MANILA: Philippine activists and a historical body on Monday criticised President Rodrigo Duterte’s plan to give late dictator Ferdinand Marcos a hero’s burial, saying the ex-leader lied about his military record.
Duterte said Sunday he would fulfil his campaign promise to bury Marcos at the national “Heroes’ Cemetery”, a contentious issue because of widespread corruption and rights abuses under the late dictator.
The National Historical Commission of the Philippines released a study over the weekend questioning Duterte’s stand that Marcos was qualified for a hero’s burial because he was a soldier during World War II.
“Marcos lied about receiving US medals… (his) military record is fraught with myths, factual inconsistencies,” the agency said.
“A doubtful record does not serve as sound, unassailable basis of historical recognition of any sort, let alone burial in a site intended, as its name suggests, for heroes.”
Marcos was toppled in a military-backed popular revolt in 1986 and died in exile in Hawaii in 1989.
But his family has insisted on a hero’s burial even though previous presidents refused this. In the meantime, they have kept his preserved body on display in their home town in the northern province of Ilocos Norte.
Marcos was elected president in 1965 and declared martial law in 1972, allowing him to rule as a dictator while he, his family and allies enriched themselves through massive corruption as his troops suppressed dissent.
Anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International in 2004 named Marcos the second most corrupt leader of all time.
Despite his proclaimed stance against corruption, Duterte has heaped praise on Marcos as the Philippines’ “best president”. He maintains close ties with the Marcos family, who supported his presidential campaign.
Duterte boasts that his father served in the Marcos administration and that he voted for Marcos.
Duterte’s defence secretary ordered the military on Sunday to start preparing for the burial.
But activists urged the president to reconsider.
“We call on President Duterte not to give a platform for the Marcoses to whitewash the crimes they committed. This man does not deserve any form of honour,” said Tinay Palabay, secretary general of rights group Karapatan.
Former lawmaker Satur Ocampo, tortured and imprisoned during martial law, said a hero’s burial for Marcos would not bring national closure as Duterte promised.
“Disunity will continue … Duterte should not aggravate the injustice done to martial law victims.”
Marcos’ son and political heir, former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jnr, thanked Duterte for granting the family’s longstanding wish.
“Our campaign has always been towards achieving unity to move the country forward. And it is this kind of pronouncement that we hope could end the decades of divisiveness,” Marcos Jnr said on his Facebook page.