Manila: Twenty-thousand protesters wore black clothes as they burnt several effigies of former president Ferdinand Marcos in various areas of Manila’s university belt. Policemen secured the entrance of a national cemetery in suburban Taguig where relatives where the remains of the former strongman were buried on November 18, following a Supreme Court approval on November 8.
“We are aiming for the reversal of the burial of Marcos at the National Heroes Cemetery and for President Rodrigo Duterte to abandon his alliance with the Marcoses,” said Renato Reyes, secretary-general of the New Nationalist Alliance (Bayan), a leftist group that is allied with the president’s ruling party, the PDP Laban.
“Today is like Black Friday for us. We are mourning, but unbowed. November 25 is the National Day of rage and outrage,” said a young activist, adding, “Supporters from various sectors have joined us and will join us again — nationwide.”
“Progressive institutions that do not traditionally send protesters are now with us,” boasted theatre personality Bonifacio Ilagan of the Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses to Malacañang (CARMMA).
“More protest rallies will be mounted all over the Philippines,” said Ilagan — a former teen-aged student activist who joined protest rallies when Marcos established a Martial Law rule in 1972. Marcos was elected majority president in 1965 and ousted by a people-backed military mutiny in 1986.
Coming from various places such as the Andres Bonifacio monument near Manila’s Post Office, Manila’s University of the Philippines, and other colleges near Malacanang, the presidential palace, student protesters who never experienced the Marcos era converged at the Quirino Grandstand of Manila’s central Luneta Park — a programme that criticised the Marcos era, including entertainment pieces mounted by celebrities, was held until past five in the afternoon.
Former Senator Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel, founder of the PDP Laban — a political party that launched Duterte’s candidacy in the May elections said, “I am with the young ones in spirit. I could not join the protest rally because of my age.”
Pimentel’s colleagues, former senators Rene Saguisag and Lorenzo Tanada, identified themselves as part of the “ageing anti-Marcos brigade,” adding that “weak knees would not stop them” from attempting to overturn the Supreme Court’s ruling that allowed the burial of Marcos at the National Heroes Cemetery.
Policemen were ordered to exercise maximum tolerance, said Philippine National Police chief, Director General Ronald Dela Rosa, adding, “Protesters were allowed to hold protest rallies in plazas, on streets, and in other public places.”
There was “no action” at the main and back entrances of the National Heroes Cemetery, said policemen, adding, “It was a long wait where we were deployed.” Several protesters were planning to desecrate the tomb of Marcos, said a source who requested for anonymity.
“Observers are closely watching the protest rallies to find out if the trauma against Marcos is alive or dead,” said a political analyst.
Ruling 905, the Supreme Court said it was Constitutional to bury Marcos at the National Heroes Cemetery for several reasons: he was a president; he was a soldier in the Second World War; he was not convicted by a lower court of graft and corruption and human rights violation; he was “not pure evil” despite his mistakes; rights victims failed to prove that he threatened their rights; they failed to elevate their complaint in a lower court; and Duterte has the right to ignore the agreement entered into by the Marcos family and former President Fidel Ramos in 1992 — that the remains of Marcos (they were brought back to the Philippines, from Hawaii, in 1993) should remain in a family-owned museum in Batac, Ilocos Norte, his hometown.
Marcos died in 1989, three years after living in exile in Hawaii.