2002-12-31 00:00:00

Church and human rights leaders have condemned the recent bombing of a Ferdinand Marcos monument in the northern Philippines, while locally based communists are giving themselves credit for the attack.

The upper half of the 30-metre concrete bust of the deposed dictator was blasted open before dawn on Dec. 29, the region´s police chief reported. The massive figure stood atop a cliff in Benguet province, overlooking the South China Sea in Tuba town, some 200 kilometers north of Manila.

Communists operating in the area claim responsibility for the explosion, one so powerful that witnesses three kilometers away reported hearing it. Police say the debris littered the area, but no one was reported hurt.

Archbishop Oscar Cruz of Lingayen-Dagupan, whose archdiocese is adjacent to Baguio apostolic vicariate where the bust was built, told UCA News the perpetrators "should have never destroyed the monument to evil in this country." For him, the Marcos bust represented "a monument to evil, warning people never to become what this man was."

Pablito Sanidad, chairman of the non-governmental Free Legal Assistance Group that opposed Marcos martial law government, told reporters destruction of the bust was "very unfortunate" because "it was a reminder of our folly as a people and that we should never allow dictators to rule our land."

Members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People´s Army said in a press release Dec. 30 that they destroyed the bust because its presence "is a mockery of justice and a betrayal of the will of the people." The statement exhorted, "Let the ruins be an ugly reminder that the Marcoses have yet to pay for their crimes."

Before Marcos died in exile in Hawaii, the United States, in 1989, he was facing charges at home of embezzling billions of dollars of national funds. His wife Imelda, who now lives in the Philippines, faces similar charges.

The Marcos government in the early-1980s finished the monument, a project that had been controversial even when its construction began.

Sister Paz Rimando, retired social action director of the vicariate, told UCA News the bust, as well as an accompanying golf course and park, were built after Ibaloi tribal communities were displaced. The Church, the Immaculate Heart of Mary nun noted, backed the tribes in their fight with Marcos. In 1986, soon after the bust was built, Marcos was sent into exile by a Church-backed people´s revolt. Displaced Ibaloi then slaughtered a "carabao" (water buffalo) and pig, and poured the blood on the monument to "exorcise" it before filing cases to reclaim their land.

Baguio vicariate comprises Baguio City and Benguet province. About 66 percent of the 590,000 people in the vicariate are Catholics, while the rest are other Christians and natives with their own indigenous faiths.

Marcos ruled for 30 years by suspending the Constitution, shutting down Congress, muffling the media and, in 1972, declaring a state of martial law under which his political opponents and critics were jailed.


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