“We do not celebrate dictators. We topple them. We bury them in the dustbin of history. We reserve our holidays for our brave heroes and martyrs, not to tyrants who oppressed and killed many of our people.”
Etta Rosales, chair emerita of the party list Akbayan and former chair of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), knows whereof she speaks. A political detainee during the martial law years, she spent the time after her release to protest, organize, and educate (and even legislate as a party list representative) and then to help create the CHR. This is the body which, among many other things, helps ensure that the lessons of martial law would not be forgotten. And to this day, the CHR endeavors to protect the human rights of all Filipinos, but especially of those at the margins of society, the “least and the lost.”
And so, Senate President Tito Sotto, you are wrong. The bill declaring a holiday in the province of Ilocos Norte to commemorate the birth of former president and ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos is not just a “bill of local application.” Sotto told reporters that the bill, which only this week passed through the House of Representatives on third reading, would likely “breeze through” the Senate, even if there is yet no Senate counterpart measure.
This is because, said Sotto, a bill that covers only a locality and not the entire nation “usually is not really debated upon.” He added: “It is a bill of local application, it is for Ilocos Norte, I doubt if there will be objections to that.”
And that’s where he’s wrong. There certainly will be debate over the passage of a bill calling for what is essentially a celebration, a glorification, of the life and deeds of Marcos. And even if the fete for the Marcos birth anniversary is observed only in the province of his birth, the implications of a public celebration will be felt throughout the country. This is akin to rubbing salt on the still-festering wounds of the survivors of martial law. The commemoration also enshrines as an exemplar the culture of plunder, repression, impunity, and state violence that was the hallmark of the Marcos conjugal dictatorship.
Voting 197 in favor, with only nine dissenting and one abstaining, the House passed a bill declaring Sept. 11 as “President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos Day” in Ilocos Norte. The bill was authored by Ilocos Norte second district Rep. Angelo Marcos Barba, a nephew of the late president, being the son of his late sister Fortuna; first district Rep. Ria Fariñas, and Probinsyano Ako Rep. Rudys Caesar Fariñas, both children of former Ilocos Norte representative and governor Rodolfo Fariñas. Apparently, a proclamation already issued by President Duterte in 2017 making the day a “special non-working day” in the province was not enough for them; Marcos must be held up and consecrated as a hero by hallowed law.
That such a measure has advanced this far is but the latest evidence of the continuing debt that the Duterte administration owes, or feels it owes, the Marcoses. It is a debt the President’s minions in the legislature and the courts see no compunction in helping pay.
The first tranche in the payment of this debt was allowing the burial of Marcos’ remains in the Libingan ng mga Bayani, a burial ground reserved for those who served the country with honor and bravery. Despite protests and a general outcry, the funeral took place though on a much smaller, quieter scale than perhaps his flamboyant widow Imelda would have wanted. Then followed Mr. Duterte’s public support for defeated Marcos scion Bongbong against the winning Vice President, Leni Robredo.
But even eschewing the political debt that Mr. Duterte owes the Marcoses, a “President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos Day” even in just Ilocos Norte is already a slap in the faces of the millions who massed on the streets of the country to oust the Marcoses, and the thousands arrested, detained, tortured, and “disappeared” in the dark years of the dictatorship. (The ranks of freedom fighters included the President’s late mother, Soledad Duterte or Nanay Soling, who headed the anti-Marcos Yellow Friday Movement in Mindanao.)
Bayan Muna Rep. Eufemia Cullamat described the move as a “big desecration of our history,” while rights group Karapatan said it is “a grave disgrace to the memory of martial law victims and survivors, who have been violated many times over by the Marcos dictatorship.” Rep. Edcel Lagman, who lost a brother at the height of the martial law crackdown, declared: “The birthday of one who has arrogated and abused power, defiled human rights and betrayed the people’s trust must not be celebrated by a legislated holiday.”
It’s now up to the senators to prevent this latest repugnant attempt at historical revisionism and the whitewashing of history — yes, even if Marcos daughter Imee sits smirking among their ranks.
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