MANILA - Victims of human rights abuses during martial law lashed back at President Rodrigo Duterte for his statement casting doubt on allegations that the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos and his family had amassed ill-gotten wealth.
In a speech Wednesday night, Duterte justified his decision to allow Marcos to be buried at the Heroes' Cemetery in November 2016, saying the law permits it and that critics "have not proven anything" against the late dictator.
The secrecy-shrouded burial at the hallowed Libingan ng mga Bayani - burial ground for fallen soldiers, national artists and other national figures- had drawn fierce criticism, with many saying the honor was undeserved.
Duterte is friends with the Marcos family. His father Vicente served in Marcos' pre-martial law cabinet. He is currently endorsing the senatorial bid of Marcos' daughter Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos.
"What they want to say is that Marcos was a dictator, that he stole ano... Until now you have not proven anything except to sequester and sell. Hindi mo nga sigurado kung talagang kay Marcos ba 'yan (You are not even sure if that really belongs to Marcos)," the President said.
This statement drew flak, especially from victims of Marcos' repressive regime.
"I think President Duterte needs a reality check. Isn’t it a fact that there was this popular people uprising way back in 1986 because people wanted to get rid of dictatorial rule that accumulated so much money ill-gotten wealth from the coffers of government," former Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chair Etta Rosales said in an interview.
She was referring to the EDSA People Power revolt, which toppled Marcos' strongman rule 33 years ago this week.
Rosales was one of the petitioners before the Supreme Court (SC) who attempted to stop Marcos' burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. She recounted, along with other women victims, their painful experiences during Marcos' martial law.
Rosales also cited court decisions in the Philippines and Switzerland, where Marcos allegedly kept his money hidden to avoid scrutiny.
"The SC decision came July 15, 2003 that the money was ill-gotten and $200 million from the $600 million went to victims of human rights violations," she said.
Bonifacio Ilagan of the Coalition Against the Return of the Marcoses to Malacañang said Duterte must have been "ill-advised."
He reminded Duterte that former First Lady Imelda Marcos was recently convicted of graft at the Sandiganbayan over her participation in the operation of several government corporations during her husband's regime.
“The President... must have been ill-advised or not fully informed of the entire facts about the former dictator’s and his ostentatious wife... This is the main ground for her recent conviction at the Sandiganbayan," said Ilagan.
Senatorial candidate former Bayan Muna partylist Rep. Neri Colmenares, himself a victim of martial law abuse, said Duterte was mistaken about Marcos' wealth.
"The Philippine Supreme Court ruled that anything in excess of the Marcoses’ total legal income of $304,372.43 from 1965 to 1986 were presumed ill-gotten... The Marcos compensation law that I authored gave an equivalent of P10 billion from their Swiss ill-gotten wealth to the more than 10,000 Marcos human rights victims," Colmenares said in a statement.
"So the facts are clear and President Duterte is wrong," he added.
Senatorial bets from the opposition slate Otso Diretso lambasted Duterte over his comments.
"Hindi naman magdedesisyon ang Korte Suprema na ibalik ang mga pondo, tulad ng mga nakuha sa Swiss banks, na ibalik ito sa taong bayan at human rights victims," said former lawmaker Erin Tañada in an interview.
(The Supreme Court will not decide to give back those funds, like those found in Swiss banks, to have them returned to the people and human rights victims.)
“Mayroon na tayong batas sa reparations law para sa biktima ng Marcos dictatorship. That is a clear evidence na may nakaw na yaman ang Marcoses," said former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay.
(We have a reparations law for victims of the Marcos dictatorship. That is a clear evidence that the Marcoses have ill-gotten wealth.)
Imee Marcos refused to comment when asked at a Hugpong ng Pagbabago rally.