December 8, 2022

MANILA, Philippines – Survivors of torture and other atrocities under Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos on Wednesday celebrated the declaration of martial law 50 years ago by pressing their demands for justice and an apology from his son – who is now president in a stunning reversal of their fortunes. He insults the family once.

Activists staged street protests, a concert and unveiled a documentary at the state-run University of the Philippines. They say the events were intended to prevent a recurrence of abuse and looting that began after Marcos imposed martial law in the Philippines in September 1972, a year before his term expired.

The dictator was overthrown in the military-backed “people power” uprising in 1986 and died three years later in American exile without admitting any wrongdoing, including accusations that he, his family, and his associates raised an estimated $5 billion to $10 billion while in the states United. Energy.

His son, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who took office in June after a landslide electoral victory, addressed the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Tuesday. A small group of Filipino-American protesters chased after him and at one point managed to get close to him and booed him, repeatedly shouting “Never again martial law!” He also got off a convoy and entered a building with his security guards.

Neither he nor his senior officials had issued any statement regarding the anniversary of martial law as of Wednesday noon.

For many survivors of the abuses under Marcos, most of whom are now in their 70s and 80s, the anniversaries brought back the traumatic and painful memories of their fellow victims, who were killed by state forces or are still missing. They condemned efforts to cover up the atrocities and portray the years of martial law in pro-Marcos social media as a “golden era”.

“The scars may have healed but deep down, the anger and sadness are still present not only because I went through this but because so many good and patriotic people died resisting the dictatorship,” said Judy Tagowalu, a former Cabinet and Women’s Rights Officer. An activist who was sentenced to two years in prison and tortured in the 1980s.

Taguewalo, 72, sought an apology from the president and told him to “stop lying about the horrors of martial law.”

Marcus Jr., 65, declined such calls. In a television interview last week, he said that his father’s decision to declare martial law, suspend Congress and rule by decree was necessary to fight the communist and Muslim insurgency. He also said that describing the late president as a dictator is a “mistake” and denied that he and his family were whitewashing history.

Bonifacio Ilagan, a left-wing activist who was arrested for more than two years beginning in 1974 and often severely beaten and tortured, said he could not accept Marcos as president. His sister was kidnapped by government agents along with several other anti-Marcos activists in 1977 in the capital, Manila, and was never found.

“Trauma has returned in all its inhumane forms,” said Ilagan, 70, reiterating his call for justice and Marcus’ clear apology. “That’s why, in my entire life, I can’t say he’s my boss.”

Loretta Rosales, the former chair of the Independent Commission on Human Rights, was arrested along with five other activists in 1976 by military agents, electrocuted and sexually assaulted.

She said the president should comply with the provisions of a 2013 law that she co-wrote as a member of Congress calling for documenting atrocities and building a museum to commemorate the suffering of thousands of people.

The legislation was used to compensate victims of abuse. Separately, a Hawaii court found Marcos the Elder responsible for rights abuses and ordered $2 billion from his estate to more than 9,000 Filipinos led by Rosales, who has sued him for torture, extrajudicial killing, imprisonment and disappearance.

Taguewalo said the ouster of Marcos in 1986 was the peak point, but that poverty, inequality, injustice and other social ills remained rife in the country decades later. This allowed political dynasties, including the Marcos, to exploit deep discontent to their advantage.

“It’s not because we as a people are so stupid or tolerant,” Taguwalu told The Associated Press. “I think the biggest lesson we have always emphasized is that it is not enough to overthrow a dictator or restore a certain range of press freedom, academic freedom, civil and political rights.”

“You have to prove that democracy works for the benefit of the majority of people who should have jobs, land and decent living,” she said.

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