Hero's Burial Plan for Philippine Dictator Marcos Sparks Outrage
Plans by the Philippines' controversial president-elect to give late dictator Ferdinand Marcos a hero's burial triggered outrage on Tuesday, with martial law victims warning it would whitewash the strongman's crimes.
Rodrigo Duterte, who won this month's elections in a landslide, announced on Monday he would allow Marcos to be buried at the Heroes' Cemetery in Manila, in what would be another big win for the dictator's family as it cements a remarkable political comeback.
"Burying him at the (cemetery) will whitewash all crimes he committed against the people and will send the wrong message to the world: that in the Philippines, crime pays," Bonifacio Ilagan, who was detained and tortured by Marcos forces, told AFP.
Ilagan, who heads a group trying to stop the Marcos family from returning to power, said the highly emotional and symbolic burial of the dictator at the cemetery -- where the nation's most revered war heroes have been laid to rest -- would trigger street protests.
Marcos's two-decade rule ended in 1986 when millions of people took to the streets in a famous military-backed "People Power" uprising, forcing the family into U.S. exile where the patriarch died three years later.
Marcos and his wife Imelda were accused of plundering $10 billion from state coffers and overseeing widespread human rights abuses by security forces. Rights groups say Marcos's forces killed or tortured thousands of people.
However Imelda and her children were allowed to return and over the past two decades have enjoyed a stunning rise back into the political elite while fending off a barrage of lawsuits and criminal probes.
Imelda is a congresswoman representing the family's northern provincial stronghold, while Ferdinand Marcos Jnr. was elected to the Senate in 2010.
Marcos Jnr ran for the vice presidency in this month's elections. Although he looks set to narrowly lose, at age 58 he is still young enough to achieve his goal of becoming president.
Duterte said Monday he wanted to have the body of Marcos, currently embalmed and enclosed in a glass casket, to be buried at the Heroes' Cemetery to end decades of divisions in society over the issue.
However Nilda Lagman-Sevilla, chairwoman of a group of families whose relatives vanished under Marcos's rule, said healing would only come from discovering what happened to their loved ones and bringing the perpetrators to justice.
Her brother, a human rights lawyer who vanished in 1977, is among 882 people who disappeared under Marcos's rule, according to the group.
"They (the families of people who vanished) are still in pain because of the absence of closure," Lagman-Sevilla said.