The crowd of just over a thousand Cebuano protesters may not be as big as those in Metro Manila, but the message was the same: Marcos is not a hero and has no place in the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
But even as the criticisms against the burial of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos persisted and grew louder, the rally of anti-Marcos forces at Plaza Independencia yesterday did not go unopposed.
At one side of Plaza Independencia, about 100 individuals also came to voice support for President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to bury Marcos at LNMB.
The bigger force was, however, the anti-Marcos protesters who staged three separate protest activities in Cebu City yesterday, marking Bonifacio Day with a call for the people to never forget the horrors of martial rule and repudiate any attempt to make a hero out of Marcos.
“Heroism is all about genuine service. Anyone who steals money from the government and exposed people to too much suffering is never a hero,” said Fr. Cris Mostajo, CssR, head priest of the Our Mother of Perpetual Help Parish in Cebu City.
Anti-Marcos groups trooped to the Redemptorist Church yesterday afternoon to offer Mass for victims of martial law. They also staged different rallies in Cebu City to denounce the hero’s burial given to Marcos.
In his homily, Mostajo cited as examples of true greatness Andres Bonifacio, a Filipino revolutionary leader; and St. Andrew the Apostle whose feast was celebrated by Catholics yesterday.
“Both of them are true heroes because they became real servants. They are not like a family who demands to be praised and who wanted one member to be hailed as a hero,” he said.
He added: “He (Marcos) stole money from government coffers and abused the rights of several people. Would you call a person like him a hero?… We have to be very careful. Let us not twist history in the hope that truth would be concealed. I hope we all learn from the past and be vigilant so as not to revive the dark moments of history.”
Wearing black shirts, about 300 people gathered in front of the Cebu Capitol yesterday afternoon and walked to Fuente Osmeña Rotunda to denounce the burial of Marcos at the LNMB. Earlier yesterday, about a thousand protesters also gathered at Plaza Independencia in Cebu City.
Braving the rain, the groups appealed to Filipinos, particularly the millennials, to never forget the brutal and corrupt 21-year reign of Marcos.
Seven late Cebuanos, who fought Marcos and were detained during martial law, were honored as “heroes and martyrs” while eight survivors were considered “worthy of emulation.”
A ceremonial lowering of a time capsule bearing the names of the Cebuano martial law heroes for the soon-to-be-erected Heroes’ Monument at Plaza Independencia was held shortly before the program ended at noon.
The anti-Marcos rally, however, got its share of oppositors, as an hour after the program at Plaza Independencia started, about 100 persons on board motorcycles and cars arrived, honking their horns and playing “Budots” music.
In what appeared to be a clash of chants, the two groups yelled taunting words at each other. No physical confrontation, however, took place.
Anti-Marcos groups were at the center of the historic plaza while the Duterte’s supporters, mostly wearing red shirts, were on one side of the plaza.
While he believed that Marcos is not a hero, lawyer Ervin Estandarte of PDP-Laban Cebu and one of the convenors of yesterday’s pro-Duterte rally said Marcos is qualified to be buried at the heroes’ cemetery.
“The law clearly allows the burial of any president at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. Marcos was a president and so he can be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani,” he told reporters. “The Supreme Court has spoken. Let us uphold the rule of law,” he added.
Like the anti-Marcos groups, Estandarte said they also got a permit from Cebu City to hold a rally at Plaza Independencia.
Dr. Rowena Burden, a speaker in the pro-Duterte rally, said she abhors the Marcoses but supports President Duterte’s decision to bury Marcos at LNMB.
“It has already been 30 years. We have not moved forward because of one dead man. The Supreme Court has spoken. We may not like it but a hero’s burial for Marcos is legal,” she added.
Philip Enbingo, one of the motorcycle riders who attended the rally, said President Duterte has been too busy to listen to the clamor of anti-Marcos groups.
“The time to change has come. President Duterte is after the well-being of all Filipinos. Unfortunately, people keep on disturbing him,” he said.
