THOUSANDS of protesters joined the “Black Friday” rally at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila Friday to voice their opposition to the burial of former President Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani two weeks ago.
The Palace said Friday it was not alarmed about any possible destabilization attempts, even after President Duterte issued an order restricting soldiers to their barracks in the wake of massive anti-Marcos rallies in various parts of the country.
Former senator Rene Saguisag, and former Bayan Muna Party-list lawmakers Satur Ocampo and Neri Colmenares joined multi-sectoral groups as protesters, all wearing black, came separately from Taft Avenue and Liwasang Bonifacio and gathered at the grandstand.
A spokeswoman for the police, Kimberly Molitas, said there were no untoward incidents as of 5 p.m.
Various youth groups led by Anakbayan, Kabataan Party-list, League of Filipino Students, National Union of Students of the Philippines, and College Editors Guild of the Philippines also marched to Mendiola before proceeding to the anti-Marcos protest at Luneta Park.
Mass actions were also held at the University of the Philippines Diliman and Katipunan, UP Manila, Polytechnic University of Manila, and the University Belt along Morayta and Mendiola.
“Today youth and students and people from all walks of life unite to hold the Duterte regime accountable for giving a hero’s burial to a dictator, plunderer, and human rights violator. Today we link arms to denounce Duterte’s unholy alliance with the Marcoses,” said Anakbayan National chairman Vencer Crisostomo.
Protest centers were also set in various major schools and roads in Metro Manila. The groups marched to Mendiola noon before heading to Luneta Park later in the afternoon.
The mass actions caused traffic congestion along the University Belt on C.M. Recto Avenue and other main roads in Metro Manila.
“We strongly condemn the Duterte regime for burying Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. This only exposes the prevalent fascist mindset in the state which sings praises to a dead dictator and sees nothing wrong with massive human rights abuses, repression of civil liberties, and state terror,” said Crisostomo.
Crisostomo cited a report by rights group Karapatan that documented 16 cases of political killings and another 16 cases of frustrated murder since Duterte came to power on June 30.
The same report mentions over 13,000 victims of forced evacuations of civilian communities under Duterte, many of which are farmers and minorities.
“What’s worse, military operations are now disguised as part of ‘peace and development’ and the ‘war on drugs.’ The continuation of Oplan Bayanihan tramples on the essence of the peace talks between the Duterte regime and the NDFP and the unilateral ceasefire declared by both sides,” said Crisostomo.
“No genuine change came after the EDSA uprising, allowing ruling elites like the Aquinos, Ramos, Estrada, Arroyo, and now Duterte to make political accommodation with the Marcoses and pave their return to power. State fascism and human rights abuses continue up to this very day,” said Crisostomo.
“No change will come under the Duterte regime if it continues to lavish praise on the Marcoses and persists in looking up to the dead dictator’s fascist ways as role model. Real justice for the victims of Martial Law can only be secured by fighting a rotten system that organizes fascism and rights abuses against the people,” Crisostomo added.
The Marcos family earlier asked the people to unite amid the ongoing series of protests following the burial of the former president, which took the public by surprise a few days after the Supreme Court decided to allow the burial at the Libingan.
“Let my father’s burial be the first day amongst many days of our continuing to work for the unity and the progress of our country,” said Marcos’ namesake and only son former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
The senator said it was his father’s fervent wish that when he came to the end of his days, that he be buried in a simple soldier’s ceremony.
“This was in keeping with his idea that he was but a soldier doing his duty, a citizen serving his country. We have waited 27 years to fulfill that wish that he left us with. But we are here today and we are able to grant him that wish,” he said.
On Nov. 8, the Supreme Court voted 9-5 to junk the petitions seeking to bar the interment of Marcos at the Libingan because of the state-sanctioned human rights violations that occurred during his 21-year rule.
President Rodrigo Duterte said that Marcos, who served the country for more than three decades, should be buried at the Libingan, not because he is a hero but because he was a soldier.
“The issue about Marcos’ burial at the Libingan has created division amongst our people. Almost all Ilocanos have bad feelings about that,” he said. “If you don’t want to call him a hero, then just think of him as a soldier.”
Duterte said it is important to settle the matter soon because it has been simmering for a long time.
The Supreme Court decision was a fulfillment of the promise Duterte made in February while he was campaigning in Marcos’ home province of Ilocos Norte, where he won in the race for the presidency with more than 100,000 votes, or 39 percent of all votes cast.
