Thousands rise against Marcos secret burial

By Luz Wendy Noble and Beatriz Zamora

With reports from Tessa Barre

In a moment of utmost rage, the streets of Katipunan echoed the cries of the Filipino heroes of the collective it was named after.

Thousands of students from the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman, Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) and Miriam College marched to the historic avenue in protest of the unannounced interment of former President Ferdinand Marcos Sr. at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (LNMB), Nov. 18.

For them, burying the dictator among heroes erases a whole new era of cruelty and tyranny in Philippine history, wherein Marcos’s declaration of Proclamation 1081 on Sept. 21, 1972 left thousands of its victims still awaiting justice until today.

Among the throng of students expressing their dissent towards the dictator’s burial were firsthand witnesses to the harsh reality of Martial Law.

Although he is presently recognized for his role as UP Diliman’s Vice Chancellor for Community Affairs, Dr. Nestor Castro recalled his imprisonment during the Marcos regime.

At 23, Castro was arrested without the presentation of a warrant, with authorities preventing him from contacting his lawyer as prescribed by the law. He was held in solitary confinement at Camp Dangwa, Benguet for an entire year.

During a certain point in his captivity, Castro was forced to drink his own urine due to the absence of water.

After the fall of the Marcos administration, the UP vice chancellor’s imprisonment was declared baseless by the Supreme Court.

In his speech at the solidarity program held along Katipunan in front of Miriam College, he expressed his sentiments on the youth’s initiative to join forces against Marcos’ burial.

“Ang hindi namin natapos ng aming panahon…ay inyong ipagpapatuloy. Natutuwa rin akong nagkakaisa ang ating tatlong unibersidad,” Castro said.

Bonifacio Ilagan, lead convenor of Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses to Malacañang (CARMMA), shared Castro’s sentiments regarding the youth movement.

Like the UP Vice Chancellor, Ilagan carries the burden of the cruelties he went through at the onset of Martial Law.

His identity as a teenage activist brought him to a fate shared by 70,000 other Filipinos who were subjected to human rights violations during Marcos’ reign.

In 1974, Ilagan was imprisoned and tortured. He was released within the same year, but Ilagan soon found that his freedom came with a great cost–he soon learned that his sister Rizalina had become one of the desaparecidos under Marcos’ responsibility.

Forty-two years later, Ilagan’s sister is among the ranks of those still missing.

Tracing back EDSA

On the same fateful day, groups and individuals who likewise condemned the hasty Marcos burial also gathered in the People Power Monument at White Plains Avenue.

The Coalition Against the Marcos Burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (CAMB), iDefend and Akbayan Youth led the protest rally in EDSA. The same grounds witnessed the bloodless People Power in 1987 that became an instrument to the ouster of then President Ferdinand Marcos, Sr., the same man buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani 26 years after.

The mob continued to accumulate anti-Marcos protesters, including students from UP, ADMU, De La Salle University (DLSU), University of Santo Tomas (UST), Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP), San Beda College (SBC) and even from Xavier High School (XHS).

One of them was James Alih, a Moro student of San Beda who came from Mindanao. He expressed his dismay over his fellow Bedan, President Rodrigo Duterte, for having allowed the burial to take place in secret.

“Sinasabi sa amin…’magmove-on na lang kayo’…Paano kami magmomove-on kung hindi pa rin nabibigyan ng hustisya ‘yung nangyari sa Jabidah Massacre?” Alih said.

The Jabidah Massacre happened on March 18, 1968 in Corregidor. At least 23 Moros were killed by military men from the secret commando unit called Jabidah. The unit was supposedly assigned by Marcos for operations that would reclaim Sabah.  

DLSU student Manuel Jopson, echoed Alih’s call for justice. Jopson is the grandson of Edgar “Edjop” Jopson, an activist killed at the height of Martial Law.

Edjop is remembered for his dauntless visit to Malacanang to challenge Marcos to not seek another term, as well as to put it into writing.

“Ang kamatayan ng isang kamag-anak ay hindi paglimot. Ngunit…tayo’y makakaangat dahil sa malakas ang ating boses,” Jopson said.

“Tayo’y maririnig ng administrasyon na ito, nitong tutang administrayon na ito na walang pakundangan.”

Apart from the ranks of students, there were also those who came from their workplaces. Also joining the crowd were Martial Law survivors themselves.

There were chanting and singing.

Noel Cabangon jammed with the crowd as he sang Tatsulok and Bayan Ko. Protesters also called out motorists to express their dismay over the secret Marcos burial. Some motorists joined the call by honking their horns, opening their windows, and raising their fists. Some even attached their own placards with calls of protests in their cars.

Some constituents who came from the Katipunan protests also walked to the People Power monument.

By the time the program ended, there was an estimate of around 5,000 people from different walks of life who voiced out their rage against the Marcos burial at the LNMB.  Many stayed at the People Power Monument even after the program.      

Authors of history

Despite the recent circumstances and the justice that has yet to dawn to victims of the Jabidah Massacre, Alih is hopeful and grateful to the youth for being vocal and willing to stand firm on national issues, including the Marcos burial.

“Darating ang panahon kami rin ang mamumuno at kami rin ang magbibigay ng hustisya sa mga taong hindi niyo nabigyan ng hustisya,” he said.

With fists raised in solidarity against Marcos’ burial and historical forgetting, the spirit of the movement which overthrew the dictator is revived in the protesters’ eyes.

For the youth of Katipunan, this is a legacy.

“Alam na alam natin kung ano ang ating papel sa paglikha ng kasaysayan na napatunayan ng mga naunang henerasyon ng mga kabataan,” said UP Diliman University Student Council councilor Ben Te.

History is written by the victors, they say. But the true story is yet to unfold; still being written, rewritten, verified and corrected by those who went out to the streets to voice out their opposition to Marcos’ burial. It is time the masses take back this task.

With the government’s decision to lay the dictator to rest among this country’s heroes, the fight for human rights and civil liberties still has a long way to go. #

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