Rodrigo Duterte

Protesters clash with police at late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ birthday celebrations

Three decades after he was toppled, the controversial leader’s family still holds influential political posts and is trying to rehabilitate his legacy with Duterte’s help

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 September, 2017, 4:08pm
UPDATED : Monday, 11 September, 2017, 9:48pm

Riot police blocked hundreds of protesters trying to prevent the family of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos from celebrating the 100th anniversary of his birth at the Philippines’ “Heroes Cemetery” on Monday.

Three decades after a bloodless “People Power” revolution toppled the Marcos regime, his family still holds influential political posts and is trying to rehabilitate his legacy with the help of family friend President Rodrigo Duterte.

Duterte last year allowed Marcos’ remains to be buried at the cemetery, which is reserved for soldiers slain in battle and former presidents. And last week he declared the birth anniversary on September 11 a holiday in the ex-leader’s home province.

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“This is an insult to the memory of my father,” said Amira Lidasan, one the anti-Marcos protesters, which police estimated to number about 500.

Lidasan said her father was imprisoned for one month after violating a nighttime curfew in the early 1970s – a time when Marcos had placed the country under martial law for more than eight years.

The father died from illness soon afterwards, she said.

About 300 riot police blocked a road leading to the Marcos tomb, allowing the family to hold a private reception inside the cemetery grounds.

About 50 elderly women supporters of Marcos meanwhile flashed V-for-victory signs and sang “Happy Birthday” for late leader at a separate gathering.

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“He achieved many things during his presidency. He built roads and many other structures and he kept the prices of grocery items low,” Erlinda Taning, 65, said.

Marcos oversaw widespread human rights abuses during his 20-year rule. Thousands of people were killed, tortured or imprisoned, according to rights advocates and previous Philippine governments.

He has also been accused of embezzling billions of dollars from state coffers while in office, with anticorruption watchdog Transparency International in 2004 naming him the second most corrupt leader of all time, behind Indonesian dictator Suharto.

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However, no member of the Marcos clan has ever gone to prison and the family has made a dramatic political comeback in recent years, with his widow and two children being elected to office. Duterte’s election last year has accelerated the rehabilitation.

Ferdinand Marcos Jnr, the dictator’s son, lost the vice-presidential election last year but has filed an election protest in the hope of overturning the result. Duterte, who was elected separately, has endorsed his protest.

Protesters on Monday burned a banner that read “Marcos Duterte Fascist” and depicted a two-faced man – half Marcos and half Duterte.

“There should be no compromise, no immunity to a plunderer and a murderer,” Marie Enriquez, a human-rights activist whose sister was tortured and killed in a Marcos martial-law prison, said in a statement.