Screenshot from Rappler Talk
MANILA, Philippines – University of the Philippines president Danilo Concepcion said he "deeply regrets" the pain his attendance at the Kabataang Barangay reunion caused the UP community.
His apology came amid criticism from students, alumni, and human rights advocates over his appearance at the August 25 event alongside Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos, daughter of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
In a statement on Wednesday, August 29, Concepcion said he only wanted to be with old friends who he served during his term as president of the Kabataang Barangay Metro Manila chapter from 1976 to 1978.
"I intended no offense, most especially to the UP community that I serve," he said.
"My desire to be with old-time friends I had not seen for decades, no matter how briefly, made me overlook its effect on the sentiments of the UP community. Tao lang po (I'm just human)!"
The Kabataang Barangay was created in 1975 to give the Filipino youth "a means and an ample opportunity to express their views." Imee was appointed by her father as national chairperson, a move questioned by many – including Archimedes Trajano.
Trajano disappeared in August 1977. His bloodied body was found on the streets of Manila the following month. Witnesses said he was forcibly taken by men after he asked Imee, during an open forum, why she was the national chairperson. (READ: Gone too soon: 7 youth leaders killed under Martial Law)
Trajano was one of the thousands of Filipinos killed during the Marcos regime. According to Amnesty International, around 3,240 were killed, 34,000 were tortured, and 70,000 were imprisoned during Martial Law from 1972 to 1981. (READ: Worse than death: Torture methods during martial law)
The UP Diliman University Student Council said the Kabataang Barangay reunion, held on campus, was "a gross disrespect not only by the Marcoses but also by the university to the long list of martyrs" during Martial Law.
"The presence of the Marcos cronies' youth arm inside the university discredits the sacrifice of those who earnestly fought and offered their lives to the country during Martial Law," the student council said in a statement.
"It outrightly neglected the perpetual struggle of the Filipino people against tyranny and for national democracy."
Concepcion, however, said the university will never forget the horrors of the Marcos dictatorship.
"I would like to assure the UP community that the university under my watch will never forget the dark period of our country during the Martial Law years and will continuously hold in high esteem the university's best and brightest who made the ultimate sacrifice fighting for freedom and democracy," he said. – Rappler.com
Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.