HUNDREDS of protesters, unmindful of the torrential downpour, assembled at Rizal Park on Sunday to demonstrate their opposition to Malacañang’s decision to allow the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos’ burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
Incumbent and former lawmakers joined human rights victims and advocates at the Lapu-lapu monument to object to plans to accord Marcos a hero’s burial on September 18, while about a hundred members of the group Sanlakas protested at the Heroes’ Cemetery in Taguig.
Senator Leila De Lima said the Filipino people who fought for freedom during the Martial Law era would be the ones entombed should the Duterte government push ahead with the plan.
“The burial of Marcos means tyranny can rule again in this country. And let us not give anybody that chance to be ever a tyrant or dictator in this country,” she said.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier gave his go-ahead to give Marcos a hero’s’ burial, arguing that the late dictator was a former president and a World War II veteran.
Palace Communications chief Martin Andanar said Duterte respects the opposition to Marcos’ interment at the Libingan ng mga Bayani but that the Chief Executive would not be swayed.
“The President’s stance, however, remains firm: There is clarity in the regulations governing the late President Marcos burial,” Andanar said.
The protest action at Rizal Park was organized by the Coalition Against Marcos Burial in the Libingan ng mga Bayani, which aims to gather signatures to stop the internment of Marcos.
Joining the throng of protesters who braved the relentless rain were former Commission on Human Rights Chairwoman Etta Rosales, former senator Wigberto “Bobby” Tañada, former Akbayan party-list representative Walden Bello, economist Winnie Monsod and film director Joel Lamangan.
Also present were Sen. Risa Hontiveros as well as performers and activists Leah Navarro and Juana Change.
Speaking before the crowd, Tañada noted that while Marcos was a war veteran, the late dictator’s military record was “doubtful” and that countless Filipinos suffered human rights abuses during the Marcos regime.
Tañada is the son of the late senator Lorenzo Tañada who, along with Don Chino Roces, former publisher of The Manila Times, were familiar fixtures in demonstrations leading to and during the imposition of Martial Law.
Rosales, meanwhile, was among the over 75,000 human rights victims under the Marcos regime.
She narrated how she was tortured and molested by intelligence operatives while in detention during Martial Law.
“Are they not enough proof that Marcos is not a hero?” she said.
Hontiveros said burying Marcos at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani—a place reserved for the brave and martyred—is a political abomination.
“We cannot consider a hero the very man who caused the incarceration, torture and deaths of those who fought for justice, freedom and democracy,” she said.
Hontiveros has proposed a resolution expressing the sense of the Senate that Marcos is “unfit” to be buried at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani; she expects to get at least 13 senators to support the resolution and have it passed this week.
But even as opposition to a hero’s burial for Marcos begins to snowball, preparations have started at the 100-meter lot where the late strongman is to be transferred from his mausoleum in Batac, Ilocos Norte.
More protests are expected in the coming days.
Andanar said Duterte would not block the protests.
Duterte has also justified his decision by saying that the issue had divided the Filipino nation long enough.
Labor group Partido ng Manggagawa (PM), one of the groups that joined the Luneta protest, said it is the Marcos family, not the nation, that needs to move on.
“The former dictator ruthlessly ruled and divided this nation for over two decades, thus, his burial at Libingan can never be considered a unifying action,” the PM said in a statement.
“It is the Marcos family that needs to move on in this issue by doing a simple and final act of laying their dead in Ilocos.”
WITH LLANESCA T. PANTI AND NELSON S. BADILLA