MANILA, Philippines – The Citizens’ Alliance for Good Governance in Central Luzon, a newly formed alliance, urged the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) to investigate what the group said was a “desecration and disrespect” to the Ninoy Aquino Monument in Tarlac.
The alliance of human rights groups and sectoral organizations which aims to combat historical distortion and resist state tyranny, called for the investigation in a letter addressed to the NHCP Chairman Dr. Rene Escalante which will be sent Wednesday, April 13.
The alleged desecration of the monument happened during the April 2 rally of Uniteam presidential bet Ferdinand Marcos Jr and running mate Sara Duterte at the Tarlac City Plazuela. In that event, organizers set up a tent to conceal the statue of the late senator Benigno “Ninoy” S. Aquino Jr and even covered it with campaign posters.
In a press conference on Monday, April 11, at Oliver’s Kitchen in Tarlac City, the alliance, condemned the act, and called it a blatant “disregard of what the lifelong service of former senator Aquino symbolized: democracy and human rights.”
The alliance included Martial Law victims and various sectoral organizations such as Dasal ng Bayan, the Never Again Movement, the Tarlaqueño Human Rights Organization, Kabataang Tarlaqueño para sa Bayan, and the Tarlac Ecumenical Assembly. After what happened to Aquino’s monument, the groups formed the alliance in a bid to prevent incidents of historical distortion and disrespect such as the one during the Uniteam rally from occurring again.
“Nitong April 2, parang batang pinarusahang humarap sa pader dahil sa pagkakamali. Ipinaharap sa bubong ng tent, isinantabi, at itinuring na walang kahala-halaga ang monumento ni dating Senador Ninoy Aquino sa Plazuela ng Lungsod ng Tarlac,” the alliance said in a letter to the NHCP.
(Last April 2, it was like a child punished to face the wall for committing mistakes. The monument of former Senator Ninoy Aquino at the Plazuela in Tarlac was made to face the roof of a tent, disregarded, and was treated as if it was worthless.)
Disrespect of a hero
In line with this, the sectoral organizations urged the NHCP to hold accountable those who “put the monument to shame and everything it symbolizes.”
They said the covering of the monument was a violation of the NHCP’s Guidelines on Monuments Honoring National Heroes, Illustrious Filipinos and Other Personages which states that desecration in any form is prohibited and that there should be ordinances that will protect these monuments from improper use.
Citing Republic Act 9256, the groups also reiterated that Ninoy Aquino was acknowledged as a hero by Filipinos for his patriotism and contributions in helping topple the Marcos dictatorship. Republic Act 9256 declared August 21 as a national non-working holiday to commemorate the death of the former senator.
The Tarlac City Information Office earlier denied “any intention to disrespect the memory” of the late senator, and attached a photo where the tent had distance from the statue. However, during the rally, posters were also put on the tent to cover the whole statue. Responding to those who felt disrespected by the blocking of Ninoy’s monument, Tarlac City Mayor Cristy Angeles disregarded the criticism and said it was “time for forgiveness and healing.”
Aquino also served as vice governor and later governor of Tarlac in the 1960s.
To a segment of Tarlaqueños, however, this was a disrespect to both the memory of Ninoy and what his 1983 assassination meant for the Philippines. — with reports from Mikee Cambiado and Audrey Dayata/Rappler.com
Mikee Cambiado is a Rappler volunteer from the University of the Philippines Manila. She is a third year student taking up Bachelor’s Degree in Development Studies.
Audrey Dayata is a Rappler volunteer from the University of the Philippines Visayas. She is currently in her third year pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science.