MANILA—Protesters took to the streets of Metro Manila on Friday as church leaders called on the faithful to prevent a return to the abuses of the Ferdinand Marcos era on the anniversary of his ouster and months before a presidential election in which his son is favored to win.
Police in the Catholic-majority country said about 1,100 mostly young protesters gathered on the same avenue where millions assembled 36 years ago to end the dictator's 2-decade rule.
"Bring back the loot, not the thief," they chanted, hoisting a streamer that read: "No to MarcosDuterte2022". Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. is running alongside vice-presidential hopeful Sara Duterte-Carpio, daughter of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Marcos Jr., 64, has sought to steer public discourse away from the torture, killings, and embezzlement of state funds that took place under his father's rule, instead focusing on the nation's need to dig itself out from under the coronavirus pandemic.
Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA) was the site of 4 days of peaceful street protests in 1986 that followed the older Marcos being accused of stealing the vote from rival Corazon Aquino in a snap presidential election.
Catholic bishops at the time mustered millions of people to protect a small group of military rebels who had holed up at an army base after Marcos uncovered their coup attempt. The protests eventually forced the Marcos family into US exile.
"We don't want a repeat (of a Marcos presidency), because the Marcoses have been proven corrupt," Jandeil Roperos, 25, one of Friday's protesters, told AFP.
NO 'GOLDEN AGE'
On Friday, bishops were again at the fore of the anti-Marcos movement.
In a pastoral letter, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines said it was the duty of voters to reject "historical revisionism" they say seeks to whitewash the abuses committed under the elder Marcos.
Polls show the predominantly young electorate is set to send the former dictator's namesake back to the Malacañang presidential palace.
"I think it is obvious from our tone we do not want the dark age of martial law repeated," the 86-member group's president, Bishop Pablo David, told reporters when asked if the document alluded to Bongbong.
"People have no business saying that was a golden age because that is a lie."
While stressing it was not the bishops' intent to choose for the people, the letter said it was the duty of Catholics "to use their free vote to further the common good".
"But we are appalled by the blatant and subtle distortion, manipulation, cover-up, repression and abuse of the truth," it said, including the proliferation of fake news to create an alternative narrative of the country's history.
The Marcos camp did not reply to AFP's request for comment.
After he died in Hawaii in 1989, Marcos' heirs were allowed to return to the Philippines in the 1990s. Marcos Jr has since been elected governor of his father's home province, congressman and senator.