SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — Filipinos opposed to the planned burial of the late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani gathered en masse in front of the Philippine Center Building in downtown San Francisco on Wednesday, September 7. The building houses the Philippine Consulate General offices in the Bay Area.
Chanting “Marcos Not a Hero, Kontra Libing Tayo!,” “Marcos, Marcos Not a Hero!,” and “Marcos, Marcos, Diktador, Diktador!” from among a slew of anti-burial chants, protesters voiced their displeasure on the plan of current Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to allow the burial of Marcos in the heroes’ cemetery. Currently, the body of the former president is encased in a glass coffin inside a mausoleum in Ilocos Norte.
Speakers at the protest included Marcos regime victims, human rights activists, war veterans and community organizers.
Melinda Paras, a former Marcos prison detainee, shared her thoughts with the Asian Journal.
“After we won in the People Power revolution and Marcos was deposed, I think we all thought, ‘He’s gone, we’ll have democracy restored, and that’s the end of it.’ Of course, many of the victims are still trying to get compensation out of the money that Marcos looted from the Philippines out of their torture and the murder of their loved ones. But for the most part, we thought we put an end to this chapter,” she said.
She continued: “What we’re seeing today is a concerted movement in the Philippines to whitewash the entire experience of martial law. We’re seeing young people coming up today who are being told that martial law was a wonderful period – there was law and order, there was no crime, and everything was good. And the stories of the people who were killed and tortured, and the loss of liberty and the effect on the country is not being told sufficiently because there are so many people now who don’t remember or have never heard of these stories.”
“Many of us are older and before we die, we want to make sure that the next generation knows. And it’s important that they know to make sure it never happens again because there are lessons about this. Whenever a strongman stands up and says, ‘I will bring you order but I will have to kill people, I will have to eliminate civil liberties…’ don’t believe them. We’ve learned that lesson. Let’s not forget it and have it happen again,” Paras added.
Paras described her ordeal in Camp Aguinaldo as “terrifying” and “a horrifying experience.”
“I was told that I was going to be charged with attempting to overthrow the government and that that was a death penalty [offense]. There was no press operating in the Philippines at that time. There was no way to know how many people were being killed and what was happening to anyone,” she related.
Describing herself as one of the lucky ones to have escaped via the efforts of her family and a few American senators (she is an American citizen), Paras says she feels obliged to tell her story and the stories of others who were not as fortunate to have gotten away.
Another Marcos prison detainee, Susan Araneta, said burying Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani is similar to giving a certain World War II figure a similar honor.
“We fought so hard for our freedom and for the freedom of succeeding generations against a dictator who just, with impunity, killed so many. After fighting for that long, for Marcos to be given a hero’s burial it is tantamount to Hitler being given a hero’s burial,” she said.
“And the signal it gives to the younger people is that it’s okay, a dictator can also become a hero… it’s okay you can have your rights trampled on, we can still honor this guy,” she further stated.
Araneta also said that Marcos does not deserve a hero’s burial because “those medals are fake, and 9th District Court in the US found that he’s guilty of human rights violations.”
It does not surprise Araneta though that there are some who support the Marcos burial at Libingan ng mga Bayani.
“Imee Marcos [Manotoc] has this media organization and through the years they have mounted this sophisticated media blitz. The Marcoses have this whole network of people who support them and because they have the money it’s so easy for them to launch media campaigns, social media included. But it does not mean a whole lot of people support them,” she said.
One of the youth present at the protest action, Tobin Galang, said that the youth presence is to “make sure that the history that we as Filipino youth all over the world [know] is not whitewashed, and is not one that has been revised to hide all of the human rights violations and all of the atrocities committed by Ferdinand Marcos and his family.”
“We’re here to voice our outrage against the hero’s burial because Marcos does not deserve a hero’s burial,” he said.
Galang said that actions will continue for the youth regarding this issue. “We will continue to have educational discussions to mobilize out to the streets like today, continue sharing information and history that comes from the people and is not revised by the imperialist and neo-liberal agenda. We’re here today to make sure that this narrative of US benevolence [and] glorification of Ferdinand Marcos is changed so that the people’s narrative does arise and is one that upholds the interest of the people,” he stated.
Paras, Araneta and Galang have differing messages to President Duterte, but hold true to their sentiment regarding a Marcos burial at the LNMB.
“We won’t forget and that we won’t let the people forget. It doesn’t matter what he [Duterte] says. There are thousands and thousands who experienced [the torture] firsthand and we’ll make sure that the next generation won’t forget,” Paras said.
“Marcos should not be buried in the Libingan because he is not a hero. What kind of message does this send to the youth: that we should tolerate a dictatorship… that we should tolerate the violation of human rights?,” Araneta stated.
“I would like for President Rodrigo Duterte to reconsider his declaration to have Marcos buried at the heroes’ graveyard so as to uphold the interest of the Filipino people who suffered under Marcos,” said Galang.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday, Sept 7, extended until Oct. 18 its order temporarily stopping the burial of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Taguig City that was supposedly set on Sept. 18.
The high tribunal initially issued the order last Aug. 23, effective for 20 days, to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Ricardo Visaya as the military had started preparations for the burial.
Similar protests were also held in other cities and countries, including New York, Washington DC, Los Angeles, Chicago, Guam, Saipan, Hongkong, Copenhagen, London and Paris.