Despite Marcos ties, U.P. president says no attempt to forget Martial Law
MANILA, Philippines – Following the backlash over his appearance at the the Kabataang Barangay (KB) reunion on campus, University of the Philippines (UP) president Danilo Concepcion vowed he would not support any attempt to coverup Martial Law.
In a letter to the university community on Friday, September 7, Concepcion apologized once more for gracing the activity with Ilocos Governor Imee Marcos, daughter of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
“As I express my apology for the inappropriate behavior, I would like to assure the UP Community that I do not, and will not, support any attempt at political whitewashing of Martial Law,” he said.
The KB celebrated its 43rd anniversary at the UP Bahay ng Alumni last August 25, sparking criticism from students, alumni, and human rights advocates over the irony of the event and the venue.
Concepcion, who served as KB Metro Manila chapter president during his youth, gave a speech during the reunion and flashed the "V" hand sign associated with Marcos loyalists. He had said he only wanted to be with old friends who he served during his term.
Deep hurt: But the university president's actions inflicted deep insult among UP faculty, students, and alumni.
The UP Diliman University Student Council slammed the KB reunion held on campus as "a gross disrespect not only by the Marcoses but also by the university to the long list of martyrs" during Martial Law.
UP Diliman's History Department also hit Concepcion's attendance at the event. It called on members of the community to fight back against historical revisionism. (READ: U.P. history department slams president's attendance at Marcos event)
Adding to this, and what seemed to prompt a second apology from Concepcion, was a collective statement from UP Diliman's university council, which is comprised of professors, associate professors, and assistant professors.
"Any distortion of the discourses on academic freedom, pluralism, and the use of public space of the University to deodorize the stinking record of the Marcoses for their political revival is unacceptable. The Marcoses have yet to pay for their crimes. The Filipino youth still suffers from the consequences of the Marcos plunder, cronyism, human rights violations and impunity.... UP is not a marketplace of politicians’ interests, certainly not in these dark times," they said in a statement issued 10 days after the reunion.
The group also sought to remind Concepcion of the role UP presidents played in resisting Martial Law, such as the late Salvador Lopez's move to keep the military from campus grounds and Emerlinda Roman's decision to honor martyrs of Martial Law memorialized at the Bantayog ng Mga Bayani.
They called on the need to "hold fast" to lessons from the Filipino's resistance to the Marcos dictatorship, as "the same atrocities are now being repeated by the Duterte administration."
"While academic leaders from various colleges and universities have made public their opposition to the current actions of the Duterte administration, the deafening and unjustifiable silence of UP’s official leadership on important national issues is very palpable," the group said.
It warned Concepcion of his "dangerous" attendance at the KB reunion, which may be taken as UP's official stance on political whitewashing of Marcoses' records. (Bongbong Marcos to 'move on' critics: 'What else do you want to do?’)
What's next? Concepcion sought to assure the UP community it would not forget the abuses committed during Marcos' time. He took up the proposals of the university council and committed to do the following:
- Support the development of general education courses, electives, and “other forms of learning” on Martial Law, which will be included in UP’s GE program, and request university councils of all UP campuses to develop the said courses
- Speed up the process of establishing the Martial Law Human Rights Violations Victims Memorial at the UP Diliman campus
- Mark September 21 of every year as UP’s Day of Remembrance of Martial Law
- Create a committee to plan yearly commemorations – which include remembering the Diliman Commune – in all UP campuses
- Meet with representative from the university’s faculty, students, staff, and alumni to discuss measures toward holding events commemorating Martial Law on UP campuses and ensure they “respect the collective sentiments” of the UP community
- Meet with university representatives to “encourage and support” the UP community’s efforts to “preserve and enhance democracy and people’s welfare.”
"The University will never forget the dark period of the dictatorship and will continously hold in high regard the best and bravest who made the ultimate scarifice fighting for freedom and democracy," Concepcion said, as he promised to meet with representatives of the UP community by the end of September.
The KB was established in 1975 during the Marcos administration to give Filipino youth "a means and an ample opportunity to express their views.” The group, however, was considered the political network of Marcos' eldest daughter, Imee. (READ: Imee to Marcos family critics: 'Move on' from Martial Law)
The 21-year rule of the Marcos patriarch, who was ousted during the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution, was marred by killings, torture, disappearances, media oppression, and corruption. Amnesty International estimated that about 70,000 people were imprisoned, 34,000 tortured, and 3,240 killed during Marcos’ rule.
Concepcion also reminded the university of his “deep regret” over his appearance at the reunion. He said, “The Office of the President of UP always listens to, and serves, the UP Community.” – Rappler.com