The pro-Duterte group repeatedly chanted “Duterte! Duterte!” On the other hand, the anti-Marcos groups responded “Marcos Hitler! Diktador! Tuta!”
Senior Supt. Joel Doria, director of the Cebu City Police Office, estimated those who joined the anti-Marcos rally at 1,000.
Four of the eight Cebuano martial law survivors and the son of one of the seven “heroes and martyrs” of the Marcos era spoke during the event.
Human rights lawyer Democrito Barcenas said Filipinos should not forget the ordeal people suffered during the Marcos regime.
“Burying Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani is an insult to 35,000 people who were killed, 5,000 who were tortured, and 2,000 individuals who disappeared during the martial law,” he said.
Barcenas said it is extremely difficult to forgive and forget Marcos, who apart from human rights abuses, amassed $10 billion in ill-gotten wealth during his iron-fisted rule.
“The Marcoses should apologize to the Filipino nation and return the money they got from government coffers,” he said.
Barcenas, a detainee during the Marcos rule, said he was “humbled” to be named among Cebuano martial law survivors “worthy of emulation” by the Cebu Citizen’s Assembly and vowed “to continue the fight we’ve started against the injustices committed by Marcos.”
Aside from Barcenas, the other Cebuano martial law survivors-role-models were Auxilium Toling-Olayer, Francisco “Bimbo” Fernandez, retired Judge Meinrado Paredes, Professor Zenaida Uy, former senator Sergio Osmeña III, Fr. Emi Maningo, and Ruben Diaz. But only Barcenas, Paredes, Fernandez and Olayer were present during the event yesterday.
Paredes, another martial law detainee, said he was amazed by the presence of a number of young people during various rallies against the Marcoses.
“I thought the millennials were already fooled by the propaganda of the Marcoses. I am very happy to see students and other young people, bringing placards and joining the rallies,” he said. “I hope we continue what we have started against dictator Marcos,” he added.
Olayer, a student activist tortured and detained for six years during martial law, said Filipinos could still not claim victory over the Marcoses.
Fernandez, who was captured during martial law for organizing sugar workers in Negros because of wage issues, said different kinds of injustices were experienced during the Marcos regime.
“I did nothing wrong and yet I was detained. The Marcoses were the ones who committed a mistake when they put me in prison. Marcos is not a hero,” he said.
Declared Cebu martial law heroes and martyrs were the late Cebu broadcasting icon Nenita “Inday Nita” Cortes Daluz, Fr. Rosalio “Rudy” Romano, lawyer Vicente Balbuena, Professor Evelyn Neri, Ribomapil “Dodong” Holganza Sr., Fr. Luis Hechanova and lawyer Valentino Legaspi.
Former Cebu Provincial Board Member Ribomapil “Joeyboy” Holganza, who represented his father during the activity, said he was emotional upon seeing the people who remembered the abuses done by the Marcoses.
“It’s been more than 30 years now and yet the crusade against the Marcoses is not over. We are still divided by the same issues,” he told CDN. “The recognition for my father is, in a way, heartwarming. But let us keep the fire burning and continue what was started.”
Joeyboy, the eldest son of Ribomapil Sr., was detained along with his father from 1982 to 1985.
Ribomapil Sr. organized the Freedom Marches in Cebu in the late ’70s and was responsible for bringing together different groups to oppose the late president Marcos.
Justine Balane of Akbayan Youth, one of the groups during the rally, said they were offended by what the Duterte supporters did.
“Samtang nagstorya ang mga Martial Law survivors, bastos kaayo ilang gibuhat nga nagsirbato-sirbato sila ug nagsaba-saba,” he said.
(What they did was really disrespectful. While the Martial Law survivors were giving their speeches, they made noises, honking their vehicles and shouting).
Balane explained that their groups’ action in criticizing the actions of President Duterte was meant to warn the public against falling into the pitfalls of tyranny once more./With reports from USJ-R Intern Danica Castro