Human rights activists described the declaration of a holiday to celebrate the birthday of the late dictator, Ferdinand Marcos Sr., as an “insult to thousands who suffered” under his regime.
“People who have committed crimes against the country should not be honored and should not become a model to our children,” said Edita Burgos, a human rights advocate and a member of the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites.
On September 7, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. declared September 12, Monday, a “special holiday” in the northern Philippine province of Ilocos to mark the birth anniversary of his father.
“It is but fitting and proper that the people of the province of Ilocos Norte be given the full opportunity to celebrate and participate in the occasion with appropriate ceremonies,” read the president’s proclamation.
In a media briefing on Saturday, September 10, Burgos questioned, “What kind of model we put before our children and the next generation if this is declared a special holiday for Marcos [Sr.].”
“I don’t see anything about Marcos Sr. that the youth should follow. Young people must not follow what he had done – thievery, oppression, and human rights violations,” said Burgos.
Film Director Joel Lamangan said the proclamation is “an attempt to rebrand the family name” of the Marcoses and “distort history.”
“How could you declare holiday the birth of a murderer? It is a spit on the grave of those who were killed, tortured, and disappeared,” he said.
Human rights organizations have reported that at least 3,257 people were killed during the military rule of Marcos Sr., while about 34,000 others were tortured and 1,600 were disappeared.
Former lawmaker Satur Ocampo, who survived torture and incarceration under the Marcos dictatorship, said there is not “even a hint of apology” from the Marcos family for the atrocities of the former president.
He said victims of human rights abuses during the 1970s “have not even attained justice despite our campaign” and “ill-gotten wealth has not been returned to the country.”
Historian Francis Gealogo, professor at the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Manila University, said it is “only in the Philippines” that a dictator is honored with a holiday.
“There is nothing to celebrate if the person had caused suffering and death,” he said, adding that in other countries, “they put a marker on the birthplace of a dictator, not to celebrate but to mark the person as a bad example.”
Gwendolyn Pimental-Gana, a former official of the Commission on Human Rights, said a holiday for Marcos Sr. is like “glorifying something that is not truthful,” adding that it is a “step to revise history.
Various rights organizations in the country are set to conduct a series of protests to mark the 50th year of the declaration of martial law on Sept. 21, 1972.
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