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Why Filipinos are protesting a hero's burial for Ferdinand Marcos

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Bullit Marquez/AP

(Read caption) Protesters display placards as they gather for a rally at Rizal Park to oppose the burial of the late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Heroes' Cemetery Sunday, Aug. 14, 2016, in Manila, Philippines. It was the biggest gathering so far since President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the burial of Marcos with full military honors and with the opposition announcing its plan to file a petition with the Supreme Court. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

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Ferdinand Marcos was former president of the Philippines who ruled the country under martial law from 1972 to 1981. His death in 1989 seemed to many to close a dark chapter in the history of the Philippines.

Now, however, the dictator is set to be reinterred with full military honors, and for many Filipino citizens, old wounds are being reopened.

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Marcos's reign was marked by human rights abuses and massive corruption. The decision by current president, Rodrigo Duterte, to re-inter Marcos's remains at the National Hero's Cemetery in Manila with full military honors is being met with protests from hundreds of Filipino citizens.

According to CNN, Walden Bello, former member of the House of Representatives of the Philippines, compared the plan to bury Marcos at the cemetery to "burying Al Capone in Arlington National Cemetery," adding the qualifier that "Marcos was worse."

President Duterte announced the plans to move Marcos's remains in May, according to ABC. The president claimed that the plan to bury Marcos in Manila was "not because he was a hero, but because he was a Filipino soldier." 

Critics of Duterte are highly concerned by his decision to go through with the burial despite the protests. Mr. Duterte's presidency has been marked by a harsh crackdown on crime and a threat of martial law that, for many, seem to be a return of Marcos's style of dictatorial government.

Senator Risa Hontiveros told CNN that she had proposed a vote on the burial, only to be overturned unilaterally by the president. Communist guerrillas, which are set to begin peace talks with the government later this month, claim that Duterte is "deleting Marcos' bloody record as a military despot" by giving him a hero's burial, according to the Associated Press.

For 1,500 protesters on Sunday, the burial was a symbolic stand against dictatorship in the era of Marcos and Duterte.

Under Marcos, dissent was severely punished and corruption was rampant in all levels of government. Thousands of people were incarcerated, tortured, or simply disappeared over the course of his presidency. It took three years of demonstrations and civil resistance during the People Power Revolution, which culminated in 1986, to bring about an election that managed to oust the dictator, despite rampant election fraud and violence at the polls.

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The restoration of democracy after the People Power Revolution remains shaky. Since Marcos, there have been many accusations of corruption and electoral fraud against subsequent presidents. Duterte has done little to restore faith in the democratic process in the eyes of his opposition. His recent threat to declare martial law to advance his war on drugs has, for many, brought memories of Marcos's years of oppression under martial law to the surface.

For many Filipinos, there is reason to let Marcos and his legacy stay buried.

Ms. Hontiveros voiced the opinion of protesters Sunday when she told CNN, "Filipinos can't be cowed. We've beaten [martial law] before."

The reinterment of Ferdinand Marcos is scheduled for September 18th.


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