Naked Students Protest Dictator’s Secret Burial

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Student receives rose from protester during naked run to condemn last week's burial of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Heroes' Cemetery, Quezon City, Philippines, Nov. 25, 2016.

More than a dozen nude students joined thousands of Filipinos in a protest against the burial of Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos in a heroes’ cemetery.

A few thousand activists joined a “Black Friday” protest on November 25 in the rain at Manila’s seaside Rizal Park, where they carried Marcos’ effigy in a mock coffin.

Anger was directed at Marcos and his family. But President Rodrigo Duterte was also targeted for allowing the burial of the dictator, who was ousted in a “people power” revolt three decades ago.

Protesters held placards reading “Digong traitor, a lapdog of the dictator,” referring to Duterte by his nickname.

Dozens of students trooped outside the presidential palace in Manila in a separate protest and burned an effigy of Marcos in a mock coffin.

At the state-run University of the Philippines, a fraternity turned its annual recruitment ritual into a protest with naked student recruits running with placards that read, “Marcos dictator not a hero.”

“This run is a manifestation of our anger against what we see as the Marcoses trying to revise history, trying to revive their name because they have fallen from grace,” Alpha Phi Omega fraternity spokesman Toby Roca said. “We are angry that they are trying to ignore our painful history of human rights abuses under his term.”

Duterte, whose father served in Marcos’s Cabinet, allowed the burial on grounds that there was no law barring his interment at the Heroes’ Cemetery, where presidents, soldiers, statesmen and national artists are buried. 

Duterte’s decision was upheld earlier this month by the Supreme Court. Marcos opponents had 15 days to appeal the decision. But Marcos’s family — backed by Duterte’s defense and military officials — buried him in a secrecy-shrouded ceremony with military honors last week at the cemetery.

The stealthy burial enraged democracy advocates and sparked protests in Manila and other cities.

Protest leader Bonifacio Ilagan, a left-wing activist detained and tortured under Marcos, said many protesters are young Filipinos who did not experience the brutalities of the dictatorship but “got assaulted by the surreptitious burial.”

Ilagan said he was struck by the message on a placard carried by a college student in a recent rally that said, “If he was a true hero, why was he buried in secrecy?”

Human rights victims who suffered under Marcos’s rule asked the Supreme Court this week to order the exhumation of his remains and to hold his heirs and Duterte’s officials in contempt for their role in burying the body before the court heard final appeals.

Marcos’s rule was marked by massive rights violations and plunder. After being ousted in 1986, he flew to Hawaii, where he lived with his wife and children until he died in 1989.

“Duterte’s decision to allow the Marcos burial opened up old wounds,” said political analyst Ramon Casiple, the director of a think tank promoting electoral and political reforms.

This story was first featured on VOA News.

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