Philip­pine ac­tivists mark ’86 re­volt

The protesters con­demned the thou­sands of killings of mostly poor drug sus­pects in a bru­tal crack­down Duterte or­dered shortly af­ter he took of­fice in June and other pol­icy changes, in­clud­ing his call for the reim­po­si­tion of the death penalty, prefer­ably b

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - INTERNATIONAL - JIM GOMEZ

MANILA, Philip­pines — Hun­dreds of left-wing and pro-democ­racy ac­tivists on Satur­day marked the an­niver­sary of the 1986 re­volt that ousted Philip­pine leader Fer­di­nand Mar­cos.

The demon­stra­tion was held to draw at­ten­tion to what the ac­tivists say are the cur­rent pres­i­dent’s dic­ta­to­rial ten­den­cies and to con­demn his de­ci­sion to al­low Mar­cos to be buried in a he­roes’ ceme­tery.

More than 1,000 ac­tivists from dif­fer­ent groups gath­ered at the “peo­ple power” re­volt shrine along the main highway in the Manila me­trop­o­lis where mil­lions of Filipinos con­verged 31 years ago in a largely peace­ful up­ris­ing to oust Mar­cos.

The army-backed re­volt, which be­came a har­bin­ger of peace­ful change in au­thor­i­tar­ian regimes world­wide, ended a pres­i­dency marked by cor­rup­tion, abuse of power and hu­man-rights vi­o­la­tions.

Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte’s ad­min­is­tra­tion com­mem­o­rated the re­volt’s an­niver­sary aus­terely in the main mil­i­tary camp Fri­day near the “peo­ple power” shrine. The event was not at­tended by Duterte, who al­lowed Mar­cos to be buried in a he­roes’ ceme­tery in Novem­ber, spark­ing an out­cry from pro-democ­racy groups.

Re­act­ing to crit­i­cism that the govern­ment rites re­flected Duterte’s cor­dial at­ti­tude to­ward the Mar­coses, pres­i­den­tial spokesman Ernesto Abella said the late leader “is not that iconic in the mind of the pres­i­dent.”

“I think it is too much to say that he is the new Ma­coy,” Abella said, us­ing a short­ened ref­er­ence to Mar­cos.

The protesters con­demned the thou­sands of killings of mostly poor drug sus­pects in a bru­tal crack­down Duterte or­dered shortly af­ter he took of­fice in June and other pol­icy changes, in­clud­ing his call for the reim­po­si­tion of the death penalty, prefer­ably by pub­lic hang­ing.

Duterte, whose fa­ther served in Mar­cos’ Cabi­net, al­lowed the burial on grounds that there was no law bar­ring his in­ter­ment at the he­roes’ ceme­tery, where pres­i­dents, sol­diers, states­men and na­tional artists are buried. It was a po­lit­i­cal risk in a coun­try where democ­racy ad­vo­cates still cel­e­brate Mar­cos’ ouster each year.

“The pile of bod­ies in the Duterte govern­ment’s war on drugs, ar­rests and killings of po­lit­i­cal ac­tivists, re­newed push for death penalty, and mil­i­ta­riza­tion of com­mu­ni­ties af­fect­ing women and chil­dren is noth­ing but a U- turn to full-blown fas­cism,” left-wing Rep. Emmi De Je­sus said.

“We will stand our ground against ef­forts to re­vert to dic­ta­tor­ship,” she said.

Duterte, who rose to the pres­i­dency by tap­ping on pub­lic ex­as­per­a­tion with crime and cor­rup­tion, has said it’s in his power to place the coun­try un­der mar­tial rule to deal with con­tin­gen­cies. But he de­nied in other speeches that he would, cre­at­ing con­fu­sion and un­ease.

An­other group, called Block Mar­cos, warned that Duterte al­ready may be start­ing to cur­tail civil lib­er­ties with­out for­mally declar­ing mar­tial law.

“One com­mon par­al­lel­ism that we see be­tween Duterte and Mar­cos is the si­lenc­ing of dis­sent,” said the group’s spokesman, Milky Ba­bilo­nia. “When­ever you op­pose them, you will be la­beled as yel­lows … as sup­porter of narco-pol­i­tics and drugs,” he said, referring to the color as­so­ci­ated with op­po­si­tion groups.

Duterte’s pre­de­ces­sor, Benigno Aquino III, showed up at the day­long com­mem­o­ra­tion at the “peo­ple power” shrine Satur­day night, along with cur­rent Vice Pres­i­dent Leni Ro­bredo, who re­signed from Duterte’s Cabi­net in De­cem­ber af­ter pres­i­den­tial aides barred her from at­tend­ing Cabi­net meet­ings be­cause of her pol­icy dif­fer­ences with the pres­i­dent.

Aquino, Ro­bredo and other mem­bers of the once-rul­ing Lib­eral Party have ex­pressed sup­port to Sen. Leila de Lima, a lead­ing Duterte critic who was ar­rested and de­tained Fri­day on drug charges that she de­nied.

Duterte’s sup­port­ers held a rally and vigil at Manila’s Rizal Park late Satur­day to ex­press sup­port for his crack­down on il­le­gal drugs and cor­rup­tion.

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