Church leaders in the Philippines expressed their opposition to a proposal in Congress to declare as “special non-working holiday” the birth anniversary of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
At least 197 members of the House of Representatives voted on September 2 to declare September 11 as “President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos Day” in the country’s Ilocos region.
Only nine voted against the proposal and one abstained from voting.
Catholic Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga said the move “will never unite our people and never will heal the pain and shame of martial law.”
Marcos imposed martial law in the country from 1972 to 1981 to suppress what was supposed to be an increasing civil strife and the threat of a communist takeover.
It marked the beginning of a 14-year period of one-man rule, which would effectively last until Marcos was exiled from the country on Feb. 25, 1986.
Even though the formal proclamation was lifted on Jan. 17, 1981, Marcos retained virtually all of his powers as dictator until he was ousted by the EDSA Revolution.
Bishop Santos said Congress should instead focus on the recovery of the former dictator’s hidden wealth, the return of the money to the people, and justice for victims of human rights abuses during the martial law years instead of declaring a holiday.
“His hero’s burial was very questionable and has divided our people. So much to declaring September 11 as a holiday,” said Bishop Santos.
Bishop Felixberto Calang of the Philippine Independent Church said that with the proposal the Philippine Congress has become “a bastion of a morally-bankrupt gang.”
The prelate said the legislators are “making a mockery of a dictionary” as Marcos was “judged internationally” as a human rights violator.
“[He] should not be put on the same pedestal among heroes. The country must not declare a holiday for an unholy person,” said Bishop Calang.
In 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered that the remains of Marcos be buried in the country’s Cemetery for Heroes despite strong opposition from civic and human rights groups.
Bishop Arturo Bastes, retired prelate of Sorsogon, said the plan to celebrate the birth of a dictator with a holiday “is a travesty” of the1986 People Power Uprising.
“This is an insult to the Filipino people who earned honor and respect of the international community for having succeeded in ousting a notorious dictator without bloodshed,” he said.
The 1986 People Power Uprising, also known as the EDSA Revolution, was a series of demonstrations from February 22 to 25 that led to the end of Marcos’ 20-year regime.
The retired prelate said Congress “must not honor a ‘Hitler’ with a holiday.”
In 2017, Durterte issued Proclamation 310 declaring September 11 as a special non-working holiday in Ilocos Norte to observe the birth anniversary of Marcos.
In a statement, human rights group Karapatan said the proposed law “seeks to deodorize the image of a murderer, a plunderer, and a criminal.”
“It is a grave disgrace to the memory of martial law victims and survivors, who have been violated many times over by the Marcos dictatorship,” said Cristina Palabay, secretary general of the group.
Palabay described the move as a “nefarious scheme to cover up” alleged human rights abuses and crimes committed by the late dictator.
She said the proposed measure “directly contradicts the intent and spirit” of a law passed in 2012 “recognizing human rights violations committed under the Marcos regime and providing reparations for victims.”
Historical accounts and documentation of various rights organizations indicated that there were at least 3,257 known extrajudicial killings, 35,000 documented tortures, dozens of enforced disappearances, and 70,000 incarcerations during the Marcos regime.
Palabay said Marcos’ burial at the Cemetery for Heroes and the proposed law seeking to declare a holiday on his birth anniversary are attempts for the “political rehabilitation of the Marcos bloody legacy.”