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Philippines gives dictator Marcos a hero's burial

'Thief in the night' funeral in national cemetery sparks uproar, protests across country

Philippines gives dictator Marcos a hero's burial

Activist and human rights groups hold demonstrations to condemn the burial of former Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the cemetery for heroes in Manila on Nov. 18. (Photo by Crismon Heramis)


Published: November 18, 2016 09:06 AM GMT

Updated: November 18, 2016 09:13 AM GMT

Former Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos was given a hero's burial in Manila on Nov. 18, a move that triggered protests across the country.

Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo of Manila described the late dictator's burial in the Philippines' cemetery for heroes as "dishonorable."

Father Jerome Secillano, of the public affairs office of the bishops' conference, said it "desecrated the meaning of honor, nobility, and heroism."

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The priest said Marcos' burial will not bury the atrocities the former dictator committed, adding that Marcos will forever be a "dictator, plunderer, and human rights violator."

The ceremony took place at noon after the corpse of the late dictator, which was lying in a glass coffin at a mausoleum in his home province of Ilocos Norte, was flown to Manila.

Media were not allowed inside the cemetery. The military, which has jurisdiction over the cemetery, said the family requested that the ceremony be private.

Military spokesman Colonel Edgard Arevalo said "the will of the Marcos family" had to be respected.


Like a thief in the night

Victims of atrocities during Marcos' dictatorship condemned the surprise ceremony.

"Like a thief in the night, Marcos declared martial law in 1973. Like a thief in the night, he is being buried today. It is the Marcos style all over again," said activist Bonifacio Ilagan.

"We condemn this latest assault on justice by the Marcos cabal," said Ilagan in a statement.

Various human rights and activists groups, including Catholic schools in the national capital declared a "National Day of Rage" and called for big protests and indignation activities. 

Ateneo de Manila University, a Jesuit-run institution, announced that its students were "staging a class walk out" to show "indignation" against the burial of Marcos.

Jesuit Father Jose Ramon Villarin, Ateneo de Manila University president, earlier said the Supreme Court decision allowing Marcos' burial was "an act of convenient equivocation and injustice."

Father Villarin said the Marcos regime was marked by "atrocity and impunity."

"People were imprisoned, tortured, and killed just for harboring different beliefs and convictions. Those years were deliberately disruptive of democracy and freedom," said the priest.


Protestors hold placards expressing indignation over the burial of former Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the cemetery for heroes in Manila on Nov. 18. (Photo by Crismon Heramis)


President Duterte held responsible

The Task Force Detainees of the Philippines said it held President Rodrigo Duterte's government responsible "for this latest insult to the victims of martial law."

The organization, which has been helping victims of human rights abuses, said it was "outraged by this sneaky burial of a plunderer, dictator and human rights violator."

Emmanuel Amistad, executive director of the organization, said the Marcoses "want to revise history" using their "plundered wealth" to buy those who will stand in their way.

"To those who conspired and continue to connive to erase the memory of those dark times we say, guard it well," said Amistad.

"There will be no rest. There will be no closure. There will be no moving on until justice is done," he added.

Marcos' eldest daughter, Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos, thanked Duterte for allowing her father, a former soldier and guerrilla leader during World War II, to be laid to rest with soldiers.

"At last, my beloved father's last will to be buried with fellow soldiers was fulfilled today," she said.

She also asked people to understand the family's decision to keep the ceremony "simple, private and solemn."

In a statement, Amnesty International Philippines also expressed "dismay" over what it described as the government's "lack of diligence" in holding Marcos to account for "grave human rights violations."

The rights group estimated some 70,000 people were imprisoned, 34,000 were tortured, and 3,240 killed during the two-decade rule of Marcos.

"We continue to seek justice for the victims of martial law. We honor all fallen activists and human rights defenders during this era," read the Amnesty International statement.

The Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) said allowing the burial of Marcos in the heroes' cemetery was a "reminder that impunity still reigns" and that the Philippine government "continues to turn a blind eye on injustices," it said.

Mary Aileen Bacalso, secretary-general of AFAD, said Marcos' rule resulted in more than 800 documented cases of enforced disappearances.

"Marcos does not deserve to be buried in sacred ground, much more, to be declared a hero," she said.


Disrespect to victims

The Catholic lay council of the Philippines described the burial as "barefaced disrespect" to the victims of human rights violations.

"[It] is a mocking act that will send a strong distorted message to our young people that in this country, dictators, plunderers, and executioners are being rewarded," read the group's statement.

The leftist party Bayan Muna in the House of Representatives condemned burial.

"This is a dastardly act is characteristic of the Marcoses and a slap in the face for victims of human rights violations during martial law," said Rep. Isagani Zarate.

"We will not take this sitting down and more protests would be launched against the Marcoses," said the legislator.

Youth and student organizations described the Marcos burial as a "historical crime against the people."

"Giving Marcos a hero's burial is like ridding him of his bloody record of fascist violence, human rights violations, corruption, and economic hardships that was endured by the Filipino people," said JP Rosos, spokesman of the League of Filipino Students.

Youth group Anakbayan condemned the burial as a "grave insult that would only open the wounds of the victims of martial law rather than open the door for national healing and reconciliation."

Anakbayan secretary-general Einstein Recedes said the "thief-like manner" of the burial speaks volume of the hollowness of Marcos' heroism. 

He said Duterte should also "stop feigning ignorance about the burial," saying authorities chose to hide information about the burial until the last minute.

The Nov. 18 burial came ten days after the Philippine Supreme Court ruled to dismiss petitions seeking to stop Duterte's order to bury Marcos in the heroes' cemetery.

Marcos died in exile three years after a popular revolt ousted him from power in 1986.

Since his death, the Marcos family has pushed for a hero's burial for the late leader, citing his accomplishments as a former soldier and president.


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