MANILA - Human rights groups and other militant organizations are set to protest a tribute event for Imelda Marcos hosted by the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) on Friday.
The gala event, titled "Seven Arts, One Imelda", will showcase 7 signature art pieces, from music to visual arts, that were "created during the time of Imelda's patronage."
It will showcase performances by top Filipino artists like ballerina Lisa Macuja, the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra, and Ballet Philippines, among others.
Antonio Tinio, president of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), however, questioned the CCP's decision to honor Marcos, who along with her husband, former President Ferdinand Marcos, were blamed for rampant corruption and human rights abuses during Martial Law in the 1970s.
According to various sources, from 1971 to early 1986, there were over 3,200 extrajudicial killings, 35,000 torture victims, 70,000 victims of unlawful arrests, and hundreds of missing under Marcos rule.
"It's not right for the state's premiere cultural institution to honor the last surviving member of the conjugal dictatorship. It's disrespectful to the memory of all victims of human rights," Tinio said in a phone interview.
"We're not disputing [Imelda's] contribution to the arts, but we're questioning the appropriateness of a state tribute for [Mrs. Marcos] in the context of her role in the Marcos dictatorship."
"They inflicted Martial law, destroyed democratic institutions, [and] ravaged our economy. Some of the ill effects of this still survive today in the debts we are paying, in the undemocratic institutions. That's why Martial Law is wrong and should never happen again," he said.
Tinio said around 50 members from the ACT, Concerned Artists of the Philippines, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, and several Martial Law victims are expected to stage a picket in front of the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo before the gala starts at 8 p.m.
CCP Artistic Director Dr. Raul Sunico, however, said in a phone interview that the event should not be given political color.
Sunico is a famed pianist and the Dean of the University of Santo Tomas Conservatory of Music.
"This is an event honoring [Mrs. Marcos] purely as the founding Chairperson of the CCP, and not as [the former] First Lady. It's been getting a bit political, with the human rights issues and all, but it has nothing to do with that. We want to make politics quite separate from the arts," he said in a phone interview with abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak.
Contrary to claims that the event will be lavish, Sunico said that former scholars of Mrs. Marcos, including Sunico himself, are reportedly set to perform for free.
The gala is by invitation only, but is open to the public, subject to CCP's control measures. Aside from Mrs. Marcos, members of the academe, friends of the performers, and celebrities are expected to attend the gala.
The Imelda Marcos tribute was conceptualized over a year ago and was intended to give honor to all those who supported the CCP through the years.
It is one of the highlights of CCP's 40th anniversary celebrations, marked by concerts, exhibits, a grand gala show and other events throughout the year.
The CCP was established in 1966 and formally inaugurated in 1969. CCP's credo echoes Mrs. Marcos's mantra of extolling "the good, the true, the beautiful."
Cleaning up Marcos image
Tinio insisted that the tribute for Imelda Marcos is part of the government's systematic "rehabilitation" of the Marcos image.
He said Mrs. Marcos was similarly honored by the Department of Education last year for her contributions as a patroness of the arts. Tinio also said that many graft and corruption cases filed against the Marcoses were dropped since President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo came to power in 2001.
A 2002 Inquirer report, for example, revealed that about 92 of 111 criminal cases filed against the Marcoses were dismissed by the Office of the Ombudsman.
"I suppose this is political consideration. There are family ties," Tinio said. Marcos's youngest daughter Irene is married to businessman Gregorio "Greggy" Araneta III, a cousin of First Gentleman Jose Miguel "Mike" Arroyo.
Tinio said this seeming "rehabilitation of Imelda's image" may promote a skewed perception of Philippine history.
"As teachers, it's important for us to teach the right lessons. I mean, it's odd that last month, the administration was honoring [former president] Cory [Aquino's] legacy of restoring democracy. Then, just a month later, they're honoring the complete opposite of Cory, everything she stood against," he said.
Tinio also remarked that "Seven Arts, One Imelda" is set on the exact date of former President Marcos's birthday (September 11) and is held the month that marks the declaration of Martial Law on September 21, 1971.
Sunico, however, said that this was simply a coincidence since September 11 was the only date available for the gala. Report by Kristine Servando, abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak.