Marcos' 100th birthday 'no reason to celebrate' – lawmakers

MANILA, Philippines – Why celebrate the birthday of a thief and human rights violator?

Lawmakers – both from the majority and the opposition – criticized President Rodrigo Duterte for declaring the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos' 100th birthday a special non-working holiday, at least in his home province of Ilocos Norte.

ACT Teachers Representative Antonio Tinio, a member of the majority-allied Makabayan bloc, questioned the legality of Proclamation No. 310, which stated it "is but fitting and proper" for Ilocos Norte residents to celebrate the 100th birthday of the late dictator on Monday, September 11.

The proclamation noted that Ilocos Norte residents have been holding yearly celebrations to commemorate Marcos' "life and contributions to national development as a World War II veteran, distinguished legislator, and former president."

Marcos placed the entire country under martial law in 1972, citing the supposed communist threat. While he lifted the proclamation in 1981, he stayed on as president until 1986, when he was ousted through the People Power Revolution.

The Marcos years are marred by human rights violations and the plunder of government funds by Marcos and his cronies. (READ: Worse than death: Torture methods during martial law)

Speaking during the interpellation for the Office of the President's proposed 2018 budget, Tinio pointed out that Duterte's proclamation counters earlier pronouncements of the government, which recognized the human rights violations and corruption during the Marcos era.

"Malinaw sa ilalim ng umiiral na batas ng PIlipinas, sa batas natin na kinikilala ang mga kasalanan ni Ferdinand Marcos at maging ng kanyang mga kapamilya at sinabi nga rito na malinaw na isang obligasyon, it says here that it is the obligation of the state to acknowledge the sufferings and damages inflicted upon persons, properties, and businesses who were forcibly taken over, sequestered, or used. Napakalinaw po ng state policy. Bahagi ng batas. Paano po maju-justify ng Office of the President ang Proclamation 310?" said the lawmaker.

(It's clear in prevailing Philippine law that the sins of Ferdinand Marcos and his family are recognized. It also says that it's the state's obligation to acknowledge the sufferings and damages inflicted upon persons, properties, and businesses who were forcibly taken over, sequestered, or used. It is clear that this is state policy. It is part of the law. How can the Office of the President justify Proclamation No. 310?)

Tinio asked if the proclamation could be withdrawn.

The Office of the President, through its sponsor, House appropriations committee chairman and Davao City 1st District Representative Karlo Nograles, said it could not since half the day had already passed and it was a "one-time" proclamation for Marcos' 100th birthday.

Opposition, Makabayan voices

Tinio was not alone in expressing his opposition to the proclamation.

In a statement, the Liberal Party (LP) said it "condemns" the celebration of a man "who has caused his country so much pain and suffering." Several LP members were imprisoned following the declaration of martial law for being critics of the Marcos administration then.

"Today should not have been treated any differently. Today should not have been singled out as anything more than an ordinary Monday," the party added.

LP member Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman, whose brother was one of the thousands who disappeared during Martial Law, was among those invited to the Marcos family's celebration of the late dictator's birthday at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin, who along with Lagman belongs to the House opposition bloc, also received an invitation. "Marcos' centennial birthday is no cause for celebration but a national tragedy heaped upon us. President Duterte's glorification of the late dictator and his entombment in the Libingan ng mga Bayani reflects how the present administration has distorted our values and beliefs as Filipinos," he said.

Tinio's colleague in the Makabayan bloc, Anakpawis Representative Ariel Casilao, said Duterte's proclamation made a "mockery" both of People Power and of Philippine democracy.

"When the present generation should be learning how the Filipino people united and overthrew a dictator, defended democracy, we have a 'loyalist' president who is stomping on its memory and lessons, by honoring [Marcos'] birth anniversary," he said.

The Marcoses were among the first political clans to support Duterte's bid for the presidency. While campaigning in Ilocos Norte, Duterte promised he would allow a hero's burial for the late dictator – a promise that was eventually fulfilled.

Duterte also recently claimed the Marcos family was willing to return part of their wealth to the government, citing a supposed "spokesman." But Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos, eldest daughter of the former president, said negotiations were not ongoing.

She did, however, say she trusts Duterte would end decades of cases against the family. Cases over their ill-gotten wealth and the human rights abuses during the Marcos era are pending in various courts, both here and abroad. (READ: Duterte: If I were Marcoses, I'd return wealth for immunity– Rappler.com