Filipino youth vow: Marcos burial won't silence us

Inday Espina-Varona

Posted at Nov 18 2016 08:52 PM | Updated as of Dec 15 2016 07:20 PM

MANILA - Melchizedek Babilonia knew only five of the 100 protesters who joined him at a spontaneous protest near the gates of the Libingan Ng Mga Bayani (Heroes' Cemetery), where the heirs of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos preempted a Supreme Court review process to bury him Friday.

"This is organic," the 22-year-old Babilonia told ABS-CBN News as students and young professionals started arriving solo, in pairs and in small groups.

Traditional wisdom in the months leading to the May 2016 elections blamed young people for the popularity of former Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr, the dictator's son. But the outpouring of anger in the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision that approved today's burial were led by young people, many of them protesting for the first time in their lives.

Nicole de Castro, a senior at the University of Asia and the Pacific (UAAP), got her placard ripped by a police officer. Her school is apolitical, her parents disapproved of her involvement in protests.

"They eventually accepted my decision. We are doing this for our future. We do not want to encourage the myth that our generation has "moved on," she said.

The protesters were generally young. The ones heckling them from the opposite side of the street were older people in their late thirties all the way to their seventies. Some threatened to "bury" the young protesters with Marcos.

"The dissent started from the moment President Duterte agreed to the (Libingan ng mga Bayani) burial, Babilonia said.

"Binigyan pa din namin benefit of the doubt. Baka pwede sa SC, baka magbago ang isip ng Pangulo."

(We gave it the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps things would change when it reaches the Supreme Court, that the president would also change his mind.)

Some petitioners have filed motions for reconsideration in the aftermath of the High Court order.

But Supreme Court spokesman Theodore Te clarified, "there was no order restraining the fact."

Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos, the oldest child of the dictator, said they had tried to keep rites simple.

But opponents like former Bayan Muna Rep Neri Colmenares, a petitioner against the LNMB burial, human rights lawyer Edre Olalia, and artist-activist Bonifacio Ilagan, said the tyrant's heirs were acting like thieves in the night.

Photo from Facebook page of Imee Marcos

President Rodrigo Duterte issued a statement from Peru, where he is attending the APEC Leaders' Summit. He urged Filipinos to leave Marcos to the judgment of history and stressed he had to respect the Supreme Court.

Marcos earned notoriety by appearing in the Guinness Book of Records as the world's biggest thief.

Older people, according to election exit polls, voted for Marcos Jr. who is contesting the results of the polls.

The snowballing protests, which caught the government by surprise, tore down efforts by the Marcos campaign team to paint his father's two-decade martial law regime as some progressive utopia.

Babilonia, de Castro, and artist Kath Leuch said they would continue with protests.

"Hindi namin pababayaan," Babylonia vowed. "We will not allow this revisionism to succeed."

Photo by Fernando Sepe

Youth protests also took place in front universities on Taft Avenue and in the university belt. Hundreds of students poured out of the Ateneo University and the University of the Philippines in Quezon City.

As the protesters left for an EDSA protest, members of the loose #BlockMarcos movement chanted, "Babalik kami".

UP Diliman Chancellor thanks the youth for making up for the failings of their elders.