DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 24 November) – Protest actions against what has been termed as the “sneaky burial” of the remains of the deposed dictator Ferdinand Edralin Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani on November 18 “shall be allowed in all open public places for as long as they want with no time limit,” President Rodrigo Duterte said near midnight Wednesday upon arrival from the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Lima, Peru.
Duterte also said he “will gladly and (be) happy even to step down and relinquish my post” if protesters can “answer in the negative” his two key questions: “was the late Ferdinand Marcos a President and was he a soldier?”
“Never mind about (being) a hero,” Duterte said, adding “to document heroism requires history (sic).”
He ordered the military to “remain and be confined in their camps” during the protest actions and the police “shall be limited to traffic enforcement and the basic policy standards,” and are prohibited from carrying long firearms.
Protest actions are expected nationwide, including the President’s Davao City, on Friday, November 25, dubbed “National Day of Rage and Unity” and on National Heroes’ Day on Wednesday, November 30. (Read Davao City joins “National Day of Rage and Unity”)
Duterte said he learned in Lima that protest actions would greet him on his arrival.
“Protest action shall be allowed in all open public places for as long as they want with no time limit. The protesters will neither need, hindi na kailangan, to secure rally permits,” noting that the planned protests are “mobile, ambulant and travelling from one jurisdiction to the other.”
He said when protesters pass through different local government units, there might be some LGUs that might deny permits and the marchers might be confronted by the police.
“Eh kung ganong mag-gulo, ako na mismo ang nagsasabi, as President, I assume that responsibility. Again, I will answer for all legal issues there. The purpose is to assure the public peace,” Duterte said.
“To paraphrase what was said: I may not agree with what you say but I will protect your right to say it. That is our democracy,” he said, adding, “as your President, you have my word and you have that commitment.”
“You are asking me to violate the law”
Addressing the “protest organizations,” Duterte said: “All of the decisions that I have made and still have to make are always guided by the common good and the general welfare of the people. Be it in the foreign affairs or in the domestic front, all actions of the government will be always driven by the desire and to resolve, to advance the national interests.”
On the Marcos burial, Duterte said: “I have to decide one way or the other. I cannot decide it in favor of the sentiments (of victims of human rights violations under Marcos’ martial law). Hindi few, marami iyan. But the problem is you are asking me to violate the law.”
“Was Marcos a soldier? Because if he was not, he doesn’t deserve to be there. Was Marcos a President? If he was not, then he should not be there. Was Marcos a coward during the war? That is not my business. We cannot tell. Was (he) a hero?” Duterte asked.
Earlier in his speech he said “never mind about (being) a hero,” but in the latter part, Duterte said there is evidence that Marcos was a hero.
“Is there an evidence of him being a hero? Yes. Why? The valor medal. It is not given to almost anybody, even among soldiers and the police. It is really a precious gift from God for you to be considered as you have done something that is extraordinary and beyond the call of duty,” Duterte added.
He said it is not the time to ask if Marcos pulled the trigger and shot the enemy because “I was not there” and that he does not know if he ran away from battle because “I was not there and nobody can give me a positive and definite answer on that. “
The National Historical Commission on July 12 registered its objection to have Marcos buried at the Heroes’ Cemetery, citing Marcos’ questionable military record.
“Mr. Marcos’s military record is fraught with myths, factual inconsistencies, and lies. The rule in history is that when a claim is disproven—such as Mr. Marcos’s claims about his medals, rank, and guerrilla unit—it is simply dismissed. When, moreover, a historical matter is under question or grave doubt, as expressed in the military records about Mr. Marcos’s actions and character as a soldier, the matter may not be established or taken as fact. A doubtful record also does not serve as sound, unassailable basis of historical recognition of any sort, let alone burial in a site intended, as its name suggests, for heroes,” the Executive Summary of the NHC study said.
“Was I elected legally?”
“If you ask me to step down,” Duterte said he will ask the protesters: “Was I elected legally or did I get this mandate to serve by cheating the people? I do not remember of buying votes because I –wala akong pera. I do not remember threatening voters but I threatened the drug lords at ang mga — ang apparatus mismo. What did I tell you? I will declare war and in a war, somebody has to die.”
Asked how he would respond to criticisms he is paving the way for the Marcoses to be back in Malacañang, Duterte replied: “I don’t have anything to put the Marcoses back. I never said it and I will not. ‘Yung election sabi ko baka mabaril. Magastos ang election time, kung mamatay ako, I said it in Ilocos.”
He said he has a right to free expression like the protesters.
He narrated how his mother, Soledad, was a key figure in the Yellow Friday movement to oust the Marocs dictatorship, and that the tendered his resignation thrice but Emmanuel Galicia, the city’s chief prosecutor then turned them down because “I was the only one willing to investigate the rebels and the military and the police,” claiming on other prosecutor wanted these cases because they were “takot sa pulis, takot sa military, takot sa rebelde.”
He said this is why he became friends to the police, military and rebels.
“When my mother was marching down the streets against the Marcos dictatorship, so they say, I was in government and my mother was there on the streets. Sabi ko sa boss ko, ‘Sir, I cannot stop my mother and since I do not want to continue with my services in government, I’ve been here for the last nine years doing trial work everyday. Gusto ko na rin mag-go to practice and make a, make a better income for my family.”
“Eh, bakit ako nag-resign? Well, that would give you an idea of my sentiments at that time, but I could not have stopped my mother from opening her mouth,” Duterte said. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)