Sparks fly as Philippines mulls ‘Marcos Day’ to honor late dictator

By Sara Gomez Armas

Manila, Sep 11 (efe-epa).- A proposal to declare the birthday of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos as a holiday has triggered an outrage in the Philippines with some opposing the reverence given to the strongman, who is accused of murdering and torturing thousands during his martial law rule.

The opponents of the idea to mark Sep. 11 as “Marcos Day”, which was cleared by Congress or the lower chamber of parliament and now needs a Senate nod for enactment, said it was another attempt to give a clean chit to the late authoritarian and his family.

Some 197 legislators voted in favor of the proposal last week, with nine noes and one abstention.

The idea is to declare Sep.11 as a non-working holiday in Ilocos Norte, the political stronghold of the family where the dictator is revered like an idol.

One of the authors of the bill is Congressman Angelo Marcos Barba, the late dictator’s nephew.

No major obstacle is expected in the Senate vote for the proposal amid speculations that the upper house might expand the celebration to the national level. Imee Marcos, the eldest daughter of the former president and former First Lady Imelda, is a member of the Senate.

“This is part of the historical revisionism campaign by the Marcoses with the support of the (President) Rodrigo Duterte’s administration,” Danilo dela Fuente, 70, a labor organizer, who was imprisoned and tortured during the Marcos rule, told EFE.

Dela Fuente, who co-chairs Selda, a group that represents political prisoners of the Marcos rule, on Friday participated in a Manila protest attended by around 200 people to mark the 103rd birth anniversary of Marcos.

The demonstration was held in front of the “Bantayong ng mga Bayani” monument, which honors those killed during the dictatorship.

The protesters strongly opposed the bill, which they said, was conceived to mock the victims who fought with their blood to restore democracy in the Philippines.

Dela Fuente was “illegally detained” in February 1982 and subjected to harsh interrogation and torture for 24 days before being jailed for four years.

He remained in jail until a peaceful popular uprising in February 1986 forced the dictator and his family into exile.

“They made me play Russian roulette, electrocuted me and punched my head against the wall,” he recalled his 24 days of torture.

Thousands of trade unionists, leftist militants, and dissidents were subjected to the same treatment during his dictatorial regime.

Marcos ruled the Philippines for 21 years from 1965. He declared martial law in 1972 and imposed an emergency to strip Filipinos of basic freedoms.

According to rights group Amnesty International, some 70,000 of his critics were imprisoned, 34,000 tortured and 3,240 murdered during the period of emergency.

However, Dela Fuente’s case indicates that widespread human rights abuses continued beyond the state of emergency.

Marcos allegedly plundered some $10 billion from the public coffers, which makes him the second-most corrupt leader in contemporary history after Suharto, an Indonesian military leader, according to Transparency International.

Meanwhile, a group of Marcos loyalists attended a mass at heroes’ cemetery in Manila where the former dictator was buried in 2016.

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