Super Typhoon Yolanda

‘We cannot forget’: Commemorate Yolanda for the uncounted dead, says Marcos

Bea Cupin

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‘We cannot forget’: Commemorate Yolanda for the uncounted dead, says Marcos

YOLANDA ANNIVERSARY. President Marcos is flanked by his cousins – Representative Martin Romualdez and Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez – during a visit to Tacloban to commemorate the death and destruction caused by Super Typhoon Yolanda.

RTVM screenshot

Asked if there should be efforts to determine the tally, the President says ‘it’s too late'

MANILA, Philippines – In a short speech during an event to remember the loss and destruction caused by Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) nearly a decade ago, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said commemorative events are important to “remember those who we were told not to remember.”

Marcos was the guest of honor in Tacloban City on Tuesday, November 8, during Pagdumdum, an event to commemorate the death and destruction caused by Yolanda in 2013. At the time it hit Eastern Visayas, it was the strongest typhoon to make landfall on earth. Pagdumdum in Waray means “to commemorate” or “to remember.”

“I come here because I must commemorate those uncounted dead that up to now we do not know how many that number is. We must come to these commemorations so that we will remember those who were told not to remember,” said Marcos.

The government, then headed by the late Benigno Aquino III, was criticized for its sluggish count of those killed by the typhoon. It was also slammed – then and until now – for seemingly underreporting the death toll from Yolanda.

The final report from the government puts the death toll at 6,300 – a figure that locals have long disputed.

“If you remember during the count of the casualties, the count was stopped. And we knew that there were still thousands out there. And for those thousands, those countless thousands, we come here, we commemorate. Because if we no longer commemorate, their memory dies. And it is only up to us to keep that memory alive,” Marcos added.

Asked later in a chance interview if efforts would be made to find out the death toll of Yolanda, the President said that while he’s always questioned official government figures, it’s “too late” to find out how many actually died from the storm.

The President has ties to the province of Leyte and Tacloban City. His mother, the former first lady Imelda, is a native of Leyte. His cousins, the Romualdezes, are major figures in local and national politics. Alfred Romualdez is Tacloban mayor while Martin is House Speaker. When Yolanda ravaged Eastern Visayas and other parts of the country, Marcos was a sitting senator while his cousin Alfred was mayor.

The Romualdez clan is only one of two political dynasties Marcos is part of. His father and namesake ruled with an iron first for a huge part of his nearly two decade-stint as head of state. The Marcos clan, which hails from Ilocos Norte, continues to hold several elected positions. The President’s older sister is also a sitting senator.

“Forget” has been a concept tied to the Marcos clan, too – particularly when it comes to the atrocities of Martial Law under the first Marcos president.

Amnesty International estimates that over 70,000 people were arrested without proper warrants, 34,000 tortured, and 3,240 killed by state forces during those dark days.

The first Marcos president’s descendants, particularly those in politics, have not fully acknowledged the atrocities during their patriarch’s rule, even as they deal with cases and court decisions related to them. Marcos, for instance, faces a contempt judgment in the US over a class action suit over the abuses during Martial Law. Since he is president, Marcos now enjoys immunity from arrest. –

1 comment

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  1. ET

    According to President FM Jr.: “Because if we no longer commemorate, their memory dies. And it is only up to us to keep that memory alive.” So no wonder why some important events are no longer commemorated so that their memories will die.

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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.