As New Marcos rises, survivors of Marcos era call for truth Human Rights News

Manila, Philippines – At the Heroes’ Monument Memorial Park in Manila, huddled with martial law victims and their surviving families, Joey Faustino wonders what’s going on in the Philippines.

“Should I feel betrayed by the prevalence of lies? Or forgotten and ignored by my fellow citizens who believe these lies?” he asked a week after voters went to the polls Ferdinand Marcos Jr was electedthe son and namesake of the country’s former dictator, as the next president.

Inside the park, commonly known as Bantayog, stands a black granite memorial wall inscribed with the names of 320 Filipinos who fought against the Philippines. Marcos dictatorship in the 1970s. They are just a fraction of those who have suffered under his brutal rule – during which time, Amnesty International says, more than 3,200 were killed, 35,000 tortured and 70,000 detained.

Joey’s older brother, Gerardo T Faustino, is one of the names on the wall.

In July 1977, the 21-year-old University of the Philippines student was kidnapped along with nine other student activists in what is believed to be the largest kidnapping case during martial law. He has been missing ever since and, along with thousands of desaparecidos (disappearances), is believed to be dead.

Now nearly 50 years later, in a development that was once unimaginable, another Marcos became president.

A long memorial wall stands at Bantayog ng Mga Bayani (Heroes Monument) with the names of 320 Filipinos who opposed the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos.Days after son won president, people start leaving flowers and lighting candles in memory of the dead [Jhesset O Enano/Al Jazeera]

The landslide victory of Ferdinand Marcos Jr, better known as “Bong Bang”, shocked a nation deeply divided between two conflicting forces: one that chose to remember and serve its dark history. The victim seeks justice, the other tends to put the past aside and move on.

In between are many doubts about the well-documented atrocities and looting that took place under Marcos Sr., the disinformation on social media that helped push the family back into politics and the son in public opinion. Victory in the investigation.

Human rights groups and victims of martial law say the presidency of “Bangbang” Marcos marks not only a larger effort to rewrite history, but also a further step backwards in the human rights situation in the country. His vice president, elected separately to the president, is Sara Duterte, currently the mayor of the southern city of Davao and the daughter of Rodrigo Duterte, the controversial outgoing president.

Both have pledged to continue their father’s work.

Experts warn that without a concerted effort to combat disinformation and historical revisionism, things will get worse.

“Given their history, this victory is not an affirmation of human rights,” Carlos Conde, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, told Al Jazeera. “[Marcos Jr’s] The entire campaign is rooted in disinformation about human rights abuses, not just about his father’s regime, but about this regime… Some might find the idea that he will, of all presidents, find it ludicrous to improve the human rights situation in the country . “

gloomy outlook

President Duterte, who will step down on June 30, leaves behind his bloody legacy war on drugs Primarily targeting the poor and now the subject of an International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation, Crack down on critics and activists.

For their part, the Marcos have refused to admit to the violations or apologize for what happened, despite the lawsuit asking them to pay compensation to victims of human rights violations.

In 1986, the Marcos family fled into exile in Hawaii with boxes of cash worth more than $700 million in gold bars and jewelry after thousands of Filipinos took to the streets to join the “people power” uprising. The ousted dictator is believed to have looted as much as $10 billion during his rule, while his wife, Imelda, has become synonymous with greed and excess.

“What can I say?” Marcos Jr. said in a 2015 interview when he launched an ultimately unsuccessful VP campaign against Leni Robredo. This year, that result was reversed, with human rights lawyer Robredo leading the race by a wide margin.

Conder said that for six years as a senator, Marcos Jr. showed little inclination to defend human rights.

“On the other hand, Sarah Duterte extrajudicial execution [happening in Davao City] It was also during her caretaker time, not just her father’s,” he added. She took over as mayor from her father, who held the post for more than 20 years.

“If she’s going to be judged for that, it’s also a very bad history,” he said.

Experts also warn incoming Philippine leader could boycott ICC investigation Enter Duterte’s drug war kills.

Joey Faustino stands in front of the Martial Law Victims Memorial Wall
‘There is no more retirement for us,’ Joey Faustino told Al Jazeera, calling on martial law era veterans to take on a new battle for truth after Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr was elected president. His brother was kidnapped by the regime in 1977 , never seen again [Jhesset O Enano/AL Jazeera]
University professor Nestor Castro.
Nestor Castro, then 23, was illegally detained and tortured in 1983 for criticizing the violent dispersal of Indigenous students in Baguio City.Now a professor at the University of the Philippines, he’s back to recounting his ordeal [Jhesset O Enano/Al Jazeera]

Human rights groups estimate that at least 27,000 people have been killed in a vigilante-style drug crackdown since Duterte took office in 2016. The government figures are more conservative but still shocking, with the death toll from police operations at around 6,000.

In a recently published report, the Philippine Human Rights Commission said the Duterte administration has been blocking its efforts to independently investigate the killings.

“It encourages a culture of impunity that keeps perpetrators from being held accountable,” the commission said.

The battle of truth and lies

Survivors of torture and wrongful imprisonment during the Marcos dictatorship have long sounded the alarm about Marcos’ attempts to restore his surname.

Cultural anthropologist and professor Nestor Castro has spent much of his life choosing not to talk about his harrowing experiences in the Marcos era.

“After you’ve been through that experience, why relive it? It’s very hurtful to recall what you’ve been through,” he said.

But in 2016, when President Duterte allowed funeral of old marcos At the Heroes Cemetery, where the late Philippine president and national hero, scientists and artists are buried, Castro knew he had to speak out about his ordeal, especially to his young students.

In March 1983, at the age of 23, he was arrested without a warrant for opposing the violent dispersal of Aboriginal students in Baguio City. During his detention, state agents repeatedly banged his head against the wall, burned his chest with cigarettes and threw him into a cramped cell where he ate, slept and urinated.

He decided to tell his story in video and upload it to the social media platform TikTok, which has been heavily exploited by disinformation networks to spread disinformation, and presented the Marcos era as “golden age“.

Trolls and Marcos supporters immediately spammed and heavily covered his video, which was removed by TikTok. Castro appealed to social media sites, to no avail.

On Facebook, the videos are still available and the comments are filled with hate speech.

“You may be disobedient and that’s why you’re in jail,” one reader wrote.

“You may have done something wrong. We didn’t break any laws, so we really agreed with martial law,” another said. “You can’t change our minds; we are BBM (Bongbong Marcos) and Sara and they come from the heart.”

A group of young people protest at a political rally against efforts to revise history, holding placards that read
In recent years, young Filipinos have opposed concerted efforts to revise history, especially abuses during martial law [Jhesset O Enano/Al Jazeera]

Back in Bantayog, May Rodriguez recalls how the wounds of survivors of the dictatorship have been reopened many times over the past few years.

“For me, this is not a physical memory of memory torture. Heard the song ‘Eight Kilometers Punam’ again [New Society]. That’s the most painful,” she said, referring to a propaganda song glorifying the dictatorship. Marcos Jr revived the national anthem during the campaign, remixing it for the 21st century.

“When I heard the song, it was in my heart,” added Rodriguez, the park’s executive director.

Marcos prepares to be sworn in in a few weeks, and martial law has survivors fearing dark times are coming.

For veterans like Faustino, the battles that brought their stories to life, no matter how painful the recall, have become increasingly important.

“This is another era when we need not just to survive, but tell and stand the truth,” he said. “There is no other way. “

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