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Bishop urges Filipinos to honor victims of martial law

Protesters stage rallies across Philippines in opposition to Marcos burial, Duterte's policies

Bishop urges Filipinos to honor victims of martial law

Protesters display pictures of the family of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos and President Rodrigo Duterte during demonstrations in Manila on Nov. 30. (Photo by Vincent Go)

Joe Torres, Manila

December 1, 2016

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A leading Catholic bishop called on Filipinos "to honor the suffering" of victims of human rights abuses as protest rallies on a series of issues were held around the country.

"If you believe that joining the rallies is necessary and is part of our Christian duty, I encourage you to attend with my blessing," said Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan.

The protests on Nov. 30, a national holiday in honor of Filipino hero Andres Bonifacio, aimed to show continued opposition against the hero's burial for former dictator Ferdinand Marcos on Nov. 18.

In fiery speeches outside the gates of the presidential palace, protesters held Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte accountable for the burial of the late dictator in the country's cemetery for heroes.

But Archbishop Villegas, president of the Catholic bishops' conference, reminded those who joined the protest rallies to make their stand out of "concern and not revenge."

In a statement, the prelate told Catholics that love of country is also a form of worship to God.

"Many disappeared, died, were wounded, and destroyed because of martial law. The honor of their suffering should be remembered," said Archbishop Villegas.

"Let us not forget. Be firm. Be involved. Let us not allow our freedom to be taken from us again," he added.

The prelate urged parents to tell their children about the real story of martial law and the two-decades of Marcos rule.

He also ordered the tolling of church bells for three days in his archdiocese starting Nov. 30 to remind people "to pray for our country."


Thousands of protesters take to the streets of Manila on Nov. 30 to denounce the Philippine government's decision to bury the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the country's cemetery for heroes. (Photo by Vincent Go)


Attacks on urban poor communities

Residents of urban poor communities, meanwhile, slammed the government over what they described were "intensifying attacks on the urban poor."

Marlon Arante, spokesman of the group Kadamay, said changes promised by Duterte during his election campaign "have not yet been felt."

Arante said Duterte's promises have turned out to be one and the same" as those of previous administrations "albeit with a different treatment of the poor from his endorsement and vehement support of killings through his war on drugs."

In a message to mark the birth anniversary of national hero Bonifacio, Duterte urged Filipinos to dedicate their lives for a worthy cause "to uplift the quality of life of our countrymen."

The president called on citizens "to get involved in community and national issues that affect our lives" and find strength "to tap in our collective voice so that we can know ourselves better and understand our struggles in history."

The president said Bonifacio's courage and love of country "served as a guiding torch in the midst of darkness."

He reminded Filipinos that it was Bonifacio who dared to defy 300 years of Spanish colonial rule" and quelled the hunger of a people longing for change."

"Let us cultivate our capacity to act united and share common aspirations for a peaceful, just, prosperous, and truly free nation," he said.


Protests on Nov. 30 aimed to show continued opposition against the hero's burial for former dictator Ferdinand Marcos. (Photo by Vincent Go)


Revolution continues

A revolutionary youth organization, meanwhile, condemned Duterte for refusing to scrap the government's anti-insurgency program against communist rebels even as peace talks are being held.

Hundreds of masked revolutionary youths marched in Manila on Nov. 30 calling on young people to take up arms and join the communist revolution.

Carrying banners saying "Join the revolution! Join the New People’s Army!" the youth group marched "to show that the underground youth movement is very much alive, young, exuberant, and very much ready to take up arms."

Maria Laya Guerrero, the group's spokeswoman, lambasted Duterte's "hard-headed and duplicitous stance on the continuation of the reviled" anti-insurgency program.

Youth organization, Anakbayan, also condemned Duterte's threat to kill human rights advocates, revive mandatory military service, and suspend the writ of habeas corpus.

"It would seem Duterte sees Marcos as a role model," said Anakbayan chairman Vencer Crisostomo.

Crisostomo said "the late dictator’s legacies continue to haunt the present, with the continued incarceration of political prisoners despite promises of a general amnesty and continued militarization of the countryside."

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