After Marcos burial, what now? ‘Keep talking, keep issue alive’

MANILA, Philippines – A week since the surprise burial of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Heroes’ Cemetery, the show of anger and opposition has not died down.

More rallies are planned in the coming days, with organizers calling for nationwide mobilizations to put pressure on the government to reverse what they called a “sneaky” burial fit for a thief.

Within hours after news of the burial spread last November 18, thousands of students began mobilizing in different parts of the country. In Quezon City, students from the Ateneo de Manila University, University of the Philippines, and Miriam College crowded Katipunan Avenue, holding placards declaring Marcos not a hero, and later trooping to the EDSA People Power Monument to join other groups protesting the burial.

But can these protests be sustained, or are they just one-off movements? For Lisandro Claudio, assistant professor of development studies at Ateneo, the current anti-Marcos movement is still weak outside the community of universities. But he added that this was also how the original movement back in the 70s started, before the anti-Marcos sentiment got widespread support and galvanized the Filipino people.

Claudio also pointed out that contrary to claims of the pro-Marcos groups, the burial of the late dictator remains a current concern, and is beyond more than the issue of a former president’s burial.

“What needs to be emphasized here is that this issue is live, not in the past. The Marcoses have a lot of money in their Swiss bank accounts, and it can still be returned to the Philippines, and I think that’s what’s crucial,” he said in a mix of Filipino and English.

“If it were in the past it wouldn’t impact us now, but it impacts us now because if billions of dollars come back to the Philippines, the result is you can fund so many things, like the infrastructure projects of President Duterte, so we’re directly affected by it,” he added.

Claudio also said that the massive debt incurred during the Marcos years continues to stunt the country’s development.

Keep talking, discussing
How strong is the sentiment against the Marcoses? Claudio acknowledged that the opposition groups are at a disadvantage, especially on social media, but he encourages students and the youth to keep talking and discussing to keep the issue alive.

“I tell my students, ‘Wag kayo mawalan ng pag-asa kung ngayon medyo dehado, medyo talo, just keep talking to people.’ Wag maging elitista, wag lang kausapin yung mga taong kagaya ninyo, kundi lumabas kayo dyan at makipag-usap kayo tungkol sa kung ano talaga nangyari noong panahon na iyon,” he said.

(I tell my students, ‘Don’t lose hope if for now it looks like we’re at a disadvantage, we’re losing, just keep talking to people. Don’t be elitist, don’t just talk to people like yourselves, but go out and talk to everyone else about what really happened during those years.)

“Maybe nothing will happen this year, nothing will happen next year, but we have to play the long term in terms of correcting that kind of historical revisionism,” he added.

Claudio also noted that the divisiveness of the issue involving the Marcoses may have been affected, in part, by perceptions of elitism among the anti-Marcos crowd, especially academics.

But while he admitted that academics may not have reached out enough to connect to the people, he stands by the work and research of the many historians on the impact of the Marcos years and Martial Law regime.

“While humihingi kami ng paumanhin for our elitism, naninindigan kami na totoo ang aming pananaliksik,” he said. (While we’re asking for forgiveness for our elitism, we stand by the truthfulness of our research.)

Forgive the Marcoses?
To those telling martial law victims to “move on” and let the issue rest, Claudio pointed out that the Marcoses have never acknowledged or apologized for the human rights abuses and plundering of government coffers during their rule.

“Kung ikaw na-torture, ikaw nakulong, kung nawalan ka ng kapamilya noong panahong iyon, masyadong masakit ‘atang mag-move on lang kung nangyari sa’yo…Willing ka bang mag-move on, di pa naman nag-sorry ang Marcos family at di pa nagkakaroon ng truth and reconciliation?”

(If you had been tortured, arrested, or had lost a family member during those years, it’s painful to just move on…Are you willing to move on when the Marcoses have not apologized and we have not yet achieved truth and reconciliation?)

The divisive issue of allowing the dictator to be buried at the heroes’ cemetery has also returned to the spotlight the Marcos family and their resurgence in Philippine politics. Anti-Marcos groups are worried that the Supreme Court’s favorable decision on the burial may hint at its possible decision on another pending court case – the election protest filed by former senator Ferdinand Marcos “Bongbong” Jr against Vice President Leni Robredo.

But Claudio said that for the pro-Marcos groups exhorting people to “move on”, it would not be in their best interests to steal the vice presidency from Robredo.

“For people asking for unity, to unseat someone voted by so many Filipinos…to unseat someone so unceremoniously, I think it will just cause a greater divide in our country. So if you want to move on, then move on to 2022,” he said.

Not strategic move
Claudio pointed out that it was also not strategic for the Marcoses to revive the controversial burial of the late dictator if they continue to harbor aspirations for a return to Malacañang.

“What the family really did by insisting on the burial is dig up the problem, dig up the discussion. So I don’t think it was strategic for them because if they want the presidency in 2022, they should have kept quiet and refrained from reviving the issue and what happened during the Marcos years,” he said.

“But now, it’s out in the open again. I think maybe in the short term they think they will not take a hit, but in the long run, while we continue to talk about this issue, it’s going to be bad for the Marcos name,” he added. /Katerina Francisco/@kaifrancisco/


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