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Marcos Jr’s presidential bid stirs painful memories in Philippines

Victims of the late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos are attempting to have his son, presidential frontrunner Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, disqualified from operating in subsequent 12 months’s election.

The problem, though mounted on a authorized technicality associated to a long-resolved tax case, has revived unresolved debates amongst Filipinos about how they keep in mind his father’s regime, which jailed and killed hundreds of individuals and plundered state property.

“We do not want Bongbong Marcos or any member of his family to be back in power,” Bonifacio Ilagan, a playwright, torture survivor and co-organiser of the Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses and Martial Law (Carmma), which filed the disqualification case, advised the Financial Times.

“A Marcos returning to the Malacañang [presidential palace] would completely turn our history upside down.”

Carmma has filed a petition with the nation’s election fee aimed toward barring Marcos Jr’s candidacy, based mostly on his failure to file earnings tax returns between 1982 and 1985 when he served as a neighborhood official throughout his father’s rule.

Critics and supporters of the 64-year-old politician at the moment are arguing over the extent to which he needs to be held accountable for his father’s crimes.

Marcos Jr is the favorite to win the May 2022 election, in response to opinion polls, and his camp describes the disqualification petition — one in every of 5 filed towards his candidacy — as “gutter politics”. His operating mate would be the scion of one other political dynasty: Sara Duterte, daughter of Rodrigo Duterte, one in every of whose first acts as president in 2016 was to provide Marcos a hero’s burial in Manila.

According to an estimate by US historian Alfred McCoy, 3,257 individuals have been killed extrajudicially in the last decade that Marcos imposed martial legislation. Tens of hundreds extra have been imprisoned or tortured, earlier than the dictator and his household fled to Hawaii in the course of the “People’s Power” rebellion in 1986, when Bongbong was 28.

Ilagan, who’s 70 now, nonetheless speaks vividly of the ordeals suffered in his youth.

A pupil activist on the University of the Philippines, Ilagan fled underground in 1971 and was arrested three years later and suffered “brutal” mistreatment.

These included, he mentioned, the “San Juanico Bridge”, a torture in which prisoners have been made to lie suspended between cots and punched in the abdomen. Ilagan additionally mentioned his jailers utilized scorching flatirons to the soles of his ft and at one level inserted a stick in his penis.

Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos with his wife Louise
Marcos Jr along with his spouse Louise, left, in 2018. He was convicted in 1995 of failing to pay earnings taxes, earlier than efficiently interesting © REUTERS

His youthful sister Rizalina, one other pupil activist, was kidnapped in 1977 by the navy. She was a part of a bunch of 10 taken in one of many period’s largest pressured disappearance circumstances, a few of whose corpses have been later discovered. Rizalina’s physique was by no means found.

The youthful Marcos was convicted by a regional court docket in 1995 of failing to pay earnings taxes and file tax returns between 1982 and 1985, when he was vice-governor, then governor of Ilocos Norte, the household’s dwelling area in northern Luzon island.

Two years later, an attraction court docket acquitted him of one of many expenses towards him — non-payment of taxes — and eliminated a jail sentence imposed by the decrease court docket. The identical court docket upheld his conviction for failing to file returns, and Marcos Jr paid 67,137 pesos (now value $1,300) for what his lawyer described as a “clerical omission”.

“There is no tax evasion case against presidential aspirant Bongbong Marcos nor a conviction for tax evasion as what the political propaganda of his detractors have pushed for, viciously and maliciously,” Victor Rodriguez, his spokesperson and chief of workers, advised the Financial Times.

Philippine electoral legislation bars a candidate from operating who has been sentenced to greater than 18 months for against the law involving “moral turpitude” — a requirement which will render the petition towards Marcos Jr moot because the court docket overturned his sentence.

In feedback to the media, together with an interview with the FT in 2018, Marcos Jr has performed down his father’s dictatorship and claimed that no circumstances filed towards his household have been profitable.

However, in 2018, a court docket discovered Imelda Marcos, the previous first woman, responsible of seven counts of graft referring to unlawful transfers of funds to Swiss foundations whereas she was serving in her husband’s authorities.

Accompanied by his family, Ferdinand Marcos waves to the crowd after his presidential  inauguration in 1965
Accompanied by his household, Ferdinand Marcos waves to the gang after his presidential inauguration in 1965 © Bettmann Archive by way of Getty Images

“Marcos was not his father, and the sins of the father should not be visited on the son,” mentioned Carlos Conde, a researcher with Human Rights Watch. “But he and his mother have been trying to deny accountability for all the cases in court.” 

Apart from his political function, Marcos Jr was chair of Philcomsat, one of many corporations sequestered by Corazon Aquino’s “People Power” authorities that took energy after the dictator’s toppling because it probed allegations of “crony capitalism”.

When requested whether or not Marcos Jr performed a task in his father’s dictatorship, Rodriguez mentioned: “Marcos, Jr will not dignify with an answer . . . such a question because the Filipino people had long settled with their belief that the sins of the father, if there’s any, [are] not to be passed on to the children.” 

However, Ilagan, the Carmma activist, described Marcos Jr as “very much part of the martial law dictatorship”.

“It’s really an uphill battle for us,” Ilagan mentioned. “I have devoted more than half of my life to this struggle for Philippine democracy. For me, in the twilight of my life, I don’t think there is any turning back any more.” 

Additional reporting by Guill Ramos in Manila

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