He said allowing the burial for the former president would help unite the country.
“I think that’s reading too much. We are just simply saying that the military should have not have been outside, and that we don’t want them [the military] to be obstacles to public demonstrations,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a press briefing.
Abella denied that the order restricting soldiers to barracks was part of ‘loyalty checks’ to suppress any possible destabilization attempts.
“It’s exactly the opposite. I think [the President] entrusts the public to be able to handle themselves properly and is allowing for them to go to public protests,” he said.
On Thursday, a security expert warned that the planned indignation rallies by anti-Marcos forces, were part of a larger scenario–the destabilization of the incumbent administration.
The expert, who spoke on condition he would not be identified, said authorities were cautiously conducting an in-depth assessment of events preceding the interment of Marcos on Nov. 18.
Previous destabilization efforts during past administrations needed the support of the military.
Upon returning to the country following his attendance to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Peru, Duterte directed the Armed Forces of the Philippines personnel to avoid mingling with the crowd during rallies.
“Consistent with these valued principles, let me assure you that while protest actions are being staged, our military forces will remain confined in their camps,” Duterte said.
To prevent any critical movement, Duterte said that only a lean number of police personnel will be kept in protest centers.
“Their role shall be limited to traffic enforcement and the basic policy standards. They are prohibited from carrying long firearms,” he added.
PNP National Capital Region Police Office Director Oscar Albayalde said the police would exercise “maximum tolerance” in dealing with the protesters.
On Friday, the Communist Party of the Philippines demanded that Duterte reverse the “historical wrong” of burying President Marcos in the heroes’ cemertery.
In a statement, the CPP rejected Duterte’s legal justification of his order to give Marcos a hero’s burial.
“Duterte can propound a thousand legal questions and he would not get to the meat of the matter because the issue of exalting Marcos as a hero is way beyond the realm of what is legal or not,” said the CPP.
“By exalting Marcos with a hero’s burial, Duterte showed utter insensitivity and disrespect to the tens of thousands of victims of cruel suppression by the US-backed Marcos dictatorship and the collective suffering of the Filipino people under its rule of unmitigated plunder,” the communist group added.
The CPP likewise urged the protesters to demand the Duterte regime to reverse the historical wrong it committed against the people and demand an end to all the legacies of martial law.
“By protesting the hero’s burial of Marcos, the Filipino people, especially the younger generation, are demonstrating how they have not forgotten the brutalities and crimes of the Marcoses,” they added.
Duterte again defended his decision and blamed two Aquino presidents who did nothing about the issue during their terms.
“We cannot have a different interpretation because it simply says that a soldier and a former President are qualified to be buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani,” Duterte said in a media briefing at Zamboanga City.
“I am trained to follow simply the law. It was a simple matter of amending the law and they [the Aquinos] had about…12 golden years to do it,” he said.
Duterte earlier described the clash over the burial of Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani as a “fight between two families” and blamed President Corazon Aquino and her son President Benigno Aquino III for doing nothing to change the rules governing the Libingan.
But the leftist farmers group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) on Friday accused Duterte of “subverting history and conniving with the Marcoses.”
“Today’s broad peoples’ protests should serve as a warning to the government to heed the public outcry against historical revisionism. President Duterte should stop his ‘dangerous liaison’ with the Marcos family or face wider public outrage and protests,” said Joseph Canlas, KMP chairman.
“This is beyond the issue of burial per se. This is about giving justice to all the victims of Martial Law and correcting the historical wrong that those who usurp political power, plunder the national coffers and violate human rights can get away scot-free and even rise back to power and to Malacanang,” the peasant leader added, referring to former senator Marcos.
“Imelda, Imee, Bongbong, Irene and all the living Marcos heirs are without remorse of their family’s plundering of more than $10 billion in taxpayers’money. The Marcoses and their cronies including Eduardo ‘Danding’ Cojuangco Jr., continue to enrich themselves from their ill-gotten wealth. The P75-billion coco levy fund has yet to be returned to small coconut farmers, more than 40 years after Marcos exacted the levy,” said Canlas.
A House leader on Friday defended President Duterte’s move to allow the burial of former president Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
Davao City Rep. Karlo Alexei said Duterte wants the nation to “forget the hate” that divided the nation for so long and this is why he is reaching out to all political forces in the country in an attempt to consolidate a united front in the fight against crime, drugs, corruption and poverty. With Sandy Araneta and Maricel V. Cruz