For martial law victims in Philippines, another Marcos presidency is unthinkable

Jeoffrey Maitem
For martial law victims in Philippines, another Marcos presidency is unthinkable An activist carries a sign denouncing Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the son and namesake of the former Philippine dictator, during a demonstration in Manila, June 12, 2021.
Jason Gutierrez/BenarNews

When Ferdinand Marcos Jr. announced last year that he was running for president, Helena Jimenez gave it little thought.

But with a few days to go before the Philippine general election, Jimenez, whose husband was taken and presumed killed by forces led by Marcos’ father back in the 1970s, now worries that the late dictator’s son and namesake will get a chance to occupy her country’s most powerful office.

“I am afraid they will get back to me or silence us since we continue pushing for justice for my husband,” the 70-year-old woman told BenarNews at a gathering for human rights defenders this week.

In 1978, her husband, Romeo, was taken from their home in San Francisco town, north of Manila, by men who introduced themselves as members of a Marcos military unit that was notorious for arresting anti-government activists. He has not been seen since and is believed to be among the thousands who died during the dark years of martial law imposed by then-President Ferdinand E. Marcos.

Another survivor of martial law, Gloria Pullido, 64, said her father, George Maliwat, was arrested, jailed and tortured, adding he was freed but died from complications related to the torture.

“My father was working at the farm when he was forcibly taken without any reason,” she said.
“I will not vote for the Marcos.”

Government figures show that about 3,200 Filipinos were killed and more than 10,000 were tortured during the martial law years (1972-86) while thousands more remain missing and are presumed dead.

A peaceful “people power” revolt chased the dictator out of the country in 1986. The elder Marcos died three years later, while in exile in Hawaii.

The Marcos family has never acknowledged those sufferings even after a Hawaiian court ruled that victims of the patriarch’s martial law be compensated. The family added to the general hardship of Filipinos by plundering billions of dollars from state coffers.

Marcos’ widow, Imelda, and their children were allowed to return home in 1991 and set out to regain political power. Daughter Imee Marcos is a senator, while Ferdinand Jr. served as a governor and a senator, but lost the vice presidential race in 2016 to Leni Robredo, the coalition opposition’s candidate for president in the May 9 polls.

President Ferdinand Marcos (second from left) poses with his wife Imelda Marcos (center) and their children, Imelda (right), Ferdinand Junior (left), and Irene, in Manila, Jan. 18, 1972. [AP]

Romeo Ugaltig, a volunteer in Quezon City for Marcos Jr.’s presidential campaign who is active on Facebook, said that despite accusations and hate messages against the candidate, he and others are conducting a professional online campaign.

“I don’t believe in the accusations hurled against our candidate,” Ugaltig told BenarNews.

“We work on unity. Nothing will happen to us if we continue divided [as a nation],” he said.

If the latest local public opinion polls are to be believed, Marcos appears to heading toward victory in Monday’s general election.

According to the last pre-election poll published by OCTA Research on Thursday, Marcos has the support of 58 percent of those surveyed compared with 25 percent for Robredo.

The latest results were similar to a Pulse Asia survey from April 16 to 21 when Marcos was supported by 56 percent compared with 23 percent for Robredo. Eight other candidates are on the presidential slate.

‘Forget about the past’

In southern Mindanao island, Nur Misuari, a former Muslim guerrilla leader who  had fought against the Marcos regime, recently endorsed Marcos Jr. and his running mate, Sara Duterte-Carpio, the daughter of outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte.

“I had very sad memories about the governance of the late President Marcos, not necessarily against the son. As I said time and again, the fault of the father cannot be inherited unnecessarily by the children or by the sons and daughters,” Misuari told reporters on Thursday.

“In my particular case, I always demand: Brother candidate, will you be kind enough to tell us in black and white what you intend to do once you have the power? We have to know that, and we will take them to account once they come into power,” Misuari said.

His endorsement came about a month after Murad Ebrahim, the leader of the former insurgent group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), said that he and others were concerned about a Marcos win.

“While Marcos Jr. was not the one behind the atrocities, he carries his father’s name. And if Muslims hear that name, they also relive the pain of the dictatorship,” said Murad (also known as Ahod Balawag Ebrahim), who was a leader of the MILF guerrilla forces fighting Marcos’ soldiers in the south.

Misuari countered by urging people to put the past behind them and move on. Murad’s group split from Misuari’s in 1978 over differences in ideology.

“So don’t impute any blame on the son at this point in time. Forget about the past but look at who Bongbong Marcos is,” Misuari said.

Polls across the Philippines will open at 6 a.m. at close at 7 p.m. Monday.

Dennis Jay Santos contributed to this report from Davao City, Philippines.


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