Senate Bill to Declare Holiday Honoring Late Dictator Angers Filipinos

Aie Balagtas See and Jojo Rinoza
201027-PH-marcos-620.jpg Filipino demonstrators in Dagupan protest the Marcos family’s return to politics, Sept. 21, 2017.
Jojo Rinoza/BenarNews

A Senate bill that would declare the birthday of the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos a holiday in his home province has angered many in the Philippines, where thousands of people died during his regime.

On Monday, the Senate’s Committee on Local Government approved the proposed measure, which seeks to declare Sept. 11 as President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos Day, a special non-working holiday in Ilocos Norte province, where he was born. The bill, which has been approved by the House, must be passed by the full Senate.

Marcos’ daughter, Sen. Imee Marcos, is the committee’s vice chairwoman and a supporter of President Rodrigo Duterte. Her father ruled the country as its president from late 1965 until early 1986, when a “people power” uprising toppled him.

Widespread human rights abuses occurred under the rule of Marcos, particularly during the 13 years after he declared martial law in 1972.

“We condemn this shameless act of honoring a blood-thirsty plunderer, murderer and tyrant. We will not stop in opposing all attempts of the Marcoses to rehabilitate the dictator and their family’s bloody legacy,” said Danilo dela Fuente, a spokesman for Selda, a group of former activists who were jailed and tortured during the Marcos regime.

“Words are not enough to express how enraged and offended we are with this brazen act of perpetuation of historical lies,” he told reporters. “This measure is a complete mockery of the sufferings and struggles of the Filipino people during the Marcos dictatorship.”

Etta Rosales, former head of the country’s human rights commission who was raped and tortured under Marcos’ period of military rule, said the bill was “unconscionable.”

She said the committee acted as a “Marcos deodorant to hide the awful stench of the dead dictator’s brutal rule.”

Rosales urged Senators to reject the bill the same way their predecessors had voted down a similar measure 14 years ago.

Ilocos Norte Rep. Angelo Marcos Barba, one of the congressmen who introduced the bill the House passed last month, praised Marcos.

“His extraordinary display of leadership and incomparable brilliance serves as an inspiration to his fellow Ilocanos,” Barba said in the explanatory note of his bill, according to GMA Network.

“He is a man of vision, action, and wisdom. Thus, it is only necessary that his life, works, remarkable achievements and inherent love for his fellow Ilocanos be remembered.”

On Tuesday, the presidential palace in Manila had no immediate reaction to the criticism of the proposed legislation to honor Marcos on his birthday. Duterte, who has said he considers Marcos to be his political idol, repeatedly rejected allegations that he was favoring the late dictator’s family.

Under Marcos’ dictatorship in the Southeast Asian country, thousands of anti-Marcos activists and civilians were killed or went missing. The Marcos family also plundered government coffers, with some estimates putting the amount stolen at U.S. $10 billion (483 billion pesos). But only a fraction of the loot, which was stashed in Swiss banks, has been recovered.

Daryl Angelo Baybado, president of College Editors Guild of the Philippines, described the proposed legislation as “an utter insult to the lives tortured and taken under his regime.”

“A person of power who has caused countless deaths, defiled the human rights of many, caused numerous disappearances, and has stolen billions of the Filipino people’s money, does not deserve to be celebrated at all,” Baybado said. “This move is further evidence of this administration’s incompetence and heartlessness.”

The dictator’s reign came to an end 34 years ago, when the “people power” revolt chased him into exile in Hawaii, where he died three years later. His widow, Imelda, and their children were allowed to return home and have since rehabilitated themselves politically.

Eldest son and namesake, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., is a former senator who lost the vice presidential race in 2016.

Imelda Marcos, 91, was convicted of corruption in 2018 but was allowed to post bail. She remains free while her case is on appeal.

In 2017, President Duterte declared Sept. 11 a non-working holiday in Ilocos. If the bill is passed by the Senate, there would be a legislative record of the celebration.

One of Duterte’s first acts after taking office as president was to fulfill a promise he made to the late strongman’s family – that he would transfer Marcos’ remains to a heroes’ cemetery in Manila.

Duterte’s father, Vicente Duterte, served in Marcos’ first cabinet as secretary of general services. His mother, Soledad, was a staunch freedom fighter who later campaigned against the dictator.

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