Thousands of Filipinos calling for a "Black Friday" of mass mobilizations protested throughout the country to denounce President Rodrigo Duterte's decision to bury former dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the national heroes' cemetery last Friday, 27 years after Marcos' death. The move has ripped open the seething anger of students, social movements, and those who suffered losses and persecution under Marcos, who ruled the country from 1965 to 1986.
Organizations and youth groups such as Anakbayan, Gabriela, students' leagues and national unions marched to the historic Luneta Park along the Manila Bay to voice their outrage at what they see as the persistence of U.S. imperialist domination, oligarchic control over land and wealth, and the continuation of an open war on the people via the Oplan Bayanihan counterinsurgency plan and the pretext of combating drugs.
“Today, youth and students and people from all walks of life unite to hold the Duterte regime accountable for giving a hero’s burial to a dictator, plunderer, and human rights violator,” said Anakbayan National Chairperson Vencer Crisostomo, who highlighted the political significance of bringing the youth’s calls right at the doorsteps of the Malacañang presidential palace.
"The (heroes' burial) only exposes the prevalent fascist mindset in the state which sings praises to a dead dictator and sees nothing wrong with massive human rights abuses, repression of civil liberties, and state terror,” added Crisostomo.
The outspoken president has long nurtured what organizers call an "unholy alliance" with the Marcos clan. Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, Jr., the son of the late former president, accompanied Duterte during the latter's state visit to China, where the president joked that Bongbong could perhaps become vice president.
Crisostomo also blasted the continuity of state policy from the Marcos dictatorship to the present administration: "From the Marcoses to the Aquinos and now under Duterte, military forces continue to conduct offensive operations against civilian communities. Illegal arrests, killings, and harassment against peasant and Lumad leaders remain the norm in the countryside.” The youth group leader cited a report detailing how 13,000 civilians, primarily farmers and members of national minorities, were victims of forced evacuations carried out under the banner of "peace and development" and the "war on drugs."
Despite Duterte's claims to be a "socialist" and "leftist," the cautious optimism of people's movements and democratic forces in the archipelago following the election of the former Davao City mayor has transformed into a mood of foreboding as a result of a spree of state lawlessness, extrajudicial killings, and the oft-violated unilateral ceasefire with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
In a statement to reporters delivered Thursday from the Philippine Sierra Madre mountains, spokesman Jaime “Ka Diego” Padilla of the NDFP's armed wing, the New People's Army, stated, "what is painful is that Duterte wants to follow in Marcos’ footsteps. His threat, voicing his thoughts about suspending habeas corpus, is something that signals Duterte might turn out to be a fascist in the future," news site Interaksyon reported.
As the country's popular movements, progressives, and oppressed minorities continue to organize, Crisostomo continues to warn that “real justice for the victims of martial law can only be secured by fighting a rotten system that organizes fascism and rights abuses against the people.”