Manila's Jesuit university squirms over Marcos invite

Administrators issue apology to martial law victims for presence of dictator's youngest daughter at art event
Manila's Jesuit university squirms over Marcos invite

Father Jose Ramon Villarin, S.J., president of Ateneo de Manila University. (Photo by Angie de Silva)

The head of the Jesuit university in Manila has issued a public apology for the attendance of one of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ daughters at an art event on the campus.

Jesuit priest Jose Ramon Villarin, president of Ateneo de Manila University, apologized for what he described as the "hurt" her presence brought to victims of human rights abuses committed during the Marcos dictatorship.

The priest said the university recognized that Irene Marcos-Araneta’s attendance at the launch of an art installation at the university on April 4 had cast “doubts over [the university's] solidarity with victims of the then regime."

"We offer our deepest apologies for the hurt this has brought," said Father Villarin in a statement released on April 12 following protests by the university's student organization.

Marcos-Araneta was invited to the unveiling of an outdoor piece of art at the university by the head of Arete — the university’s creative hub where plays and exhibitions depicting abuses under the dictatorship had been held.

In a statement, the student body said Arete is a "central space for creative, adaptive and independent thinking, values that the Marcoses systematically destroyed during the darkest era in Philippine history."

The students said the presence of Marcos' youngest daughter during the event was a "grave insult and vehement mockery of martial law survivors and martyrs."

The head of Arete has since resigned.

Father Villarin said the Ateneo had not turned "a blind eye to the atrocities committed during the martial law years," adding that it has even strengthened its "unfailing commitment to seek justice for the victims of the regime, [and] to counter historical revisionism."

"I call on the university community to hold fast to our commitment to justice and peace, and to help one another remain vigilant, especially during this time of forgetfulness," said the priest.

The students, meanwhile, commended the "accountability taken by the university" and reaffirmed their commitment to continuously seek justice for the victims of martial law.

It was the second public apology issued by Ateneo involving the Marcoses after the university alumni protested in 2014 the invitation of the dictator’s widow, Imelda Marcos, to be guest of honor at the launch of the Ateneo Scholarship Foundation. 

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