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VICE PRESIDENT Maria Leonor “Leni” G. Robredo on Tuesday rejected efforts to bury accounts of abuses during the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos’ martial rule, as the country commemorated its 49th anniversary. 

In a statement, the opposition leader said Filipinos should not forget the human rights violations and economic plunder that occurred during the strongman’s two-decade rule. Filipinos are still paying for the foreign debts incurred by the Marcoses, she added.

“If we shut up and prevent the flow of narratives in our own spaces, money and power will dictate history,” Ms. Robredo said in Filipino. “We need to keep reciting the truth. The Filipino suffered under the Marcos regime.”

Tens of thousands of Filipinos were jailed and 34,000 more were tortured during the dictatorship, according to Amnesty International. About 3,000 people died during the darkest period in Philippine history.

The Commission on Human Rights urged Filipinos to keep rejecting the monopoly of power.

“Although it is painful to remember the complex experience of those who fought for democracy in the past, we must not stop remembering and making sure that we will never forget,” spokesperson Jacqueline Ann C. de Guia said in a statement in Filipino posted on the agency’s website.

Ms. De Guia also reminded Filipinos to be critical in voting for the country’s new leaders next year.

“Instead of giving up, it is important that we focus the energy, anger and patience we feel in the current situation toward prosecuting the perpetrators and advancing governance reform,” she added.

Several human rights activists held protests in the capital region, seeking an end to the reign of President Rodrigo R. Duterte whom they likened to Mr. Marcos.

Police were put on alert to ensure peace and that health protocols were followed during the rallies.

The police “respect the conduct of protest actions so we hope that the protesters will also respect the rules to ensure your safety especially during a pandemic,” national police chief Guillermo T. Eleazar said in a statement in Filipino.

Meanwhile, the Ateneo de Manila University criticized “historical amnesia,” with many martial law victims now dead.

“The main actors are now back in the spotlight, working hard to blatantly revise history,” it said in a statement. It noted that Filipinos born after 1986, when a popular street uprising toppled the Marcos regime and forced the family to go into exile in the US, are too young to understand the impact of that period.

The university said that martial law under the dictator is “too critical and too important to be forgotten,” adding that the country was bound to make the same mistakes if Filipinos forget their past.

Critics earlier slammed actress and vlogger Celestine “Toni” C. Gonzaga for allowing Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr. to spread “lies” about his father’s two-decade rule through an interview that she uploaded on her YouTube channel.

The Ateneo Martial Law Museum called the video an “attempt to whitewash human rights violations and proven historical record.”

“It is a tall order, but Ateneo de Manila University, along with the historians, educators and institutional partners who have been working on the digital museum will always strive to keep our collective memory, however painful, alive,” it said. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza, Bianca Angelica D. Añago and Russell Louis C. Ku



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