “Bawat Bato.”
The non-partisan initiative entails putting the names of Martial Law victims on stones.
“We can each place a stone: at his grave or in places stained by the atrocities of Martial Law – – memorializing its thousands of victims, and for us tens of millions who’ve not lived as we all deserved in the decades since. We can each place a stone: Our silent symbols of dissent – – heaped high upon any monument built there, burying now and constantly the vainglory and lies. We can each place a stone: In peaceful defiance, in wordless rebuke. We can each make this forever our tradition of protest,” the statement of the “Bawat Bato” organizers reads.