MANILA >> Family members and followers of Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos gathered for a vigil at his tomb on Saturday, a day after his secrecy-shrouded burial at a heroes’ cemetery triggered widespread protests three decades after the strongman’s ouster.
Marcos’ widow, Imelda, clad in black, thanked supporters and local officials who traveled by bus from Marcos’ northern home province to pay their respects. She said they had given her family strength as they kept the hope for nearly 30 years to have Marcos buried at the country’s Heroes’ Cemetery, which is reserved for former presidents, national artists and soldiers.
Thousands of pro-democracy activists who rallied in Manila on Friday said the decades-long debate over Marcos’ final resting place was far from over, and they were planning more protests in the days and weeks ahead.
President Rodrigo Duterte, who gave the go-ahead for the burial, appealed for calm.
“I know Ferdinand will at last be at rest here at the Heroes’ Cemetery,” Imelda Marcos said in front of a black tomb surrounded by wreaths of white flowers. “But I know we still have a lot of criticisms to face.”
Her daughter, Ilocos Norte provincial Gov. Imee Marcos, and son Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. also thanked supporters and apologized for keeping the burial secret. The son said there were reports that anti-Marcos groups would create trouble.
The burial threatens to open old wounds in the Philippines, where Marcos’ 20-year iron-fist rule was marked by massive human rights violations and corruption. He was ousted in “people power” street protests in 1986 that sent him and his family into exile in Hawaii, where he died three years later.
Vice President Leni Robredo, who ran in May elections under Duterte’s rival party, questioned why the burial was carried out even before a Supreme Court decision allowing it has become final.
“We are alarmed by the brazenness of its execution,” she said in a speech. “Hidden wealth, hidden human rights abuses, and now a hidden burial with complete disrespect for the rule of law.”
Bonifacio Ilagan, a left-wing activist who was detained and tortured during Marcos’ rule, said the dictator was buried “like a thief in the night.”
“This is so Marcos style. I want to rush to the cemetery to protest this. I feel so enraged,” Ilagan told The Associated Press on Friday.
A lawmaker considered asking the Supreme Court to exhume the newly buried Marcos. But Duterte, who is attending an Asia-Pacific summit in Lima, Peru, said through his spokesman that “hopefully both sides will exercise maximum tolerance and come to terms with the burial.”
The powerful Marcos family has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, and after returning from U.S. exile in 1991, Imelda Marcos and two of her children eventually ran for public office and won stunning political comebacks. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. ran for vice president in May and lost by a slim margin to Robredo.
In 1993, Marcos’ body was taken to his hometown in Ilocos Norte, where it was displayed in a glass coffin and became a tourist attraction. But his family fought for his remains to be transferred to the Heroes’ Cemetery.
Duterte backed Marcos’ burial, saying it was his right as a president and soldier.