Anti-Marcos legislators invited to Marcos birth centennial

Bea Cupin
Anti-Marcos legislators invited to Marcos birth centennial
Two lawmakers – one a former student activist during the Marcos era and the other the brother of a desaparecido — are invited to the late dictator's birth centennial celebration at the Libingan ng mga Bayani

They say that in politics, there are no permanent friends or enemies, just permanent interests.

But when it comes to heavily contentious topics such as Ferdinand Marcos’ martial law and portrayal of those years, there’s hardly any chance for Marcos critics and allies to switch sides.

So imagine the surprise of two legislators – both of whom have been vocal against the late dictator and the apparent “entitlement” of his heirs – when they both got invites to attend his 100th birth anniversary on September 11, 2017 at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. (READ: Behind the scenes: 12 hours to prepare for Marcos burial)

“Yes I did get an invite and puked on it!” said Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin, a member of the House opposition bloc and consistent critic of the Marcoses.

The invitation, which had apparently been sent to some members of the House of Representatives, reads:

Honorable Imelda Romualdez-Marcos, her children, and grandchildren request the honor of your presence in the commemoration of the 100th Birth Anniversary of President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos.

The event begins at 9:30 in the morning on September 11 with a Mass, followed by a program and lunch.

Also invited was Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman.

“To mark the late dictator’s 100th birth anniversary, the Marcos heirs must unequivocally commit the immediate surrender of the totality of the Marcos ill-gotten hoard without conditions, instead of celebrating in the Libingan ng mga Bayani which he does not deserve and does not deserve him,” Lagman said in a statement.

“The Marcoses’ shamelessness is beyond words and their sense of entitlement knows no bounds,” he added.

Lagman is another staunch critic of the Marcoses. The reasons touch on the personal as well. His brother was among the thousands who disappeared without a trace during the dark days of martial law.

Other House opposition members – Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat and Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano – said they did not receive invites to the event. House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said he was apparently not invited either.

House Majority Floor Leader and Ilocos Norte 1st district Representative Rodolfo Fariñas also recieved an invitation but is likely to skip it, since deliberations on the 2018 budget are still ongoing. Fariñas lead a probe into the alleged misuse of tobacco funds in his home province under Imee Marcos, the incumbent governor. 

Dark days of Martial Law  

Ferdinand Edralin Marcos placed the entire country under Martial Law in 1972 because of the supposed communist threat. He immediately arrested critics – political foes, journalists, and activists – upon declaring martial rule. Although he lifted this in 1981, Marcos continued to be president until 1986, when he was ousted and exiled via a People Power Revolution.

The Marcos years are marred by thousands of cases of human rights abuses and the pilferage of public funds both by Marcos and his heirs. Cases are pending before courts both in the Philippines and abroad.

“This planned party celebrating the centennial of his birth defiles the memory of all the legitimate heroes buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani even as it rubs salt on the still-bleeding wounds of the thousands of victims of the Marcoses’ brutalities, atrocities and unparalleled greed and plunder of the national coffers,” said Lagman.

Imelda Marcos, former first lady, represents the 2nd District of Ilocos Norte in the House.

Beginning in the ’90s, the Marcoses slowly rebuilt their political dynasty, first as elected officials of their province, Ilocos Norte and eventually, in national posts. Imee, his eldest daughter, is Ilocos Norte governor. Ferdinand Jr, his namesake and only son, was elected to the Senate. He ran for vice president but lost. He is still contesting the loss.

Duterte allies 

The Marcoses also happen to be allies of President Rodrigo Duterte, who once claimed the Marcos family donated money for his 2016 campaign. Imee Marcos later said it was a joke. The Marcoses are not listed in Duterte’s disclosure of campaign contributors.

Recently, Duterte claimed a Marcos “spokesman” had expressed the family’s plan to return their wealth to the Philippine government. He followed this up by saying that if he were a Marcos heir, he would return their wealth only in exchange for immunity from suit. 

The burial of the late dictator at the Libingan ng mga Bayani – whose remains, for decades, had been kept in Ilocos Norte – was Duterte’s promise when he campaigned in Ilocos, part of the so-called “Solid North” said to be still loyal to the clan.

“With President Duterte’s blessings and absolution of their sins, including his push for their immunity from prosecution, the Marcoses are enjoying their heyday since they were booted out by People Power,” said Villarin, himself a student activist during the Marcos years.

Villarin was among the many protesters who stormed Malacañang Palace when the Marcoses fled the Philippines and sought exile in the United States.

“Clearly, there is no measure to the depths of depravity that the Marcoses are willing to sink to. In the face of this shamelessness and utter lack of remorse, Filipinos cannot afford not to fight back and be silent,” added Lagman.

Lagman was among those who filed a petition before the Supreme Court to stop the hero’s burial for Marcos. The petition was rejected and the late dictator was laid to rest in the cemetery, sparking protests nationwide. – Rappler.com

